When B.J. Moore decided to break from Microsoft after 27 years, his reasoning was simple: “I was ready for a change.” What he didn’t realize was just how big of a change it would be going from a “bleeding edge” industry to one that’s still “struggling with fundamentals.” During his first few months as CIO of Providence St. Joseph Health, a 51-hospital system spanning six states, Moore witnessed firsthand the challenges technology can pose for providers.
Fortunately, he also saw the tremendous opportunities that exist to improve processes, and more importantly the delivery of care. And it starts by taking a common statement — ‘this is the way we’ve always done it’ — and turning on its head.
Recently, Moore spoke with healthsystemCIO.com about the three pillars that serve as the backbone of his strategy, how the team at PSJH helped him assimilate to the organization — and the industry, and why he’s optimistic about the future of healthcare.
- First 60 days “100 percent immersed” in the business
- Healthcare 20 years behind
- Building a strong foundation: “You can’t think about things like AI if you’re not doing the basics well.”
- Data centers as a commodity
- 3 pillars: simplify, modernize & innovate
- “Diverse experience” at Microsoft
- “I’m swimming against the tide, but I realize the tide is starting to shift.”
I’m not going to out-data-center our competitors. I’m not going to out-data-center our patients. Data centers aren’t strategic; they’re a commodity. I can use Amazon or Microsoft to meet those core computing needs, while focusing our precious energy on healthcare-specific scenarios.
The entire executive leadership team here is singularly focused on the mission of serving patients, and approaching care in an innovative way. They’re ready to embrace change. They’re ready to embrace technology. They see digital transformation as a key enabler to deliver that mission.
How do we retire applications and rationalize down to a single platform so that it helps lower operating costs, and more importantly, allows us to focus on improving the patient-caregiver experience?
We can’t do these things until we have a simplified operating environment to deliver solutions in a modern way. Until you achieve first two strategic pillars, you can’t effectively do the third, which is to innovate.
Gamble: You were named CIO at Providence St. Joseph Health back in January, and of course it’s your first healthcare leadership role. What was your mindset going in?
Moore: Having spent 27 years with Microsoft, I had built a strong technical background. Plus my wife is in healthcare, so I certainly had table conversations, but was not an expert on healthcare, or Providence St. Joseph Health itself. And so for my first three months, I was almost 100 percent immersed in the business. I traveled to all the hospitals and ministries and met with the board and sponsors, and spoke with caregivers, physicians, nurses, and patients. I wanted to see firsthand what was working and what wasn’t working. That immersion was critical in helping me to see the big picture and understand where I could have an immediate impact.
Gamble: What surprised you most about healthcare and where the industry is today?
Moore: My original thinking was that healthcare was maybe 10 years behind. But after those three months, I believe it’s more like 20 years in terms of the way we deliver solutions, the trends in technology, and the maturity of solutions for our caregivers. That was eye-opening. There’s an opportunity to do the basics better.
There are also some foundational things we can be doing more effectively.
What’s interesting is I wouldn’t have really grasped that if I had stayed at corporate headquarters. By getting out and seeing firsthand how things are done, it opened my eyes to the opportunities that are out there.
Gamble: I would imagine that really helped you to craft a strategy, and start to identify the biggest priorities.
Moore: Absolutely. You can’t think about things like machine learning if you’re not doing the basics well, things like user access or networks. We came up with a multipronged strategy, and the early strategic pillars are very tactical in getting that foundation healthy and operating more efficiently.
Right now, I’m in the process of re-organizing the team, flattening the organization, and bringing in some new people who have done this kind of transformation before. So yes, it’s going to be a 12-18-month journey, but without that strong foundation, we can’t get to the really fun stuff.
Gamble: Right. Based on your background, I can imagine the cloud is a big part of your plans.
Moore: It is, because we feel it will allow us to focus on our core competencies. I’m not going to out-data-center our competitors. I’m not going to out-data-center our patients. Data centers aren’t strategic; they’re a commodity. I can use Amazon or Microsoft to meet those core computing needs, while focusing our precious energy on healthcare-specific scenarios. The foundational aspects of the cloud are pretty tactical, but they’re necessary in order to concentrate on those strategic differentiators.
Gamble: Let’s talk about those three pillars you mentioned before. What are they focused on?
Moore: The first pillar is to simplify. We’ve got 4,000 applications, 14 ERPs, and 14 EHR systems. How do we retire applications and rationalize down to a single platform so that it helps lower operating costs, and more importantly, allows us to focus on improving the patient-caregiver experience? We can’t do that across 14 systems. We can do it on one system, which then allows us to have a more streamlined, more efficient platform to start improving the caregiver and patient experience throughout.
The second pillar is to modernize — that’s where the cloud strategy fits in. How do I get out of the data center business and move to the cloud? How do I move from on-premises applications to software-as-a-service with things like Oracle Cloud? How do I change the way my team does engineering from quarterly releases to daily releases to improve agility and responsiveness, and begin running things as a service?
The third are those exciting things like machine learning, artificial intelligence, blockchain, and Internet of Things. We can’t do these things until we have a simplified operating environment to deliver solutions in a modern way. Until you achieve first two strategic pillars, you can’t effectively do the third, which is to innovate.
Gamble: It is really exciting to think about things like AI, but you have to make sure the pieces are in place.
Moore: Exactly, that’s why I came here. I was hoping to be able to jump right into the third bucket, but we’re going to have to focus on the first two before that can happen.
Gamble: Right. And so you felt this particular organization was poised to be able to take those steps toward innovation?
Moore: Yes. During the interview process, it became crystal clear to me that the entire executive leadership team here is singularly focused on the mission of serving patients, and on approaching care in an innovative way. They’re ready to embrace change. They’re ready to embrace technology. They see digital transformation as a key enabler to deliver that mission.
And finally, the scale of the organization; Providence St. Joseph Health is one of the largest health systems in the United States. All of those things made it obvious it was the right place.
Gamble: Prior to that you spent nearly three decades with the same organization, but in different capacities. How has that experience helped you to navigate the complex healthcare environment?
Moore: It’s funny, when I hear that, I think, ‘How could a person stay with one company for so long?’ Probably the biggest reason, aside from the fact that it’s a fantastic company, is that I had a lot of different roles, including finance, operations, marketing, and IT. I wasn’t singularly a tech executive. I worked in the Windows division and the Azure division. That diversity of experience, I believe, has really equipped me for this role.
Gamble: Was there a particular initiative that stands out as being really benefit?
Moore: I would say completing the cloud journey of Microsoft’s $80 billion dollar commercial business. We moved it 100 percent to the cloud. There are very few, if any, executives who can say they’ve done that. The experience was so unique, and it’s great to be able to bring that to Providence.
Anytime you’re working on a 2.0 version, you’re going to do it better. Most organizations are still on version 1.0 in their journey, so that’s a huge advantage for us.
Gamble: It’s interesting; cloud computing is one of those areas where there has been a lot of hesitancy, and a lot of frustration, but it seems that healthcare could finally be getting over the hump. Or at least making strides in that direction.
Moore: I think healthcare has finally reached the point where we realize digital transformation is the next wave. And so I think the timing is good. I’m swimming against the tide a little, but it feels like the tide is starting to shift, and people are ready to embrace these new technologies.