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.
- Leaving Microsoft after 27 years – “I was ready for a change.”
- From the bleeding edge to “struggling with the fundamentals”
- Deep engagement through “discrete, unique experiences”
- Pull, not push – “I’ve been careful not to be the Microsoft know-it-all in the room”
- His philosophy of questioning everything – “Why are we doing it this way?”
- Challenges, not opportunities
- Healthcare’s progress – “The willingness to adopt and embrace change is unprecedented.”
They’ve been beyond fantastic in making sure I’m deeply engaged and have real hands-on personal experience. It doesn’t happen with PowerPoints and white papers — it happens by walking the floor and living the clinical experience.
My peers and those I’ve partnered with have really embraced my diverse experience. So instead of treating it like kryptonite, people have been open to hearing a different perspective, and have found value in it.
I don’t have the mindset of, ‘This is the way we’ve always done it in healthcare.’ Instead, I always ask, ‘Why are we doing it this way? There’s a better way.’
We might be 15 or 20 years behind, but we’re embracing it in 10-year chunks. It’s not going to take 15 or 20 years to catch up. The willingness to adopt change and embrace change is unprecedented.
Gamble: I can imagine it wasn’t an easy decision to leave Microsoft.
Moore: Definitely. Microsoft is a great company, and on emotional level, it’s always going to be difficult to leave a place where you’ve been for 27 years. But in thinking about it, I realized I had accomplished what I had set out to with that organization, and I’m too young to retire. And so it was time for a change.
What I miss most is being surrounded by like-minded technologists and engineers who are on the bleeding edge, versus being an in environment where we’re struggling with fundamentals. The reality is that healthcare is 20 years behind; it’s a different technology mindset.
Gamble: I’m sure. What has your approach been in getting to know the organization, as well as the industry? Was it by having conversations and doing rounds?
Moore: Honestly, I’ve never felt more welcomed or appreciated by an organization than I did in those first few months. And I continue to immerse myself — it didn’t just stop. But it was those conference room discussions I had with individuals, and the rounding I was able to do. When I did rounds, I was right there in the operating room and the neonatal unit.
People have been great about making sure I had discrete, unique experiences. I probably visited 20 hospitals, and each time I went to one, I’d see that they had researched my previous experiences to make sure I was doing something different. They’d say, ‘Okay, B.J. hasn’t seen robotic surgery. Let’s get him in the room and allow him to do a mock surgery.’ They’ve been beyond fantastic in making sure I’m deeply engaged and have real hands-on personal experience. It doesn’t happen with PowerPoints and white papers — it happens by walking the floor and living the clinical experience.
Again, that doesn’t make me an expert, but to have this personalized experience in a way I never have during my professional career, has been tremendous.
Gamble: I imagine there’s a fine line you have to walk as the new leader. You know there are changes that need to be made, but you want to do it the right way.
Moore: Exactly. You don’t want to walk in the first day and list everything that’s been done wrong. The analogy I use is that Providence St. Joseph Health has 120,000 employees. If I come in as the 120,001st healthcare expert, it doesn’t add a lot of value, because we already have so much depth. And in fact, my peers and those I’ve partnered with have really embraced my diverse experience. So instead of treating it like kryptonite, people have been open to hearing a different perspective, and have found value in it.
At the same time, I’ve found that the more conscious I am about not coming across as a Microsoft know-it-all, the more likely others are to want to leverage my Microsoft knowledge. It’s happened more than I expected, and that’s been refreshing. It’s always better to be pulled than to push.
Gamble: Have you found that rather than it being a burden that you don’t have healthcare leadership experience, it’s actually been an advantage?
Moore: It has. I question everything. There are no sacred cows. I don’t have the mindset of, ‘This is the way we’ve always done it in healthcare.’ Instead, I always ask, ‘Why are we doing it this way? There’s a better way.’
I also think it’s easier to embrace problems when you know you didn’t help create them, and so I approach problems as opportunities to fix things. Now, two years down the line, everything will be my wins and my baggage. Maybe my mindset will be different, but for now, every challenge is an opportunity to have an impact and do things better.
Gamble: Right. You’re going in with a fresh perspective, which is great, but it can also be intimidating.
Moore: It can be, but when every individual, from executive leaders to your peers, helps you feel welcome and get assimilated into the organization, it makes a big difference. They’ve all taken me under their wing, showed me the ropes, and been patient. I couldn’t have asked for a better onboarding experience.
And so yes, it can be overwhelming to learn a new industry, especially at this scale, but my peers have been really supportive. They’ve been fantastic.
Gamble: You mentioned earlier that your wife is in healthcare. What type of role does she have?
Moore: She is executive director of oncology at EvergreenHealth, a community hospital system based here in Washington. She’s an executive as well, so it’s really helpful to get her perspective.
Gamble: And you didn’t have to move to take this position?
Moore: No. It’s practically in my backyard. I went from having a 5-minute commute to a 25-minute commute, but we didn’t have to change our location, or our lifestyle.
Gamble: That’s always nice. The last thing I’d like to ask is, do you feel that healthcare IT is headed in the right direction? We talked about how behind it is from a technical perspective, but are you hopeful about where things are going?
Moore: Yes. Not only are things moving in the right direction, but I believe healthcare is embracing change in a way I never witnessed at Microsoft. So yes, we might be 15 or 20 years behind, but we’re embracing it in 10-year chunks. It’s not going to take 15 or 20 years to catch up. The willingness to adopt change and embrace change is unprecedented. The crazy ideas I’ve thrown out that I thought for sure would be rejected or pushed back have been embraced. People has risen to the challenge; it’s been truly awe-inspiring.
One of my fears coming in was that there would be an unwillingness to accept change. When I brought that up during the interview, they gave me all the right answers, but I still had doubts. In the first seven months, however, not only did they give the right answers, but they showed through their actions that they’re ready to adopt new technologies. It’s been great.
Gamble: I’m sure it feels like you’ve been there longer.
Moore: It does. It’s been hectic. We’ve already gotten so much done, and we’re on a trajectory to get a lot more done over the next six months.
Gamble: The pace doesn’t seem to slow down in this industry.
Moore: Not at all. But having leaders on my team who have done this before will help accelerate things without me personally having to work more hours.
Gamble: Right. Well, I want to thank you so much for taking some time to speak with us. I hope we can catch up again down the road.
Moore: That would be great. Thank you, Kate.
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