It’s no secret that healthcare lags behind other industries when it comes to adopting and leveraging technology. What smart organizations are learning is that the best way to close the gap is to engage with other businesses. OhioHealth is doing just that by participating in an initiative in which leaders from banking, retail, and other areas share best practices in analytics and cybersecurity. It’s precisely that spirit of innovation that drew Michael Elley to the organization. In this interview, he talks about OhioHealth’s learning lab, how his team is preparing for the value-based care world, and the enormous impact that operational ownership can have on a project’s success. Elley also discusses the pros and cons of both small and large organizations, and why he knows he’s in the right place.
- Innovation incubators
- OhioHealth’s culture: “Allow people the ability to try things and fail.”
- First experience with Epic at Owensboro
- Going through M&A — “I wanted a little more operational control”
- Pros and cons of large & small orgs
- CIOs: “It’s like electricity. They’re everywhere.”
- The journey to value-based care – “All aspects of our business are changing.”
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We really want them to ideate with other parts of our organization, and not so much to think about the support aspect and the traditional ways of looking at IT, but we really want them to just ideate and develop.
You learn more parts of the business when you’re at a small organization; your hands are in more things because you have less people to do all of the work. And that work doesn’t change, no matter the size of the organization.
Today’s CIO is nowhere near what the CIO 10 years ago. Their hands are in so many different areas of the organization. It’s kind of like electricity; they’re everywhere. You really have to have a great understanding for clinical quality, for finance, for ancillary work, for the ambulatory space that we continue to grow
Honestly, it’s difficult to look five years down the road and identify what are we really going to be focused on. In healthcare, that’s a long time because things have been changing so much every 18 months.
Gamble: Any other thoughts on innovation, as far as what it takes to foster that? When you are in environments where people have so many things that they need to be thinking about, how do you encourage people to think about new ideas?
Elley: There are two different schools of thought on what we’re looking at here at Ohio Health. On the IT side, we’ve really taken a certain subset of individuals outside of their typical day job of developers and we’ve put them into an incubator environment where we really want them to ideate with other parts of our organization, and not so much to think about the support aspect and the traditional ways of looking at IT, but we really want them to just ideate and develop. So we have created kind of a learning lab for our developers and our people to do that, and that’s what we want them to do.
Ohio Health overall understands innovation can be anybody doing anything. And so it’s really trying to breed that culture throughout Ohio Health to allow people the ability to try things and to fail. We’re toying with the idea of creating also an innovation hub and those types of things. Those are kind of conversational right now, but we recognize the importance of that going forward.
Gamble: And you said you’ve been there 14 months?
Elley: Yes, 14 months — almost 15 months.
Gamble: And you talked a little bit about what drew you to the organization, saying that some of it was wanting to be part of a large organization. Was there anything else that really made this role attractive to you?
Elley: Yes. I’ve been a part of some really great organizations: BJC Healthcare, CoxHealth in Springfield, Missouri, I think those have been really outstanding organizations. What really drew me to Ohio Health were a couple of things. One is that it is so relationship-based. That’s you how achieve success here; that you have to really have outstanding relationships with all parts of the organization. And two, it’s an organization where everybody will have insight and understand how other people interact with different segments of the business. It’s been very successful that way. The culture is outstanding and truly cares for their associates. So those are some of the things. Columbus is a great city to be a part of as well, there’s a lot going on here. Those are some of the things that appealed to me.
Gamble: Your most recent organization was Owensboro Health. It seemed like during your time there was kind of a lot of change and transformation in the IT department and efforts to change the culture. Any thoughts on some of the things that you learned being in that kind of environment?
Elley: Yeah, I think some of the things there that we were really successful was the IT organization grew to be where it needed to be. That’s where I really got my first foray into working with the Clinical Integrated Network. So I started learning a little bit there and I took some of what I learned there to help me be successful a little more quickly at Ohio Health. Honestly, that was my first Epic experience as well. It was a great learning experience for me to be in my first Epic environment and understand that EMR and who Epic is as an organization.
Gamble: That’s good background for sure. And before that, you were at Cox Medical Center, which had gone through a merger?
Elley: Yes. When I left it was at Cox Health. Cox Health had purchased the hospital I was with, Skaggs Regional Medical Center. And Cox was a Cerner organization. Cox had deployed the ITWorks module, which I’m sure you’re familiar with, where almost all of the associates became Cerner associates. So I went through that as well. Cerner brought some leadership on site, and I was still there and still doing well, but I wanted to have a little more operational control, and that’s one of the reasons I left. But it’s a great organization there — again, very associate friendly and associate focused. They’re doing great things in Southwest Missouri in terms of driving quality care and growing.
Gamble: And then you also had time with BJC Healthcare, so it seems like you’ve have a pretty decent variety as far as the organizations where you’ve worked. It that something where you’re kind of able to draw upon having those different experiences?
Elley: Yeah, I think that’s helped. I’ve been in large organizations with 30,000-plus employees down to smaller ones where it’s 2,000 or 3,000 employees, and all of those things have helped. You learn more parts of the business when you’re at a small organization; your hands are in more things because you have less people to do all of the work. And that work doesn’t change, no matter the size of the organization. But sometimes when you’re a large organization, you have the advantages of some better financial stability that allows you to do some more innovative and some more forward thinking work. So yes, it’s all over the board. There are advantages to working in large-to-medium-to-small organizations.
Gamble: And how’s Columbus area treating you?
Elley: It’s great. I had never been to Ohio until I interviewed for the first time, so I didn’t know what to expect. I bought a big snow blower for this winter, and the most it snowed I think was 2 inches, so I definitely used it for 2 inches of snow. But Columbus is a great place. Ohio State is here, and I like towns that have a college atmosphere, so that’s been a big plus, too.
Gamble: I guess the last thing I would ask is kind of a broad question, but being at that organization now, there’s so much going on. It’s a large organization, and there’s so much going on with Epic, with analytics. I’m sure it’s interesting just to be like in this world that’s on the cusp of so much happening. Any thoughts on where the industry is headed when you look at the value based care and the CIO’s changing role?
Elley: Yes, and we’ve been saying this for the past 10 years, but today’s CIO is nowhere near what the CIO 10 years ago. Their hands are in so many different areas of the organization. It’s kind of like electricity; they’re everywhere. You really have to have a great understanding for clinical quality, for finance, for ancillary work, for the ambulatory space that we continue to grow and drive towards strengthening. That’s one of the reasons I love IT. I said when I interviewed here that if I stay in IT the rest of my career, I’m very happy with that, because it’s such an evolving space. There is always more and more demand every year on IT. IT continues to change and it never, never gets dull.
I think from a healthcare perspective on that journey to value, it’s looking at so many different parts of somebody’s business. We’re looking at our end-of-life care and how much our industry spends and how expensive healthcare is for the consumer for the last six months of somebody’s life. We look at behavioral health and mental health, and how difficult it is to get care for those people that need behavioral healthcare. We look at how we transition care within our hospitals from floor to floor, from ER to inpatient to discharge to ambulatory to home care. We look at our supply chain costs. We look at our span of control. We look at all sorts of things around ambulatory practice and access and things like that. All aspects of our business are changing to meet this new world order of value-based care. And it’s a good thing, it’s a good thing for consumer. Our GDP is way too high with our spend on healthcare, and we all are working to try to make it affordable and to spread who has care. It’s important.
Gamble: Yeah. It’s a really interesting time. I think that when we look back 10 years from now, it’s going to be so different, but it’s also going to be a whole new perspective looking back on this period right now. It’s great, I’m sure, to have such a big role in it right now.
Elley: It is, and I would say even in 5 years. We’re trying to go through some strategic planning right now, and honestly, it’s difficult to look five years down the road and identify what are we really going to be focused on. In healthcare, that’s a long time because things have been changing so much every 18 months. And so we’re looking at things and saying, okay, let’s try to predict and try to analyze where we’re going to be in three years and plan for that. That seems to be about right to where we can look out to.
Gamble: Well, you’ve definitely given us a lot. With everything changing so fast, I’ll definitely want to catch up with you again down the road. I really appreciate your time, and it’s been great to hear about everything that you guys are doing at Ohio Health.
Elley: Great, Kate. I appreciate the time today.
Gamble: Sure, and I look forward to speaking with you again.
Elley: Alright, sounds good.