Kaiser Permanente’s CIO Aims to Make Healthcare More Delightful
Kaiser Permanente CIO Philip Fasano discusses how the electronic records 'bet' has paid off and how social and mobile technologies will advance the effort. He also offers advice on making big tech projects successful, how to encourage innovation, what it means for CIOs to be the 'CEO' of their organizations and why healthcare provider should be in the business of delighting customers and patients.
By John Gallant
With the U.S. Supreme Court now debating the fate of the so-called ‘Obamacare’ legislation
passed in 2010, healthcare has been much in the news of late — and not much of the news about healthcare is very good. That is, unless you’re
talking to Philip Fasano, executive vice president and CIO of Kaiser Permanente, the giant Oakland, CA-based integrated health system. Fasano,
whose IT organization has delivered on a multi-billion dollar electronic medical records initiative, believes that healthcare’s greatest days are
ahead thanks to the rapid infusion of technology. In fact, Fasano thinks — dare we say it — that your healthcare provider should be in the
business of delighting you.
In this latest installment of our CIO Interview Series, Fasano spoke with IDG
Enterprise Chief Content Officer John Gallant about how the electronic records ‘bet’ has paid off for Kaiser Permanente and its roughly 9 million
customers and patients, and how social and mobile technologies will advance the effort. He offers hard-won advice on making big tech projects
successful and talks about what it means for CIOs to be the ‘CEO’ of their organizations.
Fasano is a member of the CIO Executive Council, IDG Enterprise’s peer-based global community of leading CIOs. Click here for more information on the Council.
Q: I want to give readers a clear understanding of the size and scope of Kaiser Permanente, so that people have a sense of just how big
a responsibility IT has not only in supporting the company but also helping to drive innovation.
A: I’ll give you that perspective from a couple of points. We’re approximately a $50 billion by revenue institution, so if we were a public
company we’d probably be in the Fortune 50. We’re not a public company. We’re not-for-profit and have a particular mission around that. The
organization covers all aspects of the healthcare industry. We’re larger than the health systems of 140 countries. So if you think of us as a
country health system, we have primary care physicians, we have specialists and specialties, we have all the facilities that would be necessary to
operate such a system, including medical buildings that are quite comprehensive. We have hospitals, 36 of them across the program, mostly in
California and the northwest part of the United States, as well as out in Hawaii.
Though we don’t operate in all 50 states, we do operate from the mid-Atlantic, on the East Coast, in Georgia, all the way out to Hawaii. We
are a very large part of California healthcare, treating almost half the state’s population. About 9 million Americans get their healthcare from
Kaiser Permanente every day, and they certainly expect a lot of us and we expect a lot of ourselves in terms of the capabilities and services we
have to offer them. We’re also a health insurance company. We’re a health plan, although we’re an integrated health plan. Our health plan and
our care delivery organizations are integrated in the sense that they work very closely together to deliver the high-quality care, as well as the
products and services people need to ensure their health.
Our organization has over 200,000 people in it. Our IT organization has a little less than 6,000 employees as well as additional support
people that would actually bring that number somewhat higher, probably a couple thousand higher than that. It’s a large group of people who
are focused on delivering what we call life-critical systems, and having all aspects of technology in place to support all our care delivery
All of the systems to support our health plan and health insurance operations are part of my responsibilities, as well as the infrastructure to
support a business of delivering life-critical capabilities to its members, either over the Internet when our members access our Website KP.org, or via a mobile phone, via mobile apps, or if it’s
when they come into see us in our care delivery settings. The technology supports every aspect of their care and every aspect of their
insurance needs on the health plan side of the business. Our electronic medical records system is the largest implementation in the private
sector anywhere in the world.
Q: I also want to touch on the scope of your role because you have a unique set of responsibilities that go well beyond just IT.
A: I am one of three executive vice presidents at Kaiser Permanente. My colleagues and I have responsibility on what we call a National
Leadership Team and the Operational Leadership Group, which [oversees] day-to-day operations of the businesses of Kaiser Permanente. The
National Leadership Team is the equivalent in a public company of an executive committee. We work with the CEO on everything from strategy
and strategic development of the business, to quality and service and affordability around all of the programs we provide.
We work in partnership with another leadership group we call our Kaiser Permanente Partner Group, effectively the medical group leaders and
our health plan, health hospital operations leaders, all partner together on that group. We go across all of our medical groups, all of our care
capabilities, and all of our health plan operations, working together for the benefit of all of our members. We also have an additional goal, and
that’s to work for the benefit of the communities we serve, because we are not-for-profit and our not-for-profit capabilities are quite significant.
We work with community outreach and many community based programs to support people who have challenges getting healthcare access, due
to financial or other reasons.
Q: What spawned that significant bet on the medical records initiative? You have talked about your CEO’s goal to turn healthcare on its
ear. What does that mean?
A: I wasn’t here when our CEO came to the company, but I’ve been here with him for the past five years, and I know that when he came to
the organization one of the things that he brought with him was that he understood the value of information technology. In fact, he had
implemented, on a smaller scale, electronic medical records in other organizations and, as a consequence, came with an expectation that having
those tools was foundational to improvements in healthcare quality, healthcare affordability. And, frankly, levels of service to patients and
physicians that were just beyond anything that was occurring broadly in the United States.
Bringing that foundation with him, he decided to effectively bet the future of the institution — because of the size, scope and complexity of
the project — on implementing an electronic medical record system end-to-end. That meant in every one of our operations, effectively having
every patient in this institution be on our electronic medical record system so that every care provider, every physician, every specialist had
complete access to the entire medical record every time they treated that patient.
We started to say that patients should look at having an electronic medical record as a right not a privilege in this country. In our
organization, it’s become a right. Every patient at Kaiser Permanente now has that system. It allowed us to build on top of many preventive care
capabilities, in the form of advanced analytics that look through your medical record for conditions or issues that could be as simple as you
haven’t renewed your prescription to noticing that your physician was attempting to prescribe a particular pharmaceutical that you have an
allergy to, which gets noted to avoid having that happen again going forward.
The capability is extensive, it’s widespread, and it’s very significant. He was betting $4 billion of this company’s cash flow on the future
implementation of a system that he was hopeful we’d be able to get done, but of course, wasn’t assured. I can tell you the bet has paid off in an
enormous way and it’s given us capabilities that should be expected of every healthcare system.
Q: What was the role of the IT organization in helping shape and bring that vision to life.
A: Putting electronic medical record systems into an institution meant the IT organization was going to have a very large percentage of the
responsibility. What I can tell you though is that any IT organization that believes they can do it alone is just destined to fail. At Kaiser
Permanente, we did this as a team. Our care delivery leaders and our physicians, all of our clinicians were deeply involved in the development of
this program and worked with IT extraordinarily closely, worked with our other business operators very closely, and as a consequence we were
able to put together a capability that goes across the organization and is widely well received.
Any large-scale implementation has post-implementation challenges. People start to work with it and find its limitations pretty quickly. If we
didn’t have everyone completely involved and participating very actively — both buying into and making the vision their own — we would have
been very challenged post-implementation. You really have to help people train on the system, learn some new capabilities that they might not
have known existed in the system, so that they become not only proficient, but operate at an expert level.
Physicians go from encounter to encounter to encounter all day long, and for them the system has to just be easy to use and simple for
them to document into, or it becomes an encumbrance. In our case, some of our physicians [would help] their peers learn the path forward. It
was truly remarkable how each person helped the other become proficient in this particular capability.
Q: One of the raps on IT departments is how often it’s perceived that they fail at significant projects. This is about as big a project as you
can get. What were the secrets for success here?
A: I have many, many other large programs under way at Kaiser Permanente currently, and the fact of the matter is with large programs you’re
going to have some to and fro with project plans, timelines and cost. It’s just the reality. You don’t know at the beginning what you don’t
know. But in order to make them a success, you really have to decide early on that it’s going to be a strong, deep partnership with experts
involved in every step of the initiative. Not only involved, but full-time involvement, which means in many cases they have to give up their day
jobs and focus on the execution and implementation of a transformational initiative.
Large systems initiatives are transformational in nature. This certainly was. Everything from how you work day-to-day, your operational
workflow, has to be considered and analyzed and determined what it will be going forward so you can train for that, to the need to implement
more servers in the back room to support this and making sure there’s high availability.
Something you may not have considered on day one, but something you have to spend money on day two, as you’ve implemented the
program and realized that high availability was a dependence for this particular system. Oftentimes people fail to see at the onset of the
program that they really needed those capabilities and they start to spend on those capabilities once they determine they’re necessary, often
without bringing forward the additional business case, without recognition at the senior-most levels that these are strategic additional
investments that are necessary to operate the business post-implementation. When people find out and deal with the back end, the project is
now two times what we intended it to cost, the project took 1-1/2 times or two times the time, it’s much more complex and very challenged.
Often, very large projects actually get canceled when they start to experience those difficulties.
If you go into a large project as a company leader and don’t expect to spend more than you’ve initially budgeted, you’re probably not
exhibiting great leadership and foresight in terms of planning. The reality is you go into these projects knowing probably about between 30
percent and 60 percent of what you need to know and then you find out the rest of it as you’re going because large projects are so complex
and things are subject to change.
Operating procedures that most companies experience for 10, 20, 30 years are now coming under substantial amounts of change and
pressure, which requires the entire company to go through a transformation that, in many cases, they didn’t anticipate the scale and scope of.
That’s why these programs often fail. CFOs will pull the plug because the cost of them is getting extraordinarily high. But the other reasons they
tend to fail is that organizations haven’t committed their absolute best people to them, and even when they pick their best people they fail to
recognize that those people may not have change leadership, transformational leadership, and the scale and scope of an initiative like this in
their background. It’s their first rodeo, therefore they’re going to go through a learning curve. Learning this at scale costs you a lot of
Q: What are the tangible results of the medical records initiative to date? What is it enabling the company to do that, had you not made
this investment and this transformation, you wouldn’t be able to do today?
A: Our medical group has an extraordinary passion for being the best, as measured by their peers and all the quality metrics out there. They
work really hard to make sure that this organization both strives for and achieves at the best levels. This system enhanced their ability to
accomplish those goals. It’s given them the information, the technology, the additional analytic support to really focus on people with chronic
conditions, create outcomes for those people that are extraordinarily different than the communities that we operate in and what other
physicians might achieve. Those outcomes are substantially better, sometimes twice as good, sometimes even more than twice as good as the
community can achieve without these types of capabilities.
So as an information system, supporting wonderful clinicians who are really caring and focused on patient outcomes and patient health,
these systems drive improved health in the communities we serve, and particularly for our members. They set the bar for the rest of the
community because the community now knows what’s possible.
This system and our capabilities really transformed our ability to drive healthcare improvement, really transformed our ability to change our
patients’ lives, and in many cases save lives, substantial numbers of lives, that would have been lost because we just didn’t have the information
about their conditions. In some cases, the simplest thing, like knowing someone is due for a particular cancer screening and being able to
proactively schedule that screening. Unfortunately, in some of those patients we find cancer. But the fact is we have the information that allows
us to make sure tests get scheduled, in many instances, to catch cancer much earlier than other organizations, and you and I both know what
those outcomes look like when you can do that, and we do it pretty consistently in our organization.
Q: Lots and lots of analytics come out of this. How do you handle the scope of analytics? What have you done to put the tools and
procedures and training in place to allow people to capitalize on that information?
A: The greatest thing about the analytic side of healthcare is that physicians themselves want the body of knowledge that analytics can
provide to them. Many of our physicians have taken a personal interest in working with us to develop the core analytics that sit on top of our
medical record system and provide the intelligence for them and their colleagues to have right at their disposal when they’re sitting with a
patient. Or in our call centers when we know there are care gaps, we’ll actually call patients and let them know that they need to schedule a
particular test or a visit or that they need to renew a prescription if that’s necessary.
Our physicians love having these technologies and these analytics at their disposal, so they have engaged completely and very effectively to
help the IT organizations that support them develop these types of tools. They’re preventive care analytics. Our organization has a history in
prevention, so given that, it aligns extraordinarily well with who we are and how we think about our mission. Our physicians and our
technologists are working hand in glove every day to develop more and more enhanced analytics, to really go through the data we have, really
look at chronic conditions in particular, because it’s well known that most of the cost of healthcare is to treat the 5-10 percent of the people
who have multiple chronic conditions. If you analyze their health records in the way that we do, you’re able to improve their outcomes very
substantially, which then ultimately translates to lower cost healthcare for them. Everyone wins in that situation.
Q: Where do you go from here? How do you build on the success that you’ve experienced to date? How would things like mobile or
social tie into these initiatives?
A: Just a couple of months ago, we implemented out first substantial mobile app, which took our Internet capability, KP.org, and put it in the
palm of your hands. This mobile app connects you anywhere in the world to your medical record, to your lab results, to your physician. You can
email your doctor, you can make appointments through it. It’s changed the game, in my opinion, relative to how healthcare needs to improve
member and patient satisfaction with every facet of how they experience us. It’s raised the bar on our ability to provide members information
and in ways that just truly delight them.
I don’t like spending a lot of time doing anything that has to do with my healthcare. The fact of the matter is if I have my mobile app on my
iPhone, I don’t have to. I can very conveniently interact with my physician, ask a question, get an answer, look at my lab results, renew a
prescription, because I’ll get a prescription reminder that says it’s time to renew it. For me, that’s a seamless couple of minutes of activity as
opposed to a ride in the car and time in the pharmacy and picking it up. And then, by the way, I push the button to tell them to mail it to my
home so I don’t even have to do that. It just changes how I feel about my healthcare system, just having those capabilities.
We’re now focusing on the next 18 months, two years, using mobile devices, considering how we’re going to use social media and interact
with our members and our customers to improve those relationships outside the organization. We’re also looking at how we use those devices
within our operations, for our physicians, our clinicians, the kinds of mobile devices we need to provide to them. We have a couple hundred
thousand PCs. We will ultimately eliminate as many as 100,000 of those PCs over the coming years, as we transform how our people work with
our technology and how they treat our members and our patients.
Q: You said you want to ‘delight’ customers. Usually that word doesn’t come up in talking about healthcare. What do you mean by that
and how do you achieve it?
A: Well, what I just talked about, but I’ll go a little further. Some years ago, I said that healthcare and your relationship with Kaiser Permanente
should delight you — your experiences when you get on the phone to our call centers, when you interact with our systems, when you interact
with our people in our offices. No one wants to deal with illness, with the other aspects of healthcare — appointment making, getting a
pharmaceutical, dealing with your claim. Those are experiences that we can actually improve through technology, and we are focused on doing
Giving our members the ability to look up their claims in their mobile devices, ask questions like how much is my co-pay going to be when I
have this procedure? Those types of things should be pretty simple things for people to get. When they’re on their way to their appointment,
we should check them in automatically when they get to the garage because they have given us permission to do that by clicking an app on
their mobile device. Just the simple things that make life easier in terms of how you interact with us as a healthcare provider and as a health plan.
We delight members by just consistently investing in technology capabilities that allow us to raise the bar on our service.
Q: How has the IT organization been changed by this transformation initiative?
A: One of the things that I can tell you is that we’ve become extraordinarily mission driven and very focused on the mission of Kaiser
Permanente. I can take you right to our back room [and show you that]. You would think, ‘those are the people that are running your
equipment, what do they care about this’? Actually, these people are passionate about running life-critical systems. They know and have
connected with the mission of this institution, which is to improve the health of our members and the communities we serve. They’re
completely focused on delivering on the promise of a life-critical system, which means you have to focus on availability right to the facility from
your data center, from ground up into your applications that you’re going to keep available four 9s, five 9s. In order to do that, everyone in that
operation has to be focused on the mission, and everyone in our organization is very focused on that mission and cares deeply about the
outcomes that our patients experience.
Clearly there’s a passion here to strive to be the best — to be the best at delivering great technology solutions for Kaiser Permanente, at
delivering great capabilities for our patients and members. There’s a passion for delivering excellence across our program. Our people care
deeply about being in a place that provides them a very progressive career and the fact that we’re at the pinnacle of health IT is very exciting for
our people. They also understand that being at the pinnacle means that others are looking at you and absolutely want to be there and at some
point would love to take your place.
We have a focus on having sustainable leadership and being considerate about how we lead the health IT industry with the innovations that
we create as part of the Kaiser Permanente organization, and with our partners across this great organization. So there’s a passion to innovate
in healthcare and use our knowledge of IT in partnership with all of our colleagues in Kaiser Permanente to come up with the next great
Q: How do you keep that team so mission focused?
A: Anyone who is a leader — and it doesn’t matter if you’re a CIO or a leader of a company — your focus individually and that of your team [has
to be] consistently on the performance of your business. We focus every day on the purpose of this enterprise, why we’re here; why we’re
personally here, and why our organization is here; and what it is we’re going to do each day that’s going to make a difference to our patients.
Then we move from that topic to the tactical activities that we perform in IT to achieve those types of outcomes. But it’s something you do
consistently. It’s about leading differently, it’s about making sure that your organization is connected with the business. That’s a phrase that’s
often overused in IT.
The reality of connecting with the business is personally and professionally making the business your personal goal. You’re involved in it
deeply, you can see yourself in the business outcomes; in this case how our patients experience us. You absolutely have a role in improving
those outcomes each day, and have the ability to step up and be part of the strategy and the development of the strategy of the company.
Having the ability to participate in that, having the responsibility and obligation to help execute on it is something we talk about a lot.
We have very passionate people in this organization and they certainly help me as a leader stay at a high-performing level. But they also
generate their own energy within their organizations to keep our entire organization focused on the overall mission of the company. That is
very different. A number of years ago, the organization was struggling to perform at a high level. We really focused ourselves on why it is we
are here. We’re here to make people’s lives better and at the end of the day, that’s the mission of the enterprise and the mission of our IT
Q: Let’s talk about those interactions with the business side. How do you, as the leader of that technology organization, set the tone
for those interactions with your business colleagues?
A: Earlier in this conversation, I told you the different groups that I sit on, and by the way, we meet all the time. So this is a very social
organization. There are a lot of people who you meet with just during the normal course of a day and a week, and as a consequence, we’re
always interacting with our colleagues across the enterprise. It’s a highly interactive business. It’s a business where a lot of people have a lot of
passion and come at their challenges from different perspectives, but everyone focuses again on that mission. The mission is unifying, which
allows us to talk to each other in a common language. It lets us focus on what’s important each day, and in a lot of ways, as a consequence of
that, the interactions we have just flow very naturally.
We have our share of challenges too, just dealing with the size and scale and complexity of a large organization like Kaiser Permanente, you
get a lot of personalities, you get people who are focused on today’s challenge as opposed to how we’re going to solve it. And you pick those
people up and you work through things with them in a way that lets them be productive, and everyone wins. I think we have great people in this
organization. We all work extraordinarily well together for as complex an organization as we are. It isn’t perfect. I don’t think there’s an
organization on the planet that is. That said, we find a way to get through the challenges of each day and focus on what’s really important, and
that helps each of us ome together in a way that delivers great capabilities for our members.
Q: Obviously, healthcare is much in the news with the Supreme Court examining the healthcare legislation that’s known as Obamacare.
How difficult is it for you as a company, as well in particular an IT organization, to plan for the future and set a strategic direction when so much
about the healthcare industry, healthcare regulation, everything is in flux?
A: I think you could probably say that about financial services, you could probably say that about a lot of industries today. There are
regulations and challenges that exist in every market. The reality is that regulations will change, markets will change, economies will go through
their challenges as well as recoveries. Regardless of those things, you have to plot a course for yourself and your organization. Given our
mission and given the things within our control, we absolutely have the ability to create the kinds of outcomes that this organization can
continue to be proud of.
But more importantly, regardless of the regulation changes, we know we have to deliver healthcare. Regardless of the regulation changes,
we know that we’ll continue to innovate in healthcare and health IT in ways that will improve our members’ health. Those are pretty constant.
Those allow us, frankly, to stay pretty focused on our mission as an organization.
The regulations will create demand for us and we’ll have to create projects to deal with the changes and challenges that come from those
regulations, as will, frankly, any other institution in the industry. But while we’re plotting our course through that, we have to stay focused on
what we’re great at and we have a lot of things right now that we’re quite good at. As long as we can do that, this organization will continue to
move forward and advance our capabilities significantly. Right now, we’re in talks about where we’re going over the next few years, and I’m
extraordinarily excited about the future of both the healthcare industry and Kaiser Permanente.
Q: Talk about what’s on the horizon for you and your team?
A: As we’re looking at healthcare and information technology, it’s very clear that most Americans are going to win in the convergence of
those two activities. Information technology is going to make healthcare more accessible, more affordable in the future. Information
technology is going to make accessing healthcare more convenient. Telemedicine is going to change the lives of people who are having
challenges with mobility. In other words, they can’t get in to see their doctor, but they can do a video visit or a video consult from their home.
The technologies that are becoming off-the-shelf capabilities that most people can afford, or will be able to afford in time, will in fact support that.
The new iPad 3 has capabilities for video and advanced video at high definition that are quite interesting. As you look at the products
that are being developed by the technology industry and how healthcare and most citizens are going to be able to access those, the greatest
days for healthcare are right in front of us, particularly in this country.
It’s my belief that when we connect most of the medical records around this country, that in itself is going to change everything about the
affordability of healthcare. We have so many duplicate tests that get done, not at Kaiser Permanente but in the larger health system, to the tune
of almost a half a trillion dollars because a physician in one setting doesn’t have access to the test that was done in another. When you think
about what IT and healthcare are going to do to the healthcare industry as they converge over these next few years, I believe that the most
significant changes for healthcare are in front of us.
Q: So tell us about your Innovation Fund for Technology.
A: That’s a great topic. At Kaiser Permanente, a few years ago, we decided it would be a wonderful thing to marry our innovative culture with
a very modest fund that allowed us — much like a venture capital group would do — to invest in really exciting ideas, innovations that might not
see the light of day if not for some seed money. So we pulled together a cross-functional team from our physician group and our IT
organization and our health plan to form a board of directors for that and they meet very regularly. We’ve made it available to everyone in the
company to participate in, so they can offer ideas on anything they think is going to provide a better capability in the emergency department, or
a better outcome for a member looking into a claim, as a couple of examples.
They have the potential to get those ideas funded. We have technology folks that support the development of the idea into a technical
capability, and then work through the prototyping of it, and then ultimately some of those ideas become products and services that we offer our
members in either our care or our health plan settings.
That particular fund is small, but it is a multimillion-dollar fund, so it’s not tiny. It’s been in use for about four years now, and it’s had wonderful
success, including, I would say, a higher than typical productization or outcome for many of the ideas that come through it, when you compare it
to things like the venture community. When [venture-backed] companies ultimately go public or get sold, for them that’s a win. For us, getting
one of these capabilities into the hands of our physicians or in support of one of our members is a win. And we’ve had a number of those and
they’ve been quite good.
Q: How do you envision the role of the CIO changing over the next three to five years? Who are going to be winners and losers?
A: My view of a technology leader or a CIO is that they’re business executives and business executives have to look through the lens of
their company’s business and have a personal view and vision for the company. Being a CIO is much like being a CEO of an enterprise. You are
effectively the CEO of a technology operation for your company. You have to be concerned about the vision, the strategy of the company, the
vision of your operations, the strategy of your operations.
You also have to be extraordinarily concerned about a people strategy for your operation and take a very comprehensive approach to the
people. Because technology is more than gadgets. It’s the people who invent them and it’s the people who support them, and it’s the people
who make those capabilities come to life for us. Frankly, it’s a people business.
So, when you really think about the skills for a CIO, you
have to have the executive ability to participate in the leadership of your enterprise, be seen as a partner at that level with everyone from the
board to the CEO to your colleagues on the executive team. Have an opinion, and have an informed opinion, about where the business is going
and how you’re going to get there. Make your contributions at that level, as well as at the level of leading your function. You also have to be
thinking end-to-end about where are we going to be in five, six, seven, eight years as an enterprise? What are the challenges and opportunities
going to be? What are the challenges and opportunities in the technology industry?
At my level, you have to be able to approach the CEO of any technology company and engage in a direct and straightforward conversation
with them as a peer. If you’re not capable of doing that, you have a deficit, because those people and their products and services are what
you’re using to deliver capabilities to your organization. They’re critically important to your success and the success of your organization. You
have to be able to have a conversation with them and you have to be able to influence them, because there are things you’ll want from them as
Then at times we get to talk to people like you and have to have an opinion that others will listen to and have perspective that we know
what we’re doing, have competence, have credibility and frankly, are people who can lead, and lead organizations that have great people in
Q: If there’s one thing that will trip CIOs up over the coming years, what will it be? The inability to lead the transformation effort? The
inability to deal with the landslide of technology change around mobile, social, cloud? Too much focus on day-to-day operations? What is it that
you think is the single riskiest thing for CIOs now?
A: The things you just mentioned, clearly, that’s the technical side of our job. If you don’t have a vision for where the technology is going and
aren’t connected to the new stuff that’s coming out from these companies, in a way that allows you to have a very strong opinion about what’s
in and out of your strategy, that would be a deficit, and a very large one.
But I will also point you to something else. As a member of the leadership team of your company, you want to be respected for your
technology knowledge, but you equally want to be respected for your business acumen and your ability to work as a leader from the seat you
occupy, where the organization really looks to you for leadership vision and strategy, and so does the board of directors. So the ability to work
well with others is important. The ability to lead and provide vision and strategy at the board level and executive level is key. Have people both
respect you, as well as support you, because you need a great partnership when you’re a leader, and you need to have the partnership of
everyone in your organization.
Q: What advice do you have for someone coming up through either a functional area of IT or looking at it from the business side and
thinking about the path to the CIO job?
A: A long time ago, I was very technical too, but I always spent time trying to learn about the things that were not my strengths. When I was
a coder, I certainly could write my code and I knew the systems inside and out. I didn’t know the businesses and I didn’t understand the
dynamics that people were living in. So I would seek out people as counselors and spend the time with them understanding the lens that they
look through each day, because it’s different than the technologist’s lens. That helps round you out and gives you an understanding of the
challenges the larger organization is experiencing. All of those bits of knowledge are fundamentally important to your future success as a
When you’re more junior in these organizations, you tend to have a belief that it’s really about what you do. One of the greatest
things I could say to anyone is it’s really not necessarily about what you do, it’s what you influence others to do and it’s also how you support
those people in being successful, as well. Because the more people that are successful around you, the more successful you are.
Q: Makes perfect sense. Was there something important that I didn’t ask you about that you wanted to convey?
A: The only thing I would say, and I’m sure you can tell this, I have a distinct passion for the mission of our organization and frankly, for the
healthcare industry and where we are in this country. It’s very clear to me that the healthcare industry is at an inflection point and the
opportunities in front of this industry are so significant in terms of improving the health of our citizens in the United States and in making
healthcare both affordable and effective and convenient for all. I think that’s the next great opportunity for the industry, I think it’s the next great
opportunity for the country. My hope is that other people feel as passionately as I do about it.