Along with being a notable experienced health IT leader, Edward Marx, CIO of the Cleveland Clinic, also is a seasoned mountain climber, and his expertise in both areas makes him more than qualified to share his insights on reaching the highest heights of health IT disruption and innovation.
Marx, who took over the CIO role at Cleveland Clinic Sept. 1 after the health system announced his hiring in July, is slated to be a keynote speaker at Healthcare Informatics’ Cleveland Health IT Summit at the Hilton Cleveland Downtown on March 27 to 28. In his keynote presentation, Marx will apply his mountain climbing experiences to driving innovation in healthcare, and what it takes for CIOs to summit the innovation mountain.
Prior to stepping into the CIO role at Cleveland Clinic, Marx held executive positions at the Advisory Board Company and he spent eight years as CIO at Texas Health Resources, following five years in that role at University Hospitals in Cleveland. What’s more, Marx is active with professional organizations, advisory boards and higher education throughout the health IT industry. He is a Fellow of the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) and Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS). He has won numerous awards, including HIMSS/CHIME 2013 CIO of the Year.
Recently, Healthcare Informatics’ Associate Editor Heather Landi spoke with Marx about his priorities leading IT initiatives at Cleveland Clinic, the acceleration of health IT innovation and what he is excited to see develop in the healthcare technology space in 2018. Below are excerpts from that interview.
You started in your new role as CIO at Cleveland Clinic about four months ago. What are your priorities right now?
The number one priority is the exact same priority as the Cleveland Clinic itself, and that is, to ensure that we continue to promote and cultivate a patient-first environment; everything we do is really centered around that focus of putting patients first. The strategies that our organization has are the exact same ones that IT has. One area of focus for 2018 is digitalization, and that’s really about how do we take our practices today and leverage technology to automate them, and that could manifest itself in many different ways depending on the area. It could be exploiting artificial intelligence, machine learning and the digital hospital. We do all of those things already, but it’s about taking them to the next level. The focus is about how do we become more efficient and effective, and maximize the tools that are available to us today to continue to deliver the highest quality patient care possible. At our organization, IT is not a separate strategy than the organization, and it’s important that IT is an enabler of the organization’s objectives and not just something we do because it’s a cool thing to do or it’s the next shiny, bright object that’s out there. We never lead with it, because we always collaborate; collaborating with technology and with what we’re trying to do on the clinical side in order to do the very best by our patients.
There are some foundational things that we work on just like any other strong IT organization. One is leveraging best practices for IT. While we have a good IT organization, we want to continue to improve and grow, and one way we do this is by leveraging best practices, just as the same as clinical side, where we try to increase the quality of care, we look at best practices around the world and then we adopt them within our culture. We’re doing the same with IT. We’re working hard on that. Another key thing for us in terms of focusing on the fundamentals is transforming ourselves into an agile organization. Many of the leading companies today, technology companies specifically, are agile companies and they have adopted agile practices. That’s something that we’re doing, and not just in project management and not just in software management, as many companies do, but we’re adopting an agile format, much like successful tech companies, in everything we do.
A third thing we’re doing is that we’re really enhancing our governance and project management capabilities, so we want to continue to grow and make sure that we’re very effective in our utilization of scarce resources. We all have a limited amount of resources, and so we want to become very adept and very good at how we align those with the organization’s priorities and we do that through strong IT governance and project management. Once we do have those resources secured, and we launch particular initiatives to enable our business, we want to make sure that it’s in done in the very best possible way. In all those areas, we’re working to become the best of class to enable our organization’s mission and vision.
What are the biggest challenges that healthcare CIOs are facing?
I think some of the bigger challenges are security, of course, such as how do you ensure that you have all the appropriate safeguards in place, and how do you continue to mature in that area at the same pace as those who seek to do damage? So, security is a big focus for us.