Digital health executives coming from other industries don’t buy into the excuse that “healthcare is different” when it comes to a lack of innovation.
“My personal observation is that 80% of what we do in healthcare is what any Fortune 100 (company) does,” said B.J. Moore, chief information officer at Providence, the large Catholic-based health system. “The rest of the 20% relates to the patient and caregiver experience, which makes us unique and we should value that. But this is why external hires are important. They create a balance to that culture.”
Moore came to Providence in 2019 after a 27-year career at Microsoft. He said when he started, the health system employed 120,000 experts in medicine and other areas in healthcare. “The value I brought was a perspective from another industry,” he said.
Moore’s comments came during Modern Healthcare’s Transformation Summit. He was joined on a panel by Rita Khan, chief digital officer at Mayo Clinic; Ed McCallister, chief information officer at UPMC; Will Long, chief security officer at First Health Advisory; and David Chou, chief information officer at Legacy Community Health.
Khan also came to healthcare from another industry, having spent nearly 10 years at Best Buy before moving over to UnitedHealthcare in 2017. She joined Mayo in early 2020.
Khan said the business of managing people’s health and applying that risk to digital assets doesn’t lend itself to moving fast on innovation. However, she also said the industry needed a jolt of innovation.
“We can move faster in healthcare,” said Khan. “We put barriers in front of our ability to move fast in the digital health space.”
Barriers can include political pressure from within, Moore said. He used the example of trying to enable two-factor authentication for passwords.
“We didn’t have a password policy,” Moore said. “Doctors had the same password for 20 years. I was told we couldn’t have a password policy. We didn't have two-factor authentication. People said, ‘You’ll get fired if you do two-factor authentication.’"
It took a cybersecurity incident at the health system to force the issue, Moore said.
Long said security is underfunded in a lot of healthcare organizations. As health systems adopt more devices and apps, he said that they can’t drag their feet on cybersecurity investments.
“I see organization after organization in healthcare underfunded in IT and cybersecurity. When we hit the pause button for COVID, they were already really far behind,” Long said.
The pandemic was a huge accelerator of this digital transformation, panelists said. Going forward, consumer expectations will not allow healthcare to go back to pre-pandemic levels.
“Business as usual was really effective before the pandemic,” Khan said. “This moment is a moment of significant change from a consumer’s perspective and how they see healthcare. We are changing but our patients are expecting more. I see you guys can move fast and make my life easier and now I want more. I want things to be different. They’re going to push us.”
McCallister said certain areas of healthcare are ripe for disruption and that the industry can’t fall behind.
“You don’t see Amazon saying they want to be the UPMC of retail,” he said. “We can’t have the attitude that we have a bunch of smart people who know what’s best for the patient. We need the patient to help us figure it out. No other industry would be allowed to move at the pace we move when we talk about innovation.”
This story first appeared in Digital Health Business & Technology.