“We’re focusing on the real issues.”
Since Bradd Busick arrived at MultiCare Health System two years ago, his core objective has been to find better ways of doing things. Not because the organization wasn’t on the right path — it was, and continues to be. “The vision for transformation is real,” he said during a recent interview with Kate Gamble, Managing Editor at healthsystemCIO.com. “It’s palpable. And frankly, it’s now an expectation.”
What the 11-hospital, Pacific Northwest-based system needed was someone who could help steer it in the right direction, whether that means ensuring Epic is fully optimized, leading an infrastructure modernization effort, or making customer service a key priority. Busick, who spent several years with the Gates Foundation, seemed like the right candidate for the job.
In the interview, he spoke about what it was like to begin his first CIO role in “firefighter mode” as the organization dealt with Covid; the huge importance of having “an incredible leadership team and business partners”; why he’s optimistic about the next generation; and the many lessons healthcare can learn from outside industries.
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- The three key areas of investment as MultiCare modernizes the infrastructure are: optimizing the EHR, replacing the ERP platform and improving the access and referral program.
- Having the support of “an incredible leadership team and business partners” is critical with any initiative, Busick said. “It doesn’t happen just because the CIO said so.”
- By bringing in executives from outside of healthcare, MultiCare is able to take a more balanced approach to the consumer experience piece.
- If employees want to get promoted, they have to “change the trajectory of a given capability or focus area, or changing the direction or trajectory of people on their teams’ lives.”
- The next generation of leaders are “teachable” and “really hungry for people to authentically connect with them.”
Q&A with Bradd Busick, CIO, MultiCare Health System, Part 2 [To view Part 1, click here.]
Gamble: What do you consider to be your key areas of focus in 2022 and beyond?
Busick: This is the year of reimagining MultiCare’s infrastructure, and it manifests itself in a few key areas. Multicare is scaling at a pretty egregious pace; to enable that, we have to have systems and infrastructure to support it. And so, we have three main areas of focus this year.
The first we talked about before, which is the Epic optimization. How do we get up to speed on the latest foundational version of Epic, so that our providers have the best experience possible? We want to make the most of their time and ensure they’re operating at the top of their license. That’s one of the biggest priorities.
The second is swapping out our ERP platform. We spent six months in 2021 doing discovery, and we started implementing Workday earlier this year. It’s a 15-month project that will go live in March of 2023. It touches all of finance, all of supply chain and all of HR. It’s a massive foundational effort that, frankly, is going to make us more efficient.
The third area of investment for us is our access and referral platform. It comes back to how can we provide a really elegant way for people to engage with Multicare in the same way that you and I and engage with Alaska Airlines or make a dinner reservation? And so, we’re putting in capabilities for SMS and chatbots all the way to social media engagements that allow people to engage with MultiCare the way that they want to, as opposed to the traditional way of picking up a phone and being on hold for 15 minutes. We’re doubling down on all those three areas, all of which is underpinned by an incredible leadership team and business partners, because as you know, this doesn’t happen just because the CIO said so. We’re all pulling in a pretty seamless way right now and it’s fun to watch.
ERP: “Some of the capabilities are sexy”
Gamble: Not surprisingly, you have a lot going on. And in terms of the ERP, that’s not necessarily sexy, but such a worthwhile investment.
Busick: Absolutely. We have folks who are actually excited about some of the capabilities for people coming to the organization that are sexy. For example, if you’re applying from the outside, think about what it would be like getting a welcome note from the president or a video that’s been customized for your team by your leader, or getting a notification that states, ‘Here’s your badge. Here’s your laptop. Here’s your parking stall.’ This is what people expect on day one, but it’s not something healthcare has embraced.
Sadly, the rest of the world is already there or is heading that way. In some ways it’s a blessing and a curse, but the cool part of having a leadership team made up of folks that have been steeped in healthcare as well as those coming from outside is that we get an awesome balance of what a consumer experience should look like. Balanced, of course, with a real focus on the importance of quality care.
Gamble: You’re one of those people with outside experience. I want to talk about how some of your previous roles — especially your time with the Gates Foundation — have prepared you the CIO role.
Busick: It’s amazing; I’ve done some of the most meaningful work in my career being surrounded by some of the brightest minds in the world. The beauty of being at the Gates Foundation, and parlaying that into the experience at Multicare, is that both are rooted in the premise that everybody deserves the opportunity to lead a healthy and productive life, whether that’s through the quality care that Multicare is providing or access to polio vaccines or water sanitation. And again, everybody’s rowing in the same direction.
As you know, this journey is not for the faint of heart. It requires a rigor and a level of optimism that, I think, is balanced with an equitable level of impatience, of which I have both. I want to see it happen fast, but I want to see it happen right. And so, I would not trade my time at Gates for anything. Ironically, our new CTO who started a few months ago spent 13 years at the Foundation, as well as leading global delivery. He joined to help build out and modernize our infrastructure.
Gamble: And you’ve been in other sectors as well. Can you talk about MacDonald-Miller and what you did there?
Busick: Sure. I spent five years at MacDonald-Miller helping to lead and create the smart buildings portfolio and looking at how we think about predicting the health of equipment in hospitals and data centers. Every building that we drive by every day has units on the roof and the stuff in the basement that nobody cares about until it breaks. Can we put something in place to predict uptime and get better quality and more efficiency from these really expensive capital investments? That plays into our strategy as MultiCare goes down the path of smart buildings and smart equipment. We also look at this building through mergers and acquisitions to say, ‘what are we getting into here?’ ‘Is there a way to identify and analyze this equipment proactively and get more precise on when things might crash and what the associated costs might be?’ It was a good time for innovation in a space where it has historically been lacking.
Gamble: That sounds like a good background. Did you have any reservations about coming to healthcare, especially because the innovation has been slower to than in other industries?
Busick: Here’s why I said yes. The opportunity to innovate at MultiCare was more than what someone sees on a job description. I had a chance to sit down with Florence Chang, our EVP and COO, and Bill Robertson, our president, and make no mistake—the vision for transformation is real. It’s palpable. And frankly, it’s now an expectation. And so, the approach was, I’m hiring you to come in and change the way we interact, the way we scale, and the way we define patient care. That freedom took away any hesitation I had about joining healthcare. Healthcare is super complex, make no mistake about it. But ultimately, it comes down to people, and whether you can get the right folks to engage in the same way so that you achieve the outcome you’re after. That’s the team that we’re building and those are the partnerships were forming across the system, and frankly the industry right now.
Gamble: What do you look for when you’re hiring or promoting individuals? Do you look for that same type of spirit that you just alluded to?
Busick: Spirit is the right way to define it. Let’s talk about promotions, for example. I don’t want anyone to get promoted on my team that hasn’t either changed the trajectory of a given capability or focus area, and/or changed the direction or trajectory of the lives of at least two people on their teams. And so, if I’m working with Mary Smith, I’m not going to get promoted into a director role unless I’ve drastically changed Mary’s trajectory as a contributor on that team. That might mean she learned a new capability. That might mean she got her MBA. That might mean she was the keynote at the last Gartner conference. Something that gave Mary a different platform to grow and be seen while also advancing the capability of that particular focus area, whether it was data orchestration or performance analytics. As we promote from within, that’s one of the benchmarks.
For those coming from outside the organization, there needs to be an alignment of spirit, particularly with a focus on providing a different level of care and a different level of rigor. We get a lot of applications for jobs, but we’re looking for the right fit. I’d rather see a job go unfulfilled than settle.
Gamble: Makes sense. So, when I looked at your LinkedIn profile, I saw a cool story about your daughter, who applied for an internship at Roblox at age 10. It really resonated with me; I have a daughter around the same age who is also a go-getter. I thought it was great because it showed how important it is to encourage people to go what they want. You must’ve been really proud.
Busick: I was really proud, and also, along with my wife, I was not surprised. My daughter was very fortunate to have someone at Workday who saw this opportunity and thought, ‘I could actually change the life of a 10-year-old.’ The confidence that Olivia got from that experience is hard to replicate. And so, the spirit that you and I just talked about is embodied at Roblox. That’s so powerful.
And not only did they give her a chance to do an interview, but they also invited her to be a part of a consumer panel to write feedback on the game. And now, the Disney posters on my daughter’s wall have been replaced with goals like, ‘I’m going to be a video game designer. I’m going to go design UI and UX. I want to do quality assurance testing.’ And I thought, wow. That’s exactly what we’re trying to embody here at MultiCare.
Gamble: It seems there were a few takeaways to come from that, not just for your daughter, but for companies who want to get more engaged with users.
Busick: Absolutely. I’m really grateful that Roblox took a shot. I literally received hundreds of notes from folks saying, ‘this really inspired my son or daughter to engage with companies on social media.’ Neither of my kids have social media accounts because they’re not old enough, but it was a fun way to show that people are watching. What you do online matters, so be thoughtful about how you engage and how you treat people.
Gamble: Right. I think the other reaction was that it gives people hope for the future and for the generations coming up.
Busick: No question. This is really near and dear to my heart. I’ve been involved with Pacific Lutheran University as an adjunct professor for the School of Business, and I’m really bullish on this next generation of leaders. I think they’re teachable. They’re hungry for someone to pay attention and for people to authentically connect with them. That’s true for my daughter and yours, and it’s true for the 18-year-olds graduating from PLU this May. We need to think about how we can authentically connect with them and help open doors and introduce them to networks. It costs very little, and yet, it can change someone’s life.
Gamble: I’m sure it benefits you as well, developing these relationships. It’s a two-way street, right?
Busick: It is. It brings me a ton of joy. I love watching current and former students succeed. Twelve years later, those former students are now directors and VPs on their own organizations, and it’s really rewarding to watch them go forward on their own path.