MedStar Health does things a little bit differently. In addition to the chief information officer — a role Scott MacLean has held since 2018 — the 10-hospital system also has a chief innovation officer, chief digital transformation officer, and a VP of performance improvement and analytics. And MacLean wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I like the way it’s organized because our technology infrastructure is what runs all of these things and enables programs to be able to thrive,” he said during a podcast interview with Kate Gamble, Managing Editor at healthsystemCIO. It has also enabled a focus on digital transformation “that’s more than just technology.”
It’s a philosophy that he believes will serve MedStar well as the organization surges ahead with plans that were altered due to the pandemic and moves toward the ultimate goal of “systemness.” In the interview, MacLean talks about how his team is dealing with the myriad challenges brought on by Covid; the enormous step he took when he first came to MedStar; what he hopes to accomplish with the CHIME Board; and how volunteering in Baltimore has helped him became part of the community.
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- For MacLean, collaboration across different areas is critical to an organization’s success. “I have regular conversations with other leaders – not just technology leaders, but also business leaders.”
- His reason for taking on an enterprise CIO role? “I wanted a challenge. I wanted to grow, and I have certainly found that to be the case.”
- Being involved with CHIME – and particularly the Public Policy Steering Committee – has given MacLean an opportunity to “give back” while also advocating for critical issues.
- Implementing a unique patient identifier “would be very useful, not only for safety, but for organization of our systems and interoperability.”
- Through his volunteer work with the We, Our, Us Movement, MacLean has “learned so much” by taking community walks and offering services to those in need.
Q&A with Scott MacLean, CIO, Medstar Health, Part 2 [To view Part 1, click here.]
Gamble: You’re in the Chief Information Officer role, and MedStar also has a chief innovation officer and a chief digital officer. I’m sure you work together on different types of initiatives. How are you able to stay in lockstep with different leaders?
MacLean: We also have a Vice President of Performance Improvement and Analytics who sits in the Chief Financial Officer’s organization. When I came to MedStar four years ago, it was my first Enterprise CIO role. I knew when I came here that this is the way we’re organized. I knew what to expect.
And there’s enough work for everyone to do. I like the way it’s organized because our technology — our fundamental infrastructure — is what runs all of these things and enables these programs to be able to thrive. Our technical folks help with the extract, transfer, and load for our analytics platform. We help with the integration layer for the digital health platform. We help with how the telehealth program, and other innovations are run, from both a technical and support standpoint.
Digital transformation – beyond technology
I get along well with the other leaders. They’re all great people who run these other organizations. That helps us because there is focus on innovation that can be used across the enterprise. There is focus on digital transformation that is more than just technology — it’s how the organization responds. And there’s focus on analytics that was heavily used in the COVID period but also for all kinds of operational and quality improvement activities.
“The fun part of the job”
Gamble: So there’s no working in silos. There’s no ‘here are your responsibilities and here are yours.’ It seems like it’s more important than ever to have good working relationships, particularly given the digital evolution.
MacLean: I think that’s right. Happily, we’ve got competent people who are great leaders and also a lot of fun to work with. I have regular conversations with these other leaders — not just technology leaders, but also business leaders.
That’s the fun part of the job; being able to work together on what we’re trying to do here, which is to care for millions of people in this region each year. It’s been very challenging during the Covid period, but also very rewarding to be able to put something together that really serves people.
“A different level of responsibility and accountability”
Gamble: How long have you been with MedStar?
MacLean: Four years.
Gamble: I imagine that’s a big jump going into your first Enterprise CIO role. What has that been like? How have you progressed in those four years?
MacLean: I took this on because I wanted a challenge. I wanted to grow, and I have certainly found that to be the case. On one hand, when I came to MedStar Health, I didn’t see anything different than problems I had seen in the past, but it’s a different leadership level. There is a different level of responsibility and accountability.
I got to learn what it’s like to be the person in that CIO chair. I’m still learning that with every fiscal year, every cycle of budgets and projects and all of the things that happened such as Covid, there are different challenges in how people work and how people lead. We need to cooperate together and use technology to benefit the clinicians, the rest of the administration, and ultimately, our patients.
Involvement with CHIME
Gamble: I also want to talk CHIME and what you’re doing as a member of the Board of Trustees. Can you talk about why being part of the Board of Trustees appealed to you and what you hope to gain from that?
MacLean: It’s a great privilege to work in an organization like CHIME, and to be able to contribute to an industry that has given so much. I’ve been involved with CHIME since about 2006 through various activities. When I moved to MedStar Health and was learning this job, I felt it was a little early to try to run for the board. I had a lot on my plate.
And during the height of Covid, there was a time when we didn’t have elections for a year and extended the officers. And so, when the opportunity came around in 2021 to run, I did so, and was elected along with two very good folks whom I know well.
I joined the Board at a time when people are coming out of the Covid period, and there’s all the more reason to train and educate the next round of Chief Information Officers in healthcare, especially though CHIME University, our program that offers both Master’s and Doctoral degrees in digital health. It’s an exciting time to be part of the board and to give back.
Keeping CHIME members informed on policy matters
Gamble: Right. And I know you’ve done some work with public policy in the past. Is that something you’re doing?
MacLean: I am. I think the Public Policy Steering Committee is one of the things people might want to get involved with if you’re thinking about running for the Board. I served on that committee for several years and am now serving as chair of that committee.
We have some very good people in Washington, D.C. who go through all of the federal and congressional actions, regulations, and rulemaking so that we can keep ourselves and our members informed about the influence that the government is having on this industry and the ways in which they can advocate.
One of our top priorities is to let the government know about our cybersecurity issues and provide ways that they can help us with that defense. We’ve advocated quite a bit for a unique patient identifier. We think it would be very useful, not only for safety but also for organization of our systems and interoperability. We have a full agenda of public policy items that we’re advocating for and discussing with representatives on a regular basis.
Gamble: I can imagine that with something like the patient identifier, it’s hard not to get discouraged because it’s been such a process.
MacLean: It is. As with anything else, there are many stakeholders and vectors of opinion that we respect and take into account as we come to a conclusion on how we’ll advocate for something. On that note, the CHIME Public Policy Steering Committee feels very strongly that this is something we should move forward.
Community walks in Baltimore
Gamble: Sure. I also wanted to talk about some of the work you’re doing personally in the Baltimore community.
MacLean: Thanks for asking. We came to MedStar Health and to Baltimore when our youngest graduated from high school. We were empty nesters; when you do something like that, you wonder what it’s going to be like to be able to develop new friendships at that stage in life. We wanted to live in the city of Baltimore; we’ve found it to be a great place to live. And we quickly got involved with a church there that has co-pastors: one African American pastor and one White pastor who have equal salaries and do equal preaching. Most people know that Baltimore has some troubled parts and some violence; this group does walks through the community and offers jobs, job training, rehab services, food distribution, and non-inclusive mediation between people who are in arguments, among other services. I was invited to be part of the group, which is called the We, Our, Us Movement.
It is a men’s movement where we walk through communities and try to be friendly and loving toward people and offer services that we believe will help them to make good choices and take advantage of opportunities. It’s something I’ve been working on in the last couple of years. We go out in the communities twice a week and there are various other events that take place as well.
There’s also a youth mentoring program, which is nice. It’s very exciting thing to be involved in and I’m learning so much from that. If you’re going to live in a place like Baltimore that has some of these struggles, it’s nice to participate physically and try to help.
Gamble: I’m sure that’s something where you do a lot of learning by listening and watching.
MacLean: That’s absolutely right. A lot of the people with whom I’m spending time don’t look like me, or I don’t look like them. And so, there’s a lot of listening and learning. I consider it a real privilege to be able to spend time and build relationships, because that’s what it’s about.