The role of Information Technology in healthcare is ever more important in delivering outstanding care that patients can trust. Whether it be delivering real-time access to patient information or helping consumers access Northwell services in a convenient mobile environment, Northwell’s IT department is leading the way. As a leader within Northwell since 2004, John Bosco serves as the senior vice president and chief information officer. Overseeing the information technology function of the largest integrated healthcare network in New York is no small task. We caught up with John to hear about how the IT department is continuously growing and how it’s a department that’s Truly Innovative.
How has Northwell’s IT department grown over the past few years and how will it continue to grow?
Northwell’s IT department has grown and continues to adapt to the changing landscape in healthcare delivery and financing. Our priorities have shifted as a result of new care models, new payment models, the move toward personalized medicine, consumer demands, and the acceleration of new, innovative technologies that are starting to take hold. For example, we expect artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies will help drive improvements in clinical care, operations, or financial performance, providing better clinical decision support to clinicians, making the systems more efficient for them to use, and helping to automate repetitive tasks. There is a new device or app invented multiple times every day. It’s our job to understand how to take advantage of these emerging technologies to improve the quality and efficiency of care.
As Northwell continues to grow and expand, so do the technologies and staff needed to support our health system. We are very focused on building a connected, integrated health system, where clinicians have real-time access to the information they need to treat their patients. Every Physician practice, hospital, imaging center, ambulatory surgery center, and our many other care venues, are connected together through our Health Information Exchange technology so all data about a patient can be delivered where and when it is needed.
Providing easier and more convenient access for consumers to access Northwell services is a major focus right now. We have got to make consumers feel we know them and their preferences when they come to us, make it easy to get an appointment through an app on their smartphone, and reduce the burden for them to provide the information we need to collect in order to treat them and produce a bill for our services. We want patients to visit our health system from the time they are born and throughout their lifetime.
The protection and safeguarding of our patient’s data is one of our most important responsibilities as a health system. With all of the cybersecurity problems happening today that you can read or hear about in the media almost every day, we continue to invest in people and technologies that prevent hackers and malicious software from entering our networks and systems. Training all Northwell employees on safe practices, such as not responding to potentially malicious emails, is paramount to our effort to protect our technology environments.
Are there any areas in IT that are helping to drive current or future growth?
The changes and innovations taking place in health IT require me to find new skills in the marketplace. Software developers used to shun healthcare given that we traditionally purchased commercial software systems and focused on implementations -but the rapid changes in healthcare delivery, and the innovations taking place, now enable us to develop innovative software that is not available in the market to purchase. IT Security engineers are one of the hottest jobs in the market. Data scientists who can comb through large databases to find insights into how we can improve quality and efficiency are another hot, and difficult skill to find. Software developers and support people who know how to operate in the ‘cloud’ environment are also very valuable to us.
Healthcare IT is going through some big changes industry-wide. How is Northwell being Truly Innovative with technology to stay ahead of the curve?
The three vectors changing the healthcare landscape include consumerization, mobility, and “uberization” of our technology infrastructure. These three vectors are empowering the patient to manage their data, and get access to the right care giver, at the right time, and at the right place. The increase in the tech savvy consumer population has pushed technology towards a consumer model. Smart phones used to belong to a privileged few, now the value of two way real-time voice, data, and video communications has resulted in there being a super computer in the hands of every citizen. Phones have become the camera, the recorder, the guide, and a healthcare access device.
With the arrival of the ‘cloud’, transmission, storage and retrieval of information made the mobile ecosystem whole. Traditional locked-down regimented data centers and applications are in the evening of their life. Cloud is available to the consumer on an as needed basis with a pay as you use model. Uberization has engulfed the technology infrastructure.
Northwell is in the eye of this paradigm shift affecting all facets of healthcare and the care delivery model. Innovation is the art of thinking that leverages this paradigm shift and enables care delivery effectively. With consumerization, mobility, and uberization of information technology, Northwell is on a journey to be a health buddy to our patients throughout the continuum. Agility is our accelerator that enables a real time interface with our patients, providers, administrators, payers and regulators to provide actionable clinical information.
We have invested in people, tools, and new processes that will enable us to be more innovative and quicker to market with new technologies. It is hard work to shift from older technologies and ways of doing things that have existed for decades. We are deploying systems architected on open industry standards such as web, HL7, FHIR, and other standards. Handshakes with external systems are enabled by employing open application programming interfaces (API) stacks. Applications are developed using an agile framework with hybrid-cloud back end, enabling the transmission of data to the right environment to enable mobility and scalability. The overarching strategy is to move data from creation to destination to retrieval in the most effective and economical manner.
Northwell IT is positioned to optimize opportunities resulting from these paradigm shifts in the development and deployment of cutting-edge technologies. The future is exciting and holds the promise of a vastly different way of our consumers and clinicians interacting with each other.
How is Northwell IT innovating its workforce practices?
As one of the most innovative healthcare systems, we want to ensure that our technology culture is progressive and attracts and retains top talent. The workforce of the future is more mobile and want new ways to work. In response to this shift, the Information Services department has a group of leaders working on what the future of our workforce will look like and how to keep them engaged and productive.
We see more opportunities to increase collaboration and knowledge sharing across internal departments. Using more virtual workers and work-from-home programs presents an opportunity for us to bring down our labor and office space costs, while increasing employee satisfaction by providing the flexibility they may need and want for work-life balance. It’s also possible we will look toward an IT office in another state in order to find enough talent for our projects.
In addition, the jobs of the future at Northwell must become increasingly centered around the consumer, and some IT workers may not require as much healthcare expertise as they currently require.
We also see an opportunity for using external and internal crowdsourcing to solve problems and innovate.
Northwell IT is already making progress to be ready for the future of our workforce from a leadership perspective, now we are more focused from an organizational and talent perspective.
Our goal is to become an employer of choice and best place to work. In order to meet this goal, we need to respond to the changing labor demographics which in turn allows us to expand our talent pool and retain the best. It’s a win-win for both employer and employees!
What role will Data play in the future of Healthcare IT and here at Northwell?
Northwell has a long history of utilizing the vast amounts of data available to assess our performance and drive clinical improvements, operational efficiencies, and improve financial performance. We continue to grow our capabilities to enable more and more sophisticated analytics with the implementation of an enterprise data warehouse that combines clinical, operational and financial data and cutting edge visualization tools that enable both enterprise-level and department-specific analytics. The next iteration of this will be the application of machine learning and artificial intelligence to begin moving toward more predictive analytics to improve clinical care and financial outcomes. Northwell will compete on our data in the future. Our ability to mine the vast amounts of data we possess will be our differentiator, very much like how Amazon revolutionized the consumer experience of buying goods online.
What is an interesting fact that people should know about you?
I don’t know that I’m all that interesting of a person! My priorities are my family, my friends and my career. I love working at Northwell with so many people who share the same passions I do for excellence in everything we do. I am thankful to work at such a great health system where helping people is always our highest priority. I’m a born-and-bred New Yorker and truly believe New York is the center of the universe! I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.
Think you’re Made for the innovation John is talking about? Explore IT positions here.