This is a guest post provided by Lori Johnston, CIO of ProMedica. Huntzinger periodically invites its clients and partners to contribute to The Huntzinger Blog.
By Lori Johnston
ProMedica, Toledo, Ohio
Time in Healthcare
About 30 years. I started at Ernst & Young as a CPA, and about three years into my tenure there, I started working with healthcare clients.
Time as a CIO
I’ve been a CIO for the past year and a half. I’m not your typical CIO, as I didn’t come up through the ranks of the IT department. Instead, I came up through the business side, starting at Ernst & Young as the project manager for our system’s first merger, then I became the CFO of two of our hospitals. Over the years, I’ve been the head of corporate finance and the COO of post-acute operations. I later ran a hospital and eventually led a physician group in a dyadic relationship with a physician. I have a strong business background and a broad understanding of our integrated delivery system, so I was a good fit for ProMedica when they needed a CIO.
Time in Current Role
What is the Greatest Current Challenge Facing Healthcare IT?
There are so many things that we need to do and want to do to take healthcare to the next level. Yet, we struggle with balancing all that we want to do with what we can afford, and try to stay focused on doing the right things in an efficient and effective manner. Healthcare reimbursement is a crazy business with financial fluctuations. It’s not like other industries where you can add a feature and then just charge more for your services. For us most of reimbursement is fixed and we’re all trying to make the best use of the available funds.
Technology is just one piece of it. We want all the bells and whistles, and while a case can be made for nearly anything that improves patient care and safety, we need to make thoughtful investments. There have always been financial challenges, no matter what role I’ve played in healthcare. There has never been enough money for what we want to do. The CIO role has been no different.
What will be the Next Major Impact Area of IT on Healthcare?
The focus on using all the data that we now have at our fingertips in a way to start doing some predictive analytics is critical. I see that as a huge opportunity. How do we take in all of this data and use it to drive changes in care, or use it earlier to predict changes in care? That’s someplace where we haven’t been able to go.
Also, the interoperability between systems is a dream that we’ve always had, and that is starting to become a reality.
What is the Biggest Challenge of Being a Healthcare CIO?
There are two — it’s a tie between cybersecurity and operations. Cybersecurity may not be the biggest day-to-day challenge, but it is the thing that keeps me awake at night. You can never do enough. Someone is always out there trying to get in. On the first weekend after I was named the CIO, our PACS system went down and we got a virus on one of our servers that spread to a health plan. It all got fixed and I learned a lot, but it was a big challenge to face on the first week of my job. Operationally, the challenge is prioritizing what we can do, making smart decisions and not duplicating efforts.