BJ Moore has quite a unique title. In fact, when people see that he is EVP of Real Estate Strategy and Operations in addition to serving as CIO at Providence, “they usually think it’s weird.” Moore, however, has become accustomed to that type of reaction. “Real estate and IT are becoming closer and closer,” he said during a recent interview. Not just because capacity became such a high priority for IT leaders during Covid, but also because he believes the workspace of the future is going to be “a melding of physical spaces and technology.”
During the discussion, Moore opened up about how his team has responded to the challenges stemming from Covid — both the original surge and the recent variants. He also gives his thoughts on how the digital divide affects care, why it’s so important to continue long-term investments (even throughout the pandemic), why going to the cloud feels like “cleaning out the garage,” and the power of storytelling.
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- Telehealth offers great potential, but if consumers don’t have devices or a reliable WiFi connection, it creates “an even bigger divide.”
- Whether it’s because of flu season, Covid, or any other event, health systems are going to experience ebbs and flows in capacity. Digital tools are “the best way to have elasticity.”
- Despite the myriad challenges stemming from Covid, Providence has not had to decrease long-term investments. In fact, “we doubled down in lot of areas.”
- Not only can storytelling help communicate important points, it’s also “an empowerment tool to allow local decision-making.”
- As care delivery models continue to evolve, more IoT and medical devices will be used to manage individuals’ health by creating “streams of data that can go into the cloud.”
Q&A with BJ Moore, Part 2 [Click here to view Part 1]
Gamble: One thing that has come to light even more from the rise in digital health is the divide in access. It’s such a big issue, and certainly won’t be solved overnight. What are your thoughts around that?
Moore: First of all, you have to recognize it can’t be a problem. Before Covid, there was already a divide in healthcare quality and experience between various communities. I think digital could accelerate that. And so, as a health system, we recognize that there are risks. As amazing telehealth is, if you don’t have a device, if you don’t have good Wi-Fi, and if you don’t have good cellular connectivity, you’re actually creating a bigger divide. We recognize that.
We’re looking at how to build this experience in a box where a patient could have a 5G device at home that can connect to these medical devices and can connect with the telehealth experience. We would provide out-of-the-box connectivity that allows them to have digital experiences, recognizing they may not have the tools themselves at home. We’re more in the problem identification stage where we’re just beginning to ideate how we might solve it. The good news is that we recognize it’s a risk, and that if we don’t proactively build it in upfront, we are going to create that digital divide.
Gamble: There really seems to be a recognition this is a long-term goal, and it starts by addressing the divide and taking steps.
Moore: Right. It goes back to why we combined real estate and IS here; you need that elasticity in healthcare. You’re going to have flu season. You’re going to have ebbs and flows in the capacity of our health system, and digital tools are going to be the best way to have that elasticity. It’s not a trend for Covid; it’s a permanent cornerstone in healthcare.
Gamble: Since you started with Providence, a lot has happened, obviously. How do you think your leadership philosophy has evolved?
Moore: I joined Providence two and a half years ago because I wanted to be part of the digital transformation; I wanted to have an impact. The way I see it, it’s evolved from thinking we would have a big impact to seeing that we have a huge impact.
I’ve been asked if we’ve decreased our long-term investments, and I’m proud to say we haven’t. The plans we had before COVID are still the plans we have today. We didn’t de-invest in those things. If anything, we doubled down in a lot of these areas. Yes, we obviously need to survive Covid, but when Covid is over, we need to make sure we’re digitally transformed so that we can be a healthy health system.
Maturing, not evolving
I don’t know that my philosophy has necessarily evolved; I think it matured. You’ve heard my three strategic pillars: simplify, modernize, and innovate. We continue to execute upon those.
When I first joined Providence, I said that healthcare is about 15 or 20 years behind other industries. We’re two and a half years into that journey, and we believe we’re only another year from being modernized and caught up — not just for healthcare, but for any Fortune 50 company. And so, I’m not sure that we’ve evolved; I would say that we have a sound strategy, and we haven’t wavered from it.
Gamble: You’ve spoken in the past about storytelling, and how that has become a key part of the CIO role. Can you talk more about that?
Moore: Sure. I should point out first that when I took on the real estate role, I was actually elevated to report to the CEO, who is a member of our Board. And so, my role did expand, to your point.
As far as storytelling, we’re a large, complex health system. We have three strategic pillars and eight initiatives, but how do you tell it in a story that resonates and that actually empowers people? One way is to take that simple concept of simplify, modernize, and innovate, and align it with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Simplify is eating, breathing, and sleeping. Modernize is sending the kids to school, and innovate is self-actualization. When you do it that way, people are able to get their minds around that hierarchy and construct.
This is where it becomes empowering: if you’re an entry-level employee and you’re working on something, it provides a story and a construct to work with. Why am I working on self-actualization stuff when my family is starving? Am I doing the right things? It allows that individual decision-making for people to make sure what they’re working on and what they’re prioritizing is aligned to what’s best for our patients and caregivers. In my mind, the only way to get really complex concepts across is through storytelling, and so that’s what we’ve done. We were able to tell that story pretty early on, and it has really carried us through these trying times.
Gamble: I would imagine that comes into play in a lot of different situations, including when you’re selling to the board.
Moore: It does. Human beings like frameworks. The board wants to understand and be able to attach these things to some sort of framework. It’s a big, complex system. But instead of thinking of it as a selling tool, I think of it primarily as an empowerment tool to localize decision-making. Those stories provide for agility and empowerment.
Gamble: Right. So, going back a little bit, you talked about the hospital bed becoming an abstract idea. What do you see happening more down the road with that?
Moore: It’s this additive thing, like a virtuous cycle. In healthcare we talk about big data, but frankly, we’re not really dealing with big data yet. Take these three concepts, for example. There’s AI and machine learning, which get used interchangeably and comingled, even though they’re different. There’s big data, and there’s Internet of Things. What I see evolving in this care delivery of the future or virtual bed model is that we’re going to have more IoT, and more devices that are managing or measuring individuals’ health in real time. For example, we’re monitoring your activity, your heart rate, your blood pressure, your temperature, etc. That allows for remote care delivery; but even more interestingly, it creates streams of data that then can go into the cloud and get attached to your health record.
“You’re going to see what AI can do”
So now, you start getting big datasets, which come from livestreamed data. With AI and ML, the bigger the dataset, the more effective these tools and models can be. Now, you’ll have data streams coming in focused on me as an individual, and so you’re really going to see what AI can do. Why are BJ Moore’s activity levels changing? Why is his heart rate changing? Does he have COVID? Why is his temperature so high? There are a number of things we could do. And it wouldn’t be done with a human being; it could be an AI bot that’s now keeping track of every patient or health system. And obviously, the patient would have to opt-in: they have to agree to be managed by a health bot and understand that their device is going to the cloud.
“You need data streams”
For ML to be effective, you need to have big data. For big data to be effective, you need data streams. To get data streams, you need IOT devices and medical devices. And to get those you really need to instrument these things at homes or in your hospitals. And those are going to medical devices with streams.
It’s an abstract concept, but hopefully you can see how all three of those fit together and can enable us to really change healthcare.
And it can only be done with tech. If you’re Bill Gates, even if you could afford a staff of doctors, they couldn’t keep track of bills and real-time health as effectively as a trained AI bot would be able to. It goes back to the digital divide. You don’t need to be Bill Gates. You can be the poorest in the community, and those things scale. We don’t care if we’re monitoring Bill Gates or the poorest of the poor. It’s the same cost to us. It’s just computing in the cloud.
Gamble: It’s very cool to think about that. There’s so much potential.
Moore: Think back to the early days of Covid. We had the first patient here in Everett in January of 2020. Imagine if everyone’s Apple Watch had a temperature gauge, and that data was going to the cloud. Instead of thinking we had one Covid-positive patient, we would have looked at the data and saw that 200 or 300 people had a high fever, instead of the 50 or so who normally do. We could have had early warnings at a community level; it opened up so many scenarios that we just can’t do today.