It’s such a subtle change that many people may not have even noticed it. But when HIMSS changed its mission statement from “transforming health through IT” to “transforming health through information and technology,” it was a testimony to how far the industry has come. As technology has evolved, patients have become consumers, connectivity has been the essential puzzle piece, and the CIO has become “a critical partner in how care is delivered.” For Hal Wolf, who started as CEO of HIMSS last fall, it’s been a thrill to watch it all unfold.
In this interview, he shares his thoughts on the transformation we’ve seen in consumer engagement, why digital health should be the “cornerstone” of any strategy, what healthcare can learn from the automobile industry, and what it’s going to take to improve cybersecuity. Wolf also talks about how mergers are impacting both organizations and leaders, how the CIO role has changed (and will continue to change), and what HIMSS is doing to better serve its members.
- The impact of M&A
- “The CIO is being thrust into a coordinating role.”
- Focus on cybersecurity – “We’re going to have to continue to work that much harder.”
- A new mission statement
- CIO as “a critical partner in how care is delivered”
- Meeting the ever-changing consumer demands
- HIMSS’ growth & future direction – “We’re looking to diversify ourselves.”
What are you trying to achieve as an outcome through this merger? For example, if you’re bringing an insurance or benefits model that now has to be connected to clinical data, you’re now beginning to introduce algorithms that impact care delivery.
The CIO is being thrust into a coordinating role that is far beyond where we were even 10 years ago, in terms of how we implement large-scale systems, and then intersperse with them new applications and new digital health capabilities, wrapping itself around the interoperability necessary to make all of that work.
It’s a valuable entity that has to be protected. It has to be protected at the human level, and it has to be protected at the economic level. And it’s under constant attack, as with any industry.
We have to understand what people are thinking about and where they’re going from a consumer standpoint to know where that information is going to be needed, because it’s just not about an application anymore. It’s about the whole backend system.
Gamble: As we continue to see mergers — and even mega-mergers — with hospitals and health systems, how do you think the CIO role will change? And if we’re seeing one CIO sit on top of a very large system, are there others who will need to serve in associate roles or something to that effect?
Wolf: That’s a very complicated question. I’ve gone through mergers and acquisitions and bringing systems together in other industries, and so I know that this is a multi-layered issue. On the most simplistic layer, how do we have connectivity between different hospitals that might have different systems? As a CIO, one of the first things that needs to be addressed is the connection of data and information.
The bigger question that sits behind it is, what are you trying to achieve as an outcome through this merger? For example, if you’re bringing an insurance or benefits model that now has to be connected to clinical data, you’re now beginning to introduce algorithms that impact care delivery. Now you have to worry not just about whether applications will be functional, but whether they can utilize the information to deliver the outcome that clinicians are looking for. You’re looking at benefit administration, resource stewardship, and utilization management.
The hierarchy within a business model of what you’re trying to achieve has a huge impact on the CIO, CMIO, and the Chief Experience Officer, who is looking at it from the consumer point of view. These mergers aren’t just functional; they’re expressing the end state of what you’re trying to achieve through the merger. It’s very complex.
The CIO is a glue that puts some pieces together, but they never do this in a vacuum. They have to do it with the clear understanding of the segmentation intent, a clear understanding of the consumer intent, and the connectivity of partners inside and outside. Am I connecting to a genomic lab? Am I putting a genomic lab in place that wasn’t there before? What is my OB deck look like? What does my cardiology environment look like? These are extremely strategic questions, and the CIO is being thrust into a coordinating role that is far beyond where we were even 10 years ago, in terms of how we implement large-scale systems, and then intersperse with them new applications and new digital health capabilities, wrapping itself around the interoperability necessary to make all of that work. It is a three-dimensional matrix that organizations are looking at, and it’s only going to get more and more complex when you bring the analytical side into it. All of that is being impacted at the technical level. It’s a very complex question, but it’s a question facing every CIO, CEO, head of strategy, and head of clinic providers, which is why everyone has to be at the table together.
Gamble: I appreciate you tackling such a difficult question, because it really is on the minds of so many CIOs, for good reason.
Wolf: I agree.
Gamble: Let’s switch gears a bit and talk about the health IT workforce. One of the areas where there is a dire shortage is in cybersecurity expertise. Is it a big priority for HIMSS to address this?
Wolf: Absolutely. As you develop the core of digital health, connectivity, and the use of data, there is nothing more personal to an individual than their health information. And frankly, there is very little data in the world that is less valuable than the aggregated use of health data and what it brings, since healthcare is the largest industry in the world from a GDP standpoint. When you look at the fact that healthcare is being driven by data and the use of information, it stands to reason that that information and that data holds with it an extremely valuable entity. It’s a valuable entity that has to be protected. It has to be protected at the human level, and it has to be protected at the economic level. And it’s under constant attack, as with any industry.
For us, cybersecurity is a big focal point. We’re looking internally at how we bring our own resources to bear at a more focused level around cybersecurity and the use of information. They have to go hand in hand. It is absolutely critical. Do we have enough expertise in the healthcare market? I would argue that there isn’t a single industry in the world does. When we see news reports that the FBI or the military has been hacked, it tells you that no matter how good you are, there’s always someone out there trying to figure out to defeat your mousetrap.
And so we have to learn from other industries; we have to be locked, arm in arm. And we’re doing a very good job of that. We’re learning how to utilize block chain. We’re thinking about how to set up our networks in a secure way. This is going to be a very consistent and necessary evolution forevermore in healthcare. In truth we’ll always be just a little bit behind, because everybody is always just a little bit behind. But it doesn’t mean we have to learn to live with it. It means we’re just going to have to continue to work that much harder.
Gamble: Right. Earlier, you mentioned the Chief Experience Officer as a role that we’re starting to see pop up more. When you look at how the industry is evolving, do you expect to see more high-level roles emerge that focus on specific areas of expertise within health IT, like consumerism?
Wolf: Without question. When you look at health IT just from a definition standpoint — and we’ve done it at HIMSS where we’ve moved our motto and our statements from ‘transforming health through IT’ to ‘transforming health through information and technology,’ what we see is exactly that. We see this in every single IT shop, where the thinking has become, I have technology and I have information. The information may be derived from the technology, but how we use the information, who uses the information, how that information is cultivated into care delivery and the consumer market — this goes beyond that. It takes the CIO and the IT shop away from connecting wires, and to a place where they are a critical partner in how care is being delivered, and will be delivered in the future.
I agree with you, it’s so important to understand your data hierarchy, your data infrastructure, and how it’s going to be utilized with care delivery by the consumer. It has a big impact on what you do. It has an impact on the type of people you hire inside your shop who are going to be thinking about how the information will be needed or displayed in applications, on the web, and on digital devices. This is the cascading effect of the market’s maturity, and the acceleration of the consumer’ need to have information front and center — and not just available, but available quickly. Is this the information that I need to have on a transactional basis, at the split-second level, or is this information that’s going to be used by research and I only have to roll it up once a month.
These things are changing rapidly. It used to be that researchers would ask for information monthly or quarterly, and it was sent in large, flat files. Now that we’re more in a transactional environmental, we need to have a completely different infrastructure and data hierarchy. We have to understand what people are thinking about and where they’re going from a consumer standpoint to know where that information is going to be needed, because it’s just not about an application anymore. It’s about the whole backend system and how it relates itself through the technical stack.
It’s an exciting time. The questions that I see coming from the CIOs are really advanced. They’re looking closely in partnership across the healthcare landscape and the consumer landscape, and looking at how all of this will impact the strategy of the system itself. It’s an exciting time.
Gamble: It is. Finally, I wanted to talk about HIMSS. The organization has grown so much over the past decade or so. What direction do you hope to see it take in the coming years?
Wolf: That’s a great question. First of all, HIMSS has grown in its influence and its ability to support change in healthcare. As we see healthcare accelerating and changing at a faster and face pace, I think the expectation is not only for HIMSS to keep pace, but to provide the market with a continued extension of thought leadership.
You mentioned cybersecurity — that’s a big focus for us. We have a cybersecurity forum that takes place at our global conference. We have experts that visit health systems around the world who have reached out to us. Our members look to us to help them think not only about how to solve the problems of today, but what are the challenges that are coming tomorrow.
Our number one strategy is to deliver better value to our members, and we want to do that through improved thought leadership. We’ve been developing maturity models — EMRAM is an example. That model has been refreshed. It’s become more complex as we’ve learned about the new generation of EMRs. We’re in the process of introducing a new model around the use of information supply chain to improve clinical outcomes.
We’re looking to diversify ourselves by expanding our relationship with pharma, specifically focusing on clinical decision support it is relates to pharmaceutical drugs. That relationship has gotten much tighter as clinical pharmacy has come into play — how do we bring that into the interoperability models, and how do we help health systems think about those capabilities?
And then finally, how do we do this on a global basis? HIMSS has been growing tremendously overseas and developing communities of care. Those communities are different depending upon where you are, but we’re all looking at the same elephant. You can go to Denmark, Singapore, Australia, India, Russia, or anywhere, and people are looking at the same problems: cybersecurity, the use of digital information, and extending out into the community. We have care providers in Africa trying to figure out how to get a simple and agile EMR out into the cities, towns, and villages. These are worldwide problems.
We’ve found that the demand for HIMSS has grown on a global basis. And so we’re focusing on aligning ourselves to the services that are going to meet those needs — at the client level, at the human level, at the provider level, and at the levels of our sponsors and providers, because we all have the same goal in mind, which is to improve the outcomes of care through information and technology.
Gamble: Well, that’s a perfect way to wrap things up. This has been a great discussion, and I want to thank you so much for your time.
Wolf: I’ve enjoyed it. Thank you.