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Will the Chief Digital Officer Role be Key to Healthcare’s Future?

August 5, 2018
by Heather Landi
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As many healthcare organizations are in various stages of their digital transformation journeys, executives at leading health systems and hospitals are increasingly adding chief digital officers (CDOs) to their senior leadership teams.

According to a survey from PwC (PricewaterhouseCoopers) in early 2016, only 6 percent of the top 1,500 global companies had chief digital officers, at that time. But, the CDO is an emerging and fast-growing executive role in healthcare, as hospitals and health systems are looking for a key leader to manage overall digital strategy and the consumers’ digital experience. St. Louis-based Ascension, one of the largest U.S. health care systems with 153 hospitals, recently hired Eduardo Conrado as its first chief digital officer, charged with steering the health system’s digital strategy and accelerating digital initiatives. Conrado comes to Ascension from Motorola, where he recently served as chief strategy and innovation officer.

In a press release, Ascension president and CEO Anthony Tersigni, Ed.D., said the move to hire Conrado was in response to rapid changes impacting the healthcare industry. “As our industry and our ministry rapidly transform, new technologies and companies are disrupting the market at an ever-faster pace, and leaders are beginning to fully embrace digital solutions to unlock innovation and drive productivity, connectivity and engagement,” Tersigni stated.

Many health systems are tapping digital leaders from outside healthcare. Aaron Martin, chief digital officer at Seattle-based Providence St. Joseph Health, previously worked at Amazon. The key, many industry experts say, is that the healthcare CDO needs to have clinical and organizational understanding to succeed.

Given the ongoing focus on this role, Healthcare Informatics Associate Editor Heather Landi spoke with Hillary Ross, senior partner with the Oak Brook, Ill.-based executive search firm Witt/Kieffer, about the growing importance of the CDO role in healthcare, what skillsets are needed and the CDO’s relationship with the CIO and other C-suite leaders. Ross leads Witt/Kieffer's healthcare IT practice and specializes in the recruitment of senior-level physicians and other clinicians. Below are excerpts from that interview.

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What is driving healthcare executives to add the chief digital officer role to their C-suite team?

When the healthcare landscape changed from fee-for-service to fee-for-value, and health systems started looking at driving value, I think that is what precipitated this. When you start looking at value, healthcare organizations started looking at patients as consumers, and consumers have a lot of choices in the market right now. Consumers go online to shop for their houses, their mortgages, their cars, their groceries, and they also have choices in their healthcare. Healthcare is beginning to recognize that patients have choices, and much of what they can offer a patient doesn’t just have to be within the four walls of the hospital.

Hillary Ross

Everyone says healthcare lags behind other industries, and we’ve definitely seen that with this role. The CDO has been in other industries for a long time, and now healthcare is starting to look at it as well. When we talk about this CDO, we’re really talking about the person that is going to be responsible for digital transformation across the healthcare ecosystem. It’s a critical business-focused role.

What are the key skillsets that a healthcare CDO should have?

It’s really about a confluence of experience and personal style. Personal style is critical to this position because this person is a change agent, their role is to take a health system’s belief system and change it. Their role is to bring digital automatization to the health system. It’s very much a forward-facing role more than an internal role. In terms of skillsets, ideally, this person would have experience leading digital transformation and have an understanding of the obstacles and challenges to deploying digital health as well as innovation and commercialization, and also have a background in technology.

We’re also seeing the rise of consumerism in healthcare. How does that intertwine with the CDO role?

The chief digital officer is focused on and obsessed with the patient and in creating choices for the patient, as well as patient engagement and patient experience, to keep existing patients and to drive new patients to the organization by connecting with them digitally and giving them choices.

Consumers’ expectations are changing, and they are used to having choices. Someone shared a story with me that brings this to life. A patient had a check-up with her doctor, and the doctor wanted her to get a heart exam. The doctor said it wasn’t covered by insurance and referred the patient to a facility that does heart scans at a cost of $250. She called her local hospital and found out that the hospital charges $450. She then went online and Googled “affordable heart scan” with her zip code and up popped a hospital 10 minutes from her house that was offering heart scans for $49. This story shows that patients are consumers, they are savvy, and they are going to start expecting more information and more choices. Hospitals that recognize this can drive new patients, keep patients, and ultimately drive revenue, but, all the time keeping their eye on the importance on the patient and excellent clinical care.

Are you seeing a lot of commonality with the roles and responsibilities of the CDO across organizations?

Organizations are trying to figure out this role; much the same way they tried to figure out the chief information officer (CIO) role 20 years ago.  Organizations had a director of technology, someone who ran the “break and fix shop,” and then emerged a CIO and that role has really expanded and evolved over the years to become an extremely critical and key leadership executive. Technology enables the strategic goals of an organization, and the CIO leads that.

Much the same way, organizations are now trying to figure out how best to position this [CDO] and who best to lead it, and it will be a process. We see some organizations combining this role with other roles. In my view, this role is huge; digital is here to stay and it requires full focus and attention. I don’t think combining the CDO role with other roles is the best approach, it will dilute the importance of digitalization.

What are your thoughts on the appropriate reporting structure for this role?

It should be reporting to the CEO, ideally, and a peer to the CIO. The best model is a tight partnership between the CIO and the CDO. In terms of partnership with other senior leadership, as well, this person really sits at the intersection of clinical, technology, marketing and senior leadership. It’s a very collaborative role to drive that organizational change.

How does the emergence of this role impact the CIO role?

Some organizations will combine the role with the CIO role, but I think it should be separate. The CIO is a critical component of an organization; the CIO runs information systems and oversees applications, clinical systems, revenue cycle, human resource systems, security, the data warehouse, and sometimes, analytics. And then to add digital transformation to that role, [the CDO role] is not going to garner the full-time support that this role needs, and it will end up being one-off innovations, like a cool app here, or a telemedicine program, which is all important. But, you need really need someone creating a digital strategy, leading that strategy, implementing it and driving these changes. It’s a full-time role. The whole next wave of patients are Millennials, and they are driven by digital. For organizations that want to position themselves well for that next wave of patients, digitalization requires full-time attention.

Are healthcare organizations looking outside healthcare to recruit for these CDO positions?

We’re seeing healthcare organizations now looking for leadership outside of healthcare, and it’s interesting to watch those organizations and how those leaders outside of healthcare are navigating. Certainly, if you recruit outside healthcare, there is a going to be a learning curve for those executives. Do they speak the language of healthcare, and do they understand the intricacies; reimbursement, readmission, length of stay, hospital business operations? Those executives can transition, but it will take time and it will take strong healthcare leadership under them to help them with that transition.

Many times, we’re asked to produce slates of these candidates that come from within healthcare and outside healthcare because they want to compare and contrast. Generally, we’re seeing healthcare leaders will end up selecting those candidates from within healthcare because they can hit the ground running and they know how to navigate the hospital and understand their issues. But, there are those organizations that are looking to really innovate and shake things up, and they think those leaders outside healthcare can bring that innovation and fresh look. Those executives might have different ideas on consumer engagement and will focus on translating those ideas to healthcare.

The bottom line is, healthcare is all about the patients and being clinically excellent. And the difference is, when you look at leaders outside healthcare, it’s about profit and the bottom line. It’s a different mentality and focus. Anyone that comes from outside of healthcare, this CDO, is going to have to be mission-driven and passionate about the patient.

Do you have any predictions about the next emerging role in healthcare?

This role will be it. A talented CDO will be the best person to identify those next great ideas in healthcare; that’s why this role is so important.

 


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Ed Kopetsky Named CHIME-HIMSS CIO of the Year

January 7, 2019
by Heather Landi, Associate Editor
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Ed Kopetsky, CIO of Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford and Stanford Children’s Health, has been named the 2018 John E. Gall Jr. CIO of the Year award recipient by the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) and the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS).

The award—named after John E. Gall Jr., who pioneered implementation of the first fully integrated medical system in the world in El Camino Hospital in California in the 1960s—is given annually to a CIO who has shown significant leadership and commitment to the healthcare industry during his or her career. The recipient is selected jointly by the boards of CHIME and HIMSS.

“I have had the great fortune to work with and learn from many healthcare executives and IT leaders, and to have talented teams working alongside me throughout my career,” Kopetsky said in a statement. “I am honored to have been nominated, and to have CHIME and HIMSS select me for this award.”    

Kopetsky’s career has spanned the industry, from CIO of three prominent healthcare systems to partner in a consulting firm specializing in healthcare IT and process improvement. He joined Stanford Children’s as CIO in 2009, after working as a partner at the professional services organization Healthlink, which was acquired by IBM in 2005. He was senior vice president and CIO of Centura Health from 1996 to 2000 and CIO of Sharp HealthCare from 1986 to 1996. Under his leadership, Stanford Children’s received the HIMSS Stage 7 Acute Care and Ambulatory Awards, Most Wired recognition from 2015 to the present, honors for having one of the best healthcare IT departments in 2016, and the international HIMSS Davies Award in 2017 for improving patient outcomes and care processes using health IT and analytics.

Over the decades, Kopetsky has helped launch and sustain numerous initiatives that have helped the industry grow, according to officials from the two associations. He was a founding member of CHIME in 1992 and has been an active member of HIMSS since 1987. He started and chaired a HIMSS chapter in San Diego in 1988 and three decades later joined the HIMSS Executive Institute. His contributions to CHIME include board member (1996-1999) CHIME chair (1998) and CHIME Foundation Board member (2002-2005). After losing his son to an accidental opioid overdose in late 2017, he helped launch the CHIME Opioid Task Force in 2018, which he co-chairs.

“Ed is one of the most courageous people I know,” Russell Branzell, president and CEO of CHIME, said in a statement. “Ed has turned a personal tragedy into a mission for CHIME and our members that already is saving lives. He has a vision of what can be achieved when healthcare IT leaders work together, and with his leadership we are making inroads against this devastating opioid epidemic.” 

“Ed Kopetsky epitomizes the values and traits that all in health strive to achieve,” Hal Wolf, president and CEO of HIMSS, said. “Mission driven, technically innovative and highly respected among his peers. A longtime HIMSS member and contributor, Ed has focused his personal passions into improving the lives of countless individuals. It is a privilege to honor Ed as our CIO of the Year.”

As a CIO, Kopetsky has successfully led several large-scale projects and mentored many staff members, according to CHIME and HIMSS officials. At Sharp HealthCare, his team completed implementation of one of the first integrated patient care systems supporting a multi-hospital and physician network. At Stanford Children’s he oversaw the implementation of enterprise systems, including an integrated electronic health record across Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford and Stanford Children’s Health. He is credited with developing top-notch IT teams and serving as a role model and mentor throughout his career.

Kopetsky will be honored on Feb. 11 at the 2019 CHIME HIMSS CIO Forum in Orlando, Fla. He will officially receive the award at the HIMSS19 conference that runs Feb. 11-15 in Orlando.

 

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Providence St. Joseph Health Hires Microsoft Exec as CIO

January 2, 2019
by David Raths, Contributing Editor
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Renton, Wash.-based Providence St. Joseph Health, the nation's third-largest health system, has hired Microsoft executive B.J. Moore as its chief information officer effective Jan. 28, 2019. 

Moore joins several other executives that 51-hospital Providence St. Joseph Health has hired away from Seattle-area tech giants. Other additions have included Chief Digital Officer Aaron Martin, previously of Amazon, who joined in 2014, and Chief Financial Officer Venkat Bhamidipati, formerly of Microsoft, who joined in 2017. Moore will report to Bhamidipati.

In a statement about Moore’s hiring, Providence St. Joseph Health President and CEO Rod Hochman, M.D., explained why the health system is targeting tech executives such as Moore. "With data, cloud computing and artificial intelligence poised to enable and improve the way care is delivered, health systems need leaders who are well versed in the technology fields. B.J. has the depth and experience to guide our organization through this period of transformation, which will include collaborating with technology companies, as well as adopting enterprise-wide solutions that will modernize healthcare operations."

Moore spent close to 20 years at Microsoft, where he served as Vice President, Enterprise Commerce and Compliance, Cloud and Artificial Intelligence and Vice President, Enterprise Commerce, Windows and Devices Group. 

Besides its 51 hospitals, Providence St. Joseph Health has 829 physician clinics, senior services, supportive housing and many other health and educational services. The health system and its partners employ more than 119,000 people across seven states – Alaska, California, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, Texas and Washington. Formed in 2016, the Providence St. Joseph Health family includes the founding organizations, and in Texas, Covenant Health and Covenant Medical Group; California, Facey Medical Group, Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian and St. Joseph Heritage Healthcare; Washington, Kadlec Regional Medical Center, Pacific Medical Centers, and Swedish Health Services.

 

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Rasu Shrestha Leaving UPMC to Join Atrium Health as Chief Strategy Officer

December 18, 2018
by Heather Landi, Associate Editor
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Industry thought leader Rasu Shrestha, M.D., formerly Chief Innovation Officer at the vast 40-hospital University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC), is leaving Pittsburgh to join Charlotte, North Carolina-based Atrium Health has the new executive vice president and chief strategy officer.

For the past 11 years, Shrestha has held various roles at UPMC, including, most recently, executive vice president and chief innovation officer, responsible for driving UPMC’s innovation strategy. In addition to leading innovation at UPMC, Shrestha also served as executive vice president of UPMC Enterprises, the venture capital arm of UPMC.

According to a press release from Atrium Health, a 40-hospital health system previously named Carolinas HealthCare System, in his new role Shrestha will lead enterprise strategy, including planning and tactical direction for Atrium Health’s strategic roadmap. In addition, he will spearhead a renewed focus on innovation, launching new healthcare inventions, discoveries and ideas to benefit Atrium Health patients and the communities it serves.

Shrestha will officially join Atrium Health in February 2019, reporting directly to President and CEO Eugene Woods. He will take on the position formerly held by Carol Lovin, who was promoted to executive vice president and system chief of staff.

“It is our honor to welcome Dr. Rasu Shrestha into the Atrium Health family,” Atrium Health president and CEO Eugene Woods, said in a statement. “As Atrium Health looks ahead to how we can reimagine a brighter and bolder future for care, Dr. Shrestha will help us develop the strategy and innovation to bring health, hope and healing to more people.” 

A respected thought leader and visionary in the field of healthcare information technology, Shrestha was recognized as one of the “Top 20 Health IT Leaders Driving Change” and as a “Top Healthcare Innovator” by InformationWeek, according to the Atrium Health press release. In addition, he is chairman of the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) Innovation Committee, and co-chair of Health Datapalooza.

“I am awestruck by the ambitions of Atrium Health to fulfill their mission to improve health, elevate hope and advance healing – for all,” Shrestha said in a statement. “I look forward to working with this incredibly talented team to forge ahead with meaningful strategies, partnerships and opportunities – and to support this organization’s commitment and dedication to its patients and communities.”

Shrestha announced the move to Atrium Health via Twitter Tuesday afternoon and also posted several comments on LinkedIn. “I find myself in a reflective mood, as I contemplate leaving the many teams I’ve had the honor of making an impact in, the culture that I’ve had the privilege of being able to help craft, and an organization I love, in a city my family and I have called home for the last 11 years since moving here from Southern California. I am humbled with the honor of having worked with some of the most brilliant leaders and doers I have met, and proud of the many accomplishments we have made as a team here at UPMC and across the industry,” Shrestha wrote. “It is this purpose-driven passion that will be a recurring theme, as we continue to cross paths and push ahead through the many challenges and opportunities.”

He remarked that he was drawn to the “human ambitions” of Atrium Health to “improve health, elevate hope and advance healing - for all.”

“What a remarkable place to start my next chapter forward. I know that when we put our hearts and minds together, anything is possible,” he wrote.

Shrestha received his medical degree from CCS University in India, completed his fellowship in informatics from the University of London and earned his MBA from the University of Southern California.

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