CIO on Innovation and Mobile Adoption: "Keep Your Eye on Operations"

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By CereCore | Jul 14, 2023

3 minute read EHR/EMR| Epic| Blog| Client Perspectives

Innovation is a top priority for CIOs. Given the importance of trust and adoption to the success of any innovative effort, CIOs must also prioritize sound operations and relationships built on trust. On a recent episode of The CereCore Podcast, Kevin McDonald, chief information officer for HCA Healthcare’s South Atlantic division, shared how an operations background and focus on employee engagement, empathy for care teams, and faith in partnerships has driven innovation and surprising adoption in his division where outstanding patient care, innovative technology, and pioneering medical procedures are the expectation and reality.  

Sobol: How do you keep your teams nimble and able to respond to the types of demands that pop up on a day-to-day basis? And, heaven forbid, if the cursed thing in IT happens — an outage? 

McDonald: We do everything possible to prevent an outage or prevent an unexpected demand, but we know the inevitable is going to happen. So, for our teams, if we look at an example of a downtime, the biggest thing that we have done is create a repeatable framework that we can quickly put into place in the event we have an outage.  

We work heavily with our corporate counterparts on the IT operation center, but we have developed our own critical event framework and that starts with having an accountable leader 24 by 7 who manages that incident from the get-go.  

We leverage our tools very heavily. So, Webex Teams, our instant messaging tool, has really been a game changer for how quickly we can respond to an incident and pull in the right resources to resolve that quickly. And that is ensuring that everybody knows their role when you hit that red button, when that alarm goes off. 

We have the ability to quickly engage a network engineer, system administrator, a clinical resource to identify the issue, triage the issue, and then restore. So, that framework, and playbook, if you will, has allowed us to be ready at any moment's notice to go into that reactive recovery mode.  

And then after we have that incident, we take a step back every time, and we say, “What could we have done to prevent that? What do we need to adjust going forward to prevent it?” And if we don't think we can completely prevent it, how do we respond quicker, more efficiently, and more effectively next time this type of incident occurs.

Sobol: Can you think of a time or an experience that you all had when a particular technology helped the hospital get through an event? 

McDonald: One that really comes to mind is when we had an outage of our thin clients at our hospital in Savannah, a very large hospital that is heavily dependent on in room and at nurse's stations and workstations. And what had occurred is those devices had a certificate that expired and that connected them to the wireless network. So, they all lost connectivity simultaneously. 

Our clinicians did not have that natural access to the patient chart that they were used to. One of the things that was so incredible was talking to our senior IT director there and really gauging how impactful this was. 

Obviously, in my mind, it was going to be tremendously impactful and we needed to help mitigate this. He said, “they are naturally picking up their iPhones and just using the Epic Rover technology to look at the patient's chart, to look at the medication, continue to do safe medication scanning, and lab scanning.” 

It was really impressive to see that natural adoption of a mobile technology in the event of a thin client downtime, without IT even saying, “Hey, everybody, grab your iPhones and start using Rover.” That really stands out to me as a pretty remarkable and natural way for people to adopt that technology in the event of a downtime. 

Sobol: What words of wisdom, or things that you have learned over your tenure, both at HCA Healthcare and in your career in general, should other CIOs at least be aware of, or paying attention to? 

McDonald: I grew up in a world of operations and having clean running operations to me is the foundation to allow you to execute on your strategic vision. So, that has always been a major platform of mine. If I have built the foundation of operational excellence, then I get to do the strategic and innovative activities. So, for the CIO's out there — don't take your eye off the ball of operations.  

At the end of the day, the nurses in these hospitals, they want to do their jobs. They want to take care of their patients, and we want to help them take care of their patients. And functioning high available systems are the cornerstone of that and then we can start to build additional capabilities. 

More advice about driving adoption 

Listen to the full podcast episode for more of Kevin McDonald’s advice on driving adoption and continually innovating: 

  • invest in employee development for a motivated workforce
  • create repeatable processes to build trust 
  • make partners an extension of your team
More resources  

Find a library of CereCore ebooks on topics such as technical debt, MEDITECH hosting, MEDITECH Expanse, Managed Services and IT Staffing, and IT Help Desk. 

More podcast episodes  

Hear perspectives from other healthcare leaders on The CereCore Podcast:  

Healthcare CIO Advice on Leading Through the Complexities of Change

Al Smith, Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer at Lifepoint Health 


Big Healthcare IT Transitions Deliver ROI and Physician Satisfaction

Richard “Rick” Keller, Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer at Ardent Health Services  


A Physician’s Perspective: Bridging the EHR, Healthcare IT, and the PAC

L. Austin Fredrickson, MD, Board Certified, General Internist at Salem Regional Medical Center 


A Look Back: Decisions that Led to a Unified EHR with MEDITECH Expanse

Thomas Kurtz, Ph.D., Chief Administrative Officer at Memorial Healthcare 


Scaling an IT Department to Support Growth (and Why Managed Services Makes Sense)

Varun Gadhok, Chief Information Officer at Surgery Partners


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