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Transform Healthcare with a Passion for Innovation
By Patrick Hale, Chief Information Officer, VITAS® Healthcare
By any measure, healthcare innovation is proceeding at a dizzy pace. Care providers are spending more and more of their budgets on IT-related solutions, and for the most part, that is an excellent thing for CIOs. Innovation stewardship is probably the single biggest challenge I face daily. At VITAS, every dollar spent on IT needs to provide value for clinicians and our company. We budget projects with the attitude that every dollar spent on us is one less dollar spent at the bedside, so we need to make every project count.
2. Could you talk about your approach to identifying the right partnership providers from the lot?
I have four rules I live by when selecting and evaluating partners:
1. Partners need to bring real value to the table: We hire partners because they possess a skill beyond our current capabilities, and we expect them to be experts. I’m not a fan of traditional consulting where my company pays for a report with graphics and pretty colors that says exactly what our people knew all along.
2. You get one chance to make a first Impression: Deliver…always. Right partners make themselves available from the second our project starts.
3. Put some skin in the game: Any vendor who truly believes in what they sell will share in the risk and provide incentives for project commitments.
4. Our partners’ passion for excellence should match ours: Our bar is high. Theirs should be higher.
3. Could you elaborate on some exciting and impactful project/initiatives that you’re currently overseeing?
Almost every portion of our IT architecture is undergoing rapid transformation.
• The setting of care is moving away from traditional doctor’s offices and hospitals, and we stand on the cusp of realizing that the key to wellness is to interact with patients–usually in their own homes– before they are ill. In response, our clinical systems have moved to “mobile-first,” enabling our clinical teams to be where they are needed most…at the patient’s bedside.
I believe that nothing transformational happens without someone getting excited about it. I try to bring a passion for innovation that helps our employees understand that EVERY contribution is crucial
• Our core infrastructure has been rapidly virtualized to maintain cost-effectiveness and maximum nimbleness. We are proud to be an early adopter of a fully “software-defined” data center.
• We are innovating the use of virtual reality for terminally ill patients. It involves using soothing distraction therapy to reduce the use of opioids, keeping our patients calm and allowing them to experience last wishes (like attending a wedding or visiting their home country one last time) without ever leaving the bed.
• Our company is evolving into a data-driven organization where strategic direction must be bolstered in equal measure by factual data and ongoing measurement. A world-class data warehouse enables this effort.
4. What are some of the points of discussion that go on in your leadership panel? What are the strategic points that you go by to steer the company forward?
We talk a ton about people—how to motivate them, how to develop them, and how to become better leaders for them. Our company is only as good as our people, and we want to have a company that is more than a great place to work; we want a company that is also changing the face of healthcare in the U.S. We can’t achieve that without great people.
5. Can you draw an analogy between your personality traits, hobbies, and how they reflect on your leadership strategy?
I believe that nothing transformational happens without someone getting excited about it. I try to bring a passion for innovation that helps our employees understand that EVERY contribution is crucial. All my leaders spend time helping our employees understand that what they do is directly tied to serving our patients and their families, human beings who are facing some of the most challenging times of their life. If our solutions can help a nurse get to the bedside faster or help alleviate a terminal cancer patient’s pain, then we will move heaven and earth to make it so. Passion drives actions and actions can change the world one patient, one project at a time.
6. How do you see the evolution of the Healthcare Tech arena a few years from now about some of its potential disruptions and transformations?
The only prediction about the future of healthcare I subscribe to is that three years from now, almost nothing will be the same. Any truly “strategic” plan for healthcare has to start with creating nimbleness in our company’s ability to adapt to the rapidly changing conditions. VITAS IT continually analyzes our architecture and plans to eliminate barriers that slow our speed of innovation. Many times those investments may not be the sexiest of projects, but we are blessed to have an executive team with a fantastic downfield vision for the value that flexible technology brings.
7. What would be the single piece of advice that you could impart to a fellow or aspiring professional in your field, looking to embark on a similar venture or professional journey along the lines of your service and area of expertise?
Get passionate about your work and then surround yourself with others who feel the same way. Culture is a huge predictor of success and happiness. If you find yourself surrounded by critics, change the view. Ninety percent (90%) of my professional regrets involve staying in a negative situation too long. I know it’s hard, and I realize how much courage a leap of faith can take, but believe me you either need to find meaning in your work, or you need to get work where you find meaning.