by Martha Heller

Healthcare CEO Expects IT to Keep Firm Ahead of the Curve

Mar 22, 20133 mins
Business IntelligenceIT LeadershipSocial Networking Apps

For Craig Smith, of Owens and Minor, IT is essential to employee collaboration, innovation and maintaining a competitive edge in a fast-changing industry. 

Craig Smith, CEO at Owens and Minor, answers six questions about why  IT is essential to employee collaboration, innovation and maintaining a competitive edge in the healthcare industry.

How is technology a competitive differentiator for Owens and Minor?

Our technology allows us to help hospitals improve their processes, which can save them millions of dollars a year. This is going to become even more important as our customers start seeing Medicare reimbursement changes. We also provide software packages that allow operating rooms to improve billing and reduce their inventory.

When we go head-to-head on a competitive bid, we differentiate ourselves by saying we are a process supplier versus a price supplier. Without a strong technology foundation, some of our smaller competitors have no choice but to sell on price.

In the United States, we’re seeing a massive consolidation of hospital systems. As hospitals come together, they may be on two or three different ERP platforms. Our competitors have difficulty knowing what the hospitals are buying or their pricing levels. We have great business intelligence tools that give us information our competitors often do not have.

How do you develop a corporate culture that is focused on innovation?

I am really just a steward of a culture that has been here for a long time.

We have a long history of investing in IT as a way to keep our business ahead of the industry curve. We are currently engaged in a three-year plan to invest up to $50 million in our systems. These investments over the years have allowed our teammates to find ways to do things better and faster.

How does technology facilitate openness at Owens and Minor?

One example is our use of Yammer, an internal communications platform. If teammates in Boston discover a solution to a customer-service problem, they can use Yammer to get the word out to other locations fast.

We have a large number of young people coming into the company with new ideas on how to use technology. I believe there is opportunity in embracing some of their ideas, which will be a priority over the next 18 months.

On a scale of one to 10, what is your comfort level with Yammer?

I’d give it an eight. I’m 60, so I’m a little bit better with the phone.

Are you, as CEO, using technology differently than you were a few years ago?

Definitely. We have a CRM tool, which lets me see how a sales force or region or business is doing. Our board of directors now uses BoardVantage, a board portal; you don’t see them with paper anymore. And as CEO of a global company, I find myself looking at texts on the weekends and late at night. If you are not careful, you could wind up working 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

In the world of technology innovation, what are you personally most excited about?

I’m an old sales and operations guy, and I love walking into the warehouse and seeing how we are using voice-pick technology–a voice-enabled system of order picking that has made the warehouse work hands-free, safer and faster for our teammates. It is wonderful to see how we can use technology to get our people home to their families faster.

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