Health care is ready for digital transformation. Changing consumer expectations combined with new technologies have pushed even the largest health care providers to innovate and improve patient care. On this episode, Preston Simons,CIO of Aurora Health Care, discusses transformation in this important field. 

Preston Simons is Chief Information Officer at Aurora Health Care. Prior to joining Aurora, Preston Simons served as chief information officer for Abbott Laboratories for more than 10 years, where he was responsible for all aspects of the IT department which at one time had more than 4,000 employees and IT contractors. He was also accountable for many IT functions at Abbott`s spin-off AbbVie. Prior to that, he served as an IT leader in several health systems, a health insurance plan and in the pharmaceutical industry. In addition to affiliations with a number of health care IT organizations, Simons has had leading roles in the Chicago CIO Institute and other leadership summits. Simons holds a bachelor`s degree in business administration from the Illinois Institute of Technology and a master`s degree from the Booth School of Business, University of Chicago.

Dion Hinchcliffe is co-host of this episode.

Transcript

Michael Krigsman:

(00:01) Welcome to episode number 173 of CXOTalk. I’m Michael Krigsman and today we have a special show, I am here with my friend and colleague Dion Hinchcliffe who is cohosting this episode of CXOTalk. And Dion how are you today?

Dion Hinchcliffe:

(00:23) I’m doing very well Michael, I’m looking forward to it.

Michael Krigsman:

(00:26) Yeah, Dion thank you so much for doing this and our guest today Dion is Preston Simons, who is the CIO of Aurora Health care. Preston how are you?

Preston Simons:

(00:39) I’m very well. Good afternoon Michael and Dion.

Michael Krigsman:

(00:43) So Preston please tell us about Aurora Health Care and give us very briefly about your background.

Preston Simons:

(00:49) Sure. Aurora Health Care is an integrated system of physicians here in the state of Wisconsin, headquartered in Milwaukie. We service sites at more than 90 communities throughout Eastern Wisconsin and Northern Illinois. We’re the most comprehensive health care provider, the largest health care provider in the state, and the state’s largest private employer. We serve about 1.2 million patients and with about 15 hospitals, we have an interconnected network of over 150 clinics and 70 pharmacies.

Michael Krigsman:

(01:31) Dion you’re the guest cohost, therefore I think you should jump in first.

Dion Hinchcliffe:

(01:37) Absolutely. So Preston we’re so glad to have you on the show, and there’s been a lot of CIOs in particular, often of high technology companies, and high tech is kind of its own little world, its own little bubble. So we were still thrilled that you were available to give us a perspective from the health care industry which is a really important one. It’s undergone a lot of changes with the Affordable Care Act and others, and you’re relatively new in your role at Aurora. So I was wondering what was the mandate that you were given, obviously that the industry is undergoing some challenges and I think opportunities as well and we’ll talk about them through the rest of the show, but I was wondering if you can give a review of what they were hoping that you were going to accomplish about what kind of vision you’re bringing to the table.

Preston Simons:

(02:23) Sure, we as you already said I’m the Chief Information Officer here. Just been here actually, I just made eight months so an exciting time. You know for me the mandate has really been you know, we’ve got to expect that there’s a business disrupter here somewhere. I think that health care, integrated health care, health care delivery is really rightful. It’s kind of  there’s a confluence of things going on, everything from ageing population to the Affordable Care Act as you mentioned to just less government spending on health care but in an odd also way they increase the percentile of that same number.

(03:16) You know it’s an exciting time because health care really wants to embrace a change and that’s what’s really exciting here at Aurora is all the leadership really looks forward to what information technology can do.

Michael Krigsman:

(03:32) So when you talk about and when you think about digital transformation because in a way that’s the bottom line here. What does that actually mean for you and what does that mean for Aurora?

Preston Simons:

(03:46) Well there’s a lot of things going on in digital transformation, and you know digital transformation is one of those journey’s that just never quits. We’ve got everything going on from mobility, the use of you know every one – all of our care givers. We call everyone here at Aurora a care giver because if you’re not actually giving care you’re in the chain of giving care. And that’s a great thing here because everyone really feels tied to the mission.

(04:18) The mobility connected with the whole idea of the mesh, you know, what we refer to as the whole idea of the wearables

Michael Krigsman:

(00:01) Welcome to episode number 173 of CXOTalk. I’m Michael Krigsman and today we have a special show, I am here with my friend and colleague Dion Hinchcliffe who is cohosting this episode of CXOTalk. And Dion how are you today?

Dion Hinchcliffe:

(00:23) I’m doing very well Michael, I’m looking forward to it.

Michael Krigsman:

(00:26) Yeah, Dion thank you so much for doing this and our guest today Dion is Preston Simons, who is the CIO of Aurora Health care. Preston how are you?

Preston Simons:

(00:39) I’m very well. Good afternoon Michael and Dion.

Michael Krigsman:

(00:43) So Preston please tell us about Aurora Health Care and give us very briefly about your background.

Preston Simons:

(00:49) Sure. Aurora Health Care is an integrated system of physicians here in the state of Wisconsin, headquartered in Milwaukie. We service sites at more than 90 communities throughout Eastern Wisconsin and Northern Illinois. We’re the most comprehensive health care provider, the largest health care provider in the state, and the state’s largest private employer. We serve about 1.2 million patients and with about 15 hospitals, we have an interconnected network of over 150 clinics and 70 pharmacies.

Michael Krigsman:

(01:31) Dion you’re the guest cohost, therefore I think you should jump in first.

Dion Hinchcliffe:

(01:37) Absolutely. So Preston we’re so glad to have you on the show, and there’s been a lot of CIOs in particular, often of high technology companies, and high tech is kind of its own little world, its own little bubble. So we were still thrilled that you were available to give us a perspective from the health care industry which is a really important one. It’s undergone a lot of changes with the Affordable Care Act and others, and you’re relatively new in your role at Aurora. So I was wondering what was the mandate that you were given, obviously that the industry is undergoing some challenges and I think opportunities as well and we’ll talk about them through the rest of the show, but I was wondering if you can give a review of what they were hoping that you were going to accomplish about what kind of vision you’re bringing to the table.

Preston Simons:

(02:23) Sure, we as you already said I’m the Chief Information Officer here. Just been here actually, I just made eight months so an exciting time. You know for me the mandate has really been you know, we’ve got to expect that there’s a business disrupter here somewhere. I think that health care, integrated health care, health care delivery is really rightful. It’s kind of  there’s a confluence of things going on, everything from ageing population to the Affordable Care Act as you mentioned to just less government spending on health care but in an odd also way they increase the percentile of that same number.

(03:16) You know it’s an exciting time because health care really wants to embrace a change and that’s what’s really exciting here at Aurora is all the leadership really looks forward to what information technology can do.

Michael Krigsman:

(03:32) So when you talk about and when you think about digital transformation because in a way that’s the bottom line here. What does that actually mean for you and what does that mean for Aurora?

Preston Simons:

(03:46) Well there’s a lot of things going on in digital transformation, and you know digital transformation is one of those journey’s that just never quits. We’ve got everything going on from mobility, the use of you know every one – all of our care givers. We call everyone here at Aurora a care giver because if you’re not actually giving care you’re in the chain of giving care. And that’s a great thing here because everyone really feels tied to the mission.

(04:18) The mobility connected with the whole idea of the mesh, you know, what we refer to as the whole idea of the wearables, the consumer and home electronic devices, the automated deliveries. There’s such a great opportunity to try to connect those things. So many part of the population want to be healthier and we want to make that opportunity to be available to them.

(04:47) At the same time you know, when you look at things like how the care givers themselves want to be more efficient and productive, if they can have a lot of that information available to them like you know, did you do a run today, you know, how is your glucose reading today, how’s your weight, what’s the delta in your weight.

(05:11) You know mixing and matching all those things together to serve them up in a way where the care givers can be more efficient, more productive, and really satisfied the needs of the consumers that they serve even more rapidly. That’s a way I think the whole idea of you know digital transformation, digital business can make it real affect to.

Dion Hinchcliffe:

(05:36) So it’s sounds like if I play that back that’s a comprehensive vision, but it sounds like transformation for you at Aurora really means building a deeper and more engaged connection with the consumer using technology devices and doing more preventative care, more proactive data driven understanding in what’s going on and supporting a healthy lifestyle is really putting technology in that relationship, is that a fair statement?

Preston Simons:

(06:03) That’s actually a very fair statement Dion. As a matter of fact, consumers want their health care where, when, and how they want it or need it. So it’s not enough to just take care of them in the office, although that continues to be the most relevant touchpoint for our care givers. It’s just as important to be able to get that information from schools, community meeting, anything where they can reach out from those Internet of Thing’s pieces to any opportunity that we can take the data and the information and pull it together, you know that’s where we want to be able to make a difference in their lives.

Dion Hinchcliffe:

(06:52) So this is really not your parents health care experience. Much more consumerized, much more digital, much more mobile and I heard you say Internet of things. you have devices that you’re connected from consumers is that right?

Preston Simons:

(07:07) Yes as a matter of fact you know, you take that whole digital mess, I actually refer to it a  lot of the times as the digital mess. It’s only a mess to me right now because I don’t think we have, well I don’t think, I know we don’t have all of the ways to connect all those things together. But you have to believe that it’s coming.

(07:26) You know, we know that from just the Internet of Things and those platforms. Really we need an Internet of Things platform that will complement the bringing together of the digital mess meshed…

Dion Hinchcliffe:

(07:40) Oh I like the mess.

Preston Simons:

(07:41) Yeah I know it’s still a mess, and you know that whole idea of the kind of the information of everything which can link data from the digital mesh and start to include things like sensory data and contextual information that can help care givers actually provide that care. We want it to be a holistic view. But that will take time to get to because you’ve got a market out there that naturally, is being very opportunistic serving up all of these different things to our consumers.

Michael Krigsman:

(08:13) So you you talk about technology as being the enabler, and it’s very easy to focus on technology, but that technology needs to be in the service of what the health care providers and that entire chain of health care delivery is offering and requires to deliver patient care. So how do you draw the line between the technology and the business requirements, and how do you ensure they come together in the right way.

Preston Simons:

(08:47) Well that leads off to three kind of different areas there. I mean how do we link what the business wants and then also looking at it from a standpoint of a cultural change as well. One of the things I think is great about Aurora is they’ve already really embarked on this cultural change. They are anxious, they are desirest of what technology can do for them, so they are already looking at their processes on how they can improve them. Aurora has had a rich history of years of a distinct quality regiment and trying to do things better and better.

(09:26) Information technology from that standpoint is only making that better. It’s enabling them to get it that much quicker, and when you think about that though, that kind of mixes into the cultural piece. Because you know IT’s importance that digital transformation it all comes down to the fact that information is power. And digital transformation and tools kind of frees people throughout the enterprise up and down the chain. So if you’re not ready for that it can be a little daunting.

(09:59) Some of the obstacles that I see all the time are you know, proving the business value, you know all this has got to have an ROI. Well ROIs important but for some of the things that are really out there on the disrupting edge, it’s really hard to get the ROI early on.

(10:17) Sometimes the ROI discovers you. And sometimes there’s too much a focus on technology, and Michael that’s kind of a point that you just went to, which is sometimes if we focus too much on the technology we forget about all the deep change and how people work.

(10:38) You know sometimes the best way to do this is what would you really change and then let technology enable that. That’s another reason like I said why really Aurora’s at the front-end here because they’ve already been doing that for years.

(10:53) And then of course is the whole thing of you know, well frankly, the feeling of losing control. So if information is power and information is then cascaded up and down the enterprise, then is there a loss of feeling of control. And you’ve got to be open to that. You’ve got to be open to which is kind of a piece that I’m trying when you asked me the mandate you know. My mandate is to for IT to be transparent. We anxiously await what the new business ideas are, and then try to help them as quickly as possible, you know, format them or facilitate them in a way so the organization can see what the value will be.

Dion Hinchcliffe:

(11:39) I think that’s very well stated, and you know the great Ted Jetsin – wrong let me get this he was CIO of Deutsche Bank or BT British Telecom said, really that’s the end game is that we have to design for loss of control not that we will have loss of control, it will be loss of non-essential control and I think that’s kind of what you’re talking about here. So that’s very encouraging. So the health care business is fairly insular and it’s really tough coming from the outside. And you know you have these care givers and you have these nurses and you know they’re trying to serve patients and busy on focusing on doing that. How do we transform to the way they work as they do it that’s effective and sustainable.

Preston Simons:

(12:30) That’s a great point. I’m actually thinking three different ways to answer it but I want to get to the first and foremost which is, you know as a CIO what I really focus on is making sure that I’m helping to lead an organization that can get out of the way.

(12:47) That might sound a little odd, but really what I want to do is create this consultancy or this business relationship portion of IT that really draws that strategic linkage out to the business so they feel comfortable with IT partnering to them and they really feel like, well I can reach out to my IT partner and they’ll bring things to the table. And even if they don’t bring things to the table right then, they are a match with me shoulder to shoulder on understanding what new things I want to do.

(13:16) I’m a big believer in wrapping that relationship up, so that way the business feels very comfortable. And even when they hear no because they understand that, well, there might not be a way to do that now but there might be a better way to do it in the future. And they feel that IT is partnering with them to experiment and find new things.

(13:42) So I really focus on, you know, as a CIO I’ve got lots of folks that can dive deep into the technology and you know really have that expertise. But for me it is setting up an organization that let’s folks deliver and then my job really becomes removing obstacles.

Michael Krigsman:

(14:06) So in a way when you talk about it this way I’ve heard other CIOs talk about this notion of operational excellence. So that becomes the baseline you can hand to your team which then frees you up to have these collaborative relationships as you were describing with your counterparts in the business. So you can be sure you’re on the same page with them and delivering what they ultimately need. 

Preston Simons:

(14:31) Well certainly Michael, one of the things that they need to be, and even my past lives and of course here to is we need to exhibit that Aurora IT who’ll be the best deal for the organization. So they don’t have to wonder about if they’re getting the best operational efficiency, or if they’re getting the best deal. They should be confident that we’re doing things in the very best way. When I think about our strategic staircase, I think about the bottom is just you know, keep the lights on and you know keeping things working. If you can’t accomplish that, then you don’t get to move up that staircase to actually make IT part of the products and services that the business provides.

Michael Krigsman:

(15:20) So how do you move up that staircase? That seems to be the big challenge and as digital transformation throws a kind of a monkey wrench into that as well, the moving up the staircase as you put it.

Preston Simons:

(15:32) Well you know what, it does throw a monkey wrench in there, but let me talk about the staircase just briefly. I’ve worked with from time to time DMA that’s out on the East Coast, Dean Meyer has a book on organizational structure and some of the opportunities that you can do with that. And one of the things that he took from me or I took from him I don’t remember, but is if we move IT up that staircase, it starts with just keeping the lights on. It then moves to efficiencies. In other words how can we do the same of what we do today or more for less, and usually there’s opportunity.

(16:14) Then you move to effectiveness; how do we help people work better. That doesn’t mean that it’s going to cost you anything less, but people will work better and you’ll see a significant ROI.

(16:25) But the real holy grail to all of that is getting up to those top stair steps, which has to do with you know delighting the customer, making them connected to you. And the very most top of the staircase is when IT becomes part of the product or service that you perform. And that’s where I think digital transformation has an opportunity. Where we can actually – you know, where is the Airbnb or the Uber of healthcare delivery. It’s got to be there somewhere, and these are just the folks that I think can find it. And we get those ideas many times from the care givers that are on the line, from the folks that are doing the regular patient flow day in day out.

(17:11) And to your point about how do we bring digital transformation in, we have innovation groups, we look to outside suppliers, who were involved is several different groups that bring new health care technologies. And here at Aurora we have not only perhaps funds to invest in the right way, but even better, we have a pretty good size system that can really stress test your innovative idea on both a pilot perspective, and then kind of scale it up and let you know how well it’s going to perform.

Dion Hinchcliffe:

 (17:49) It sounds like you’re building industry connections and relationships to innovate groups and companies and startups I presume that will help this portfolio to pull from and say, we’re bringing innovative ideas, we’re looking at these technologies and that is a key plank in your digital transformation it sounds like, is that right?

Preston Simons:

(18:11) It is. Actually one of the more difficult parts to that, as excited as I am to have all those things coming in, I do have a lot of different things coming in. So if you think about it from an enterprise architecture view we’ve got to make sure it’s always that push-me-pull-you of you know in the old days we used to talk about you know how best of breed versus that one standard universal system.

(18:41) I think lots of folks are passed that now. It’s more a marriage of those two so how do we keep our enterprise architecture at a level where it can handle the largest you know that big universal system that we may use, as well as all those best of breed folks that are coming in.

(18:59) And that’s something that I want us to be adept at being able to do, but also realizing that we want to keep the inner operability strong  because that’s usually part of how quickly we can respond to both new technologies, and information that is the result of those technologies.

Michael Krigsman:

(19:17) You mentioned culture, and we have an interesting question from Arsalan Khan on Twitter who asks, given the diversity of your team and your stakeholders and your constituency, how do you drive consensus so that the changes that you’re describing can actually take place.

Preston Simons:

(19:40) Sure, we spend a lot of time thinking about and bringing the business groups together, the care giver groups together on how the technology pieces that they think they would like to use in their businesses. So specifically like I talked before about that consultancy area that works and facilitates with each of those groups, they are actually hardwired into these new ideas and things that they want to do.

(20:15) And IT doesn’t necessarily design at that point, but they look very clearly into you know how they can help facilitate them bringing that idea forward. And then we have several different steps that you can bring it forward to, and to get it approved for things like is it a proof of concept, is it a pilot. If it’s a pilot how long does it last, what’s the pilot criteria, and how you carry it through so that it’s actually something that we think and that the business thinks they want to do.

(20:48) One of the things that’s interesting about our governance and what we’re beginning to do is that it’s really the business leadership that brings forward there ideas. It’s IT helping facilitate them to do that, but it’s not IT that brings it forward. So that way the business leader is invested in it. They feel a part of it and the questions and the back and forth on how it’s going to work and what it’s going to do they get help from IT and from finance, from other areas but it’s really their idea.

(21:25) And then we take all those together and then try to decide, okay, you know what’s best. What do we want to do right now. Sometimes we look at an idea and say, no maybe not right now, we need some more information on this. Sometimes something that a group has seen or something that they want to do they just need to think a bit more from, ‘Gee, who else is doing this? What else are they doing?’ and what other options are there out there.

(21:50) That’s when IT can really help from a technologist perspective. Because then we go out and help them do what we call a ‘solution alternative study’, which looks just as much at the IT assets we have internally to Aurora, as it does to the things that are out there already. Either new systems we could get and operate in our datacenter. Or Software as Service possibilities and then they can see a real panoply of, these are your real choices, looking at feature and functionality. Looking at cost and the business really seems to appreciate that.

Dion Hinchcliffe:

(22:25) It sounds like a really powerful model, and we see this, that the kind of future of IT is not being Doctor no and not handing down the the IT tablets from on high, but how can I partner with the business. Because the business has choices like it never had before right. you’ve got outsources and you can get things from the cloud, software as a service, app store. And there is so many ways to sell service and it seems more easy to do that than work with IT a lot of the time. So I’m very encouraged when you’re talking about how you’re trying to proactively enable the business, and not take their ideas either. And make sure they retain ownership and it sounds a key part of what you’re doing.

Preston Simons:

(23:06) Dion that’s exactly right we give all the credit to them.

Dion Hinchcliffe:

(23:09) Excellent, so what are the challenges that you really have in trying to do this with health care, because we’ve seen you know not only recently have we actually seen with the rise of what’s called thin tech, financial tech, and health tech. this is a very regulated industry and there’s a lot of customer privacy concerns and so on. How are you working through that, and how are you moving Aurora forward in that regard.

Preston Simons:

(23:34) Well specifically besides partnering with the business we also partner with a lot of the staff groups that can help us bring that view forward. So we have roles inside of IT that work with compliance. But they also work with our compliance officer. They also work with legal and all the rest, so that the way that really serves the business is it makes the business or the care givers feel like they don’t have to go to 100 different places to get an answer. We can help shape some of that out for them.

(24:12) The other piece around you know how IT can really – what was the first part of your question again? I want to make sure I get it right.

Dion Hinchcliffe:

(24:20) No I think you answered it very well, keep going.

Preston Simons:

(24:23) Okay, by doing that they don’t have to go to multiple different service areas. We can pull all that together for them, while also making sure and taking in all the different compliance and other things. And I’ll tell you security is such a big deal nowadays. In my past lives it’s been a big deal and it’s only gotten bigger. With a provider like Aurora and it’s just that we are part of the critical infrastructure, part of the you know, understanding what types of you know bad actors could take opportunities and what we want to make sure of is that we try to educate our employees, our care givers just as much as doing what we can from a attack and monitoring the rest, because in my experience security really starts with everyone.

Michael Krigsman:

(25:28) And you are a over $4 billion company and I understand you’re the largest employer in the state of Wisconsin, which mean s you’re a in the state of Wisconsin you’re the target.

Preston Simons:

(25:44) Thanks for that Michael I appreciate you saying that!

Michael Krigsman:

(25:48) Oh I take that back.

Preston Simons:

(25:50) Okay please! You know one of the things that yes, but also it’s so important for all of our care givers to understand – and you know, they’ve got a lot of that already baked in just from the standpoint of privacy protection. We’re so careful about you know all of our patients, our consumers. We’re so attentive and so we’ve already got a reasonably good culture of that started. And our care givers are very like I say, attentive to that. The edition of security and what to kind of watch out for which I know a lot of other organizations do the same is all the sell phishing kind of thing.

(26:42) And even to the point of you know having people feel successful that they’ve got passed a self-phishing exercise. That’s a good thing and what we remind them of is that any of the security attentiveness that they have here is not only for the organization, it’s also for themselves and for our consumers and patients.

Dion Hinchcliffe:

(27:01) So it sounds that the big advantage you offer your internal partners over working with somebody else to get something done, you’ve pulled together all of the compliance and governance issue and built this integrated capabilities that if you need something we’re a one stop shop. We already have all of the relationships and the ability to act on those capabilities. So that’s really smart and do you think that’s common in the health care business or is it something unique that you guys have done.

Preston Simons:

(27:31) I don’t know that it’s common, and remember I’ve only been here eight months, so we have kicked it off. But I can see the folks at the last few governance meetings that we had where they presented and where they feel confident that you know they’re actually involved in the process.

(27:53) It’s not an IT person that takes your idea forward and you know hopes something to come of it. I think that’s going to be more and more common in – you know, two things are really happening I guess I should say.

(28:05) One is and we’re kind of trying to do both. One is you know the standardization or harmonization of things you can do from a business process perspective, and that’s some of the hard business processes you know supply chain, administrative and things like that. And then there’s the other side of that which is not just the standardization but being able to bring those things through quicker when they are individual ideas.

(28:30) You know the only reason for not having something standardized or harmonized is because there should be strategic differentiation, in other words a real reason to do something differently. Once you do the same things differently, somebody is wasting money. And we’re pretty good about that around here at Aurora and we know that the health care system in the United States doesn’t have money to waste.

Michael Krigsman:

(28:55) But you know as somebody who might work inside the organization but when they come back to you and say, yeah, standardization is fine, we get it. We need to save money of course. But what we’re doing and our department is so unique and special and if we follow your mandate we’re just not going to be able to do and the innovative things that we want to do and IT is stifling us. So how do respond to that? that’s kind of the knee-jerk reaction.

Preston Simons:

(29:28) So my first answer to that is one, it’s not IT that’s doing it. Again, what I like about Aurora is the Aurora business leaders themselves look at it like that. So they’re already for their individual areas are thinking hey, do we harmonize, standardize or is it really differentiated.

(29:46) So they use IT to help them as a perhaps a facilitator or pulling the information together to know is it truly differentiated. I do get your point and we look at our customers that they’re all special.

(30:06) And I say customers, I guess I should take a step back. I’ve run a couple of my own businesses. I like running businesses, so when I’m in a larger enterprise I run IT like a business. So for me we have the customers. I should have customer services. I should have a complete service and product catalog, and that’s just something I do as a normal step of those things.

(30:11) So if the care giver really understand themselves to be differentiated, and oftentimes their own business leaders ask them to demonstrate or exhibit how. Sometimes that’s an ROI. Sometimes that’s in patient satisfaction. Sometimes that’s another metrics and measures that they went forward. Well if they’ve demonstrated that, then certainly what IT needs to do is customize or tailor the system that can allow them to keep that differentiation. But all Aurora leaders are pretty bright they can see through, and actually even our care givers are very linked to understanding, ‘Well gee, if I can do it this way and it’s good for the enterprise and it’s good for the community, then we should do it. We should think about standardizing’.

Dion Hinchcliffe:

(31:17) Those are all key points, and let’s take it to an interesting conversation that we really haven’t had in IT and that is that concept of culture change, that the new digital sensibilities means we’re going to want to share data more, and my data is better when it’s with your data but that requires a shift how we look at things. What do you view as the role of IT in terms of driving a culture that’s more amenable to successful digital transformation? That’s something that IT is a kind of soft role that we haven’t really set as the core competency, do you believe that it is and how will we enable that.

Preston Simons:

(31:57) Yeah you know Dion it’s actually I guess I would look at that as being a little bit of both. One is we still need those ideas coming in from the outside. We in IT will only get stronger and more adept if we have those ideas coming in from the outside, because frankly we can’t think of everything. So we actually want those ideas coming in and we appreciate that challenge.

(32:24) At the same time I want to make sure that they’re interoperable enough so that way when somebody needs you know patient data from one piece provided to another give an answer to something else they’re not locked at a certain area either because of a compliance or a technology difference or something that will actually keep them from doing what they need to do.

(32:45) I think in health care we want to attack both what we can do organically from our core. And again, like what was mentioned earlier first and foremost from a care giver process arena as well as what can come from the outside is a truly you know surprising or transformational idea that we may be able to take advantage of.

Michael Krigsman:

(33:11) We spoke or you’ve spoken about data and when we think about digital transformation data is the thing that comes to mind as the glue. This is a very general question, but can you talk about the role of data and how the handling and the analysis of data are changing and improving health care today through this digital transformation process.

Preston Simons:

(33:40) Yeah, you know it’s interesting, you use the term data and I know of course we all understand what that means. I was in a meeting the other day, and one of the leaders said, you know we have a lot of data. We need more information. And that’s true. Data coming together is one of the things that I think IT can help serve up, and we can serve it up in was that will enable the folks that can do the analytics that much better.

(34:11) I don’t really feel that our clinical folks are the best folks for being able to pull a lot of that data together to make it true information, but IT’s responsibility is to make sure it’s safe, secure, reliable. And served up in a way that they can then do all the machinations of what they would like to do to get to the answers that they are trying to afford.

Michael Krigsman:

(34:41) We have another question from Twitter and Forvalacka41 how do you like that for a Twitter name asks do you have an electronic medical record system and to what extent are you using EMR.

Preston Simons:

(34:59) Yes, Aurora has one of the premier electronic medical record systems which is Epic System, and we have actually got that deployed all around our enterprise. We continue to use it – I mean it’s a cornerstone for a lot of what we do. It is really continually process improved all the time. So not only does Epic do a grand job in coming out with new opportunities. But you know it’s very configurable and so our folks in IT working with health are informatics and the business, soon to be the care giver operations area, continue to make improvements at the best of you know physicians, nurses, all of our clinical care givers. So yes we do.

Dion Hinchcliffe:

(35:54) I feel all this goes to you know how do you create a more holistic, more well-thought out customer experience. The EMRs are key to that, but can you share other things that are on the edge of the customer experience, things like enabling better collaboration between one patient and all of the different providers they have, things like an online community and other types of tools. Is that the next step in the future of health care or what’s coming?

Preston Simons:

(36:29) Sure I think you see all of the major suppliers; EMRs EHRs, are coming out with ways to blend and pull data even from providers that are not in your network. One of things we have here at Aurora, we’re part of a larger Wisconsin network about health, and in that network we are working on you know sharing information between the eight members which we are one in that group.

(37:01) But you see the suppliers themselves are opening out their systems so that you know, everything from if you have a urgent care visit at a facility that’s not in your organization they can easily get that EMR information over to that urgent care visit. And that can be very substantial. You know, you can get a lot of allergy information you know, prescription information that the folks are on, brief patient history and the rest.

(37:33) And that same information can be turned back around. I mean that leads into the subject of population health right where you know, you start sharing information from a population health perspective across the community that you serve.

(37:46) I mean ultimately I think the vision of all of the use of the EMRs is so that we from a population or community perspective we give better care to everybody in the communities that we serve.

Michael Krigsman:

(38:10) Are you doing much with this idea of population health and using the existing data that you have and are collecting to predict which patients may be at risk or to improve their health care in one way or another. Where does that stand?

Preston Simons:

(38:20) Certainly, certainly and that’s another area that Aurora’s got a lot of rich background in. Aurora’s been doing population health and working on it certainly you know, two to three years or may be longer –remember I’m the new guy!

(38:37) So they have already been using it to look at things like you know diabetes, you know how should they affect diabetes care, what changes should they make, hospital readmissions. Looking at you know, readmissions after cardiac events. So yes that’s an ongoing thing. What our technology is going to help us do is to be able to make that faster, easier, and if we can serve it up to our folks in the clinical areas quicker they’ll be able to do this on a more dynamic basis. And for a larger population, because nobody has been looking at population health, it can give you an indicator of what is seen in that community group. And so they might not all be your patients, but they all do give you a sense of trends, what’s going on, and how we might be able to help.

Dion Hinchcliffe:

(39:41) So it sounds like the future of health care is really about data analytics, building pictures of the people that you serve and then be able to reflect that back to both the care givers then the patients and the people in the health system so they can have a better health care experience.

Preston Simons:

(39:58) Certainly, and getting that to them and being able to get that information quicker, and as we said before from more sources.

(40:05) I mean think about it. If you had a Fitbit on and your refrigerator is connected to the Internet of Things and you know, it knows that you just pulled out the orange juice this morning, and it tells you as you start walking away, it starts mixing the information with, well should you really have orange juice looking at your glucometer readings. And all that information goes to your doctor, your doctor can then send you something back that says, well you should start and improve on your diet in certain ways.

(40:41) That’s the kind of mix and things that we want to be able to look at. So it’s lots of different sources, and those sources are increasing by the way.

Dion Hinchcliffe:

(40:49) So are you investing in data scientists? Is that a role that will be critical to provide modern health care in the future?

Preston Simons:

(40:56) I think data scientists will and I’m not sure they will continue to have that name. Again, I really give a lot of that over to the clinical areas. And the interesting things about the data scientists and the way I’ve seen them used is that you really need to have an insight into the data. I think the data science methods are perhaps easier to translate to clinical people that already have a sense of that information and how it comes together. So I don’t know if they’ll be called the same but certainly, the deliverables, the things that you want to get out of them…

Dion Hinchcliffe:

(41:47) …Yeah I was going to suggest that we’re all data scientists now right. I think that the doctors and the health care providers will have a much better set of tools and put their expertise on top of that data.

Preston Simons:

(41:52) I agree. Well look at it this way Dion, actually what you see in a way is, and I hear this from a lot of the care givers as I get around and about to all of our different hospitals and clinics and talk to them, is that many of their patients that are coming in already have an idea of what they want to do.

(42:09) They’ve already researched their disease or their symptoms and they’ve already gotten even a crowdsourced feeling of what’s going on, or they’ve already got an idea of where they think it should go. I think the care givers are very responsive to that view and there’s going to be just more and more.

Michael Krigsman:

(42:31) We have just a few minutes left, so can you share with us the advice that you have for CIOs and business people in other organizations who are facing the kind of change and disruption that you’re going through. So any lessons from the trenches that you can share with us Preston.

Preston Simons:

(42:56) Well first and foremost I would go back to saying I pay a lot of attention to the organization, and how the not only the structure but all the different pieces of the organization, the rewards, the metrics, the you know, how you incent people to do the work that they’re doing so that the organization really can I guess really work without me.

(43:26) What I would really like to know is that the great work that all these folks are doing, I want an organization that’ll live whether I’m there or not. And that means a lot of you know, clicking to the business. Working directly with everything from that strategic liaison to the real engines of IT that are getting that work. The operations the you know, the technology engineering done, and then those coordinating parts of the organization that are really generating that cohesiveness between those deep productivity sides of what IT does.

(44:05) The other thing I would say is just gee, have fun, pay attention to the business. I always try to make sure – I would also tell any CIO but all these folks know this I’m sure is that get out there and see what folks are doing with your stuff.

(44:21) You know one of the things I did in my first months, and I still do it from time to time is I go to clinics and of course I’m served by Aurora as a consumer and patient and I just walk up and start asking, you know ‘How do you like this? Does this seem to work okay?’ And I get ideas all the time, well ‘You know it would be easier if we had that’. Or ‘Gee, it would be better if we had these instructions and this training on a Friday before the Monday’. You know, I mean things like that, that you can just carry back and have the feedback loop that also gets you closer to what’s going on out there.

Michael Krigsman:

(44:56) Fantastic, well Dion this has been really very very interesting a glimpse inside, turn back the curtain, digital transformation inside one of the country’s largest healthcare organizations.

Dion Hinchcliffe:

(45:10) Yeah that was fantastic. Preston thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and your experiences and you’re very proactive stance on leading Aurora in the future of technology, so thanks for appearing.

Preston Simons:

(45:24) Michael, Dion thank you both very much as well, it’s been my pleasure.

Michael Krigsman:

(45:28) Well fantastic, and you have been watching episode number 173 of CXOTalk. I’m Michael Krigsman and today my guest cohost and I Dion Hinchcliffe have been talking with Preston Simons, who is the CIO of Aurora Health Care. And Dion and Preston thank you so much for taking the time today.

Dion Hinchcliffe:

(45:53) Thank you Michael.

Preston Simons:

(45:54) Thanks Michael.

Michael Krigsman:

(45:55) Everybody tune in next Friday and we also have a special show this coming Tuesday that Dion is going to host with the CIO of ING Bank, so tune in. thanks so much everybody and have a great day. Bye bye.

 

Companies mentioned on today’s show:

Aurora Health Care   https://my.aurorahealthcare.org

BT                                www.bt.co.uk

Uber                            www.uber.com.

Airbnb                        www.Airbnb.com

 

Preston Simons:

LinkedIn           https://www.linkedin.com/in/preston-simons-42b0359

 

Dion Hinchcliffe:

Twitter:           https://twitter.com/dhinchcliffe

LinkedIn           https://www.linkedin.com/in/dhinchcliffe

Website           https://dionhinchcliffe.com