Seattle Children's Hospital CIO: Don't Call Me Superman - InformationWeek

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Seattle Children's Hospital CIO: Donít Call Me Superman

Seattle Children's SVP/CIO Wes Wright says IT needs more Clark Kents and fewer Supermans to get real work done.

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10 Ways To Strengthen Healthcare Security
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Seattle Children's Hospital SVP/CIO Wes Wright is no Superman. And he's fine with that.

Rather, Wright sees himself more like Clark Kent: diligently working behind his desk to enable collaboration and business processes across Seattle Children's Hospital, Seattle Children's Research Institute, and Seattle Children's Foundation and its growing roster of partners. Supported by about 350 employees, Wright explained in an interview that he works with clients like Boeing, as well as physician practices, universities, and clinics.

"You've really got to be focused on running IT as a business, generally at the expense of 'emergency things' that always pop up in the IT universe. I know all my CIO colleagues and IT colleagues want to run things as a service and want to run things efficiently," said Wright. "It used to be within IT... some folks wanted to be Superman and nobody wanted to be Clark Kent. Now you're seeing most organizations hiring Clark Kents and not Supermans. We're just plugging away, working at our desks on a routine basis. It may not be as fun as strapping a cape on and flying around, but it provides better service to our constituents."

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To reduce IT emergencies, Wright is expanding the number and type of IT operations it provides as a service. By standardizing across routine tasks, Seattle Children's reduces waste, improves efficiency, and enhances security, he said.

"I can't be taking up all of my IT resource time or 90% of my IT resource time running IT services, because then I can't be agile for the corporation," wright explained. "It sounds super mundane, but that's what our focus has been on for the last year and a half: Making something a routine service and taking the waste out of it," he said. "We're still way, way away from where I want I to be but still, it's a start."

Seattle Children's already easily realized 10% year-over-year savings in technician desktop time by using ServiceNow ITSM for tasks like break-fix, provisioning, and deprovisioning, according to Wright. As usage expands across additional services, he predicted that the hospital will garner efficiencies of between 30% and 40%.

Every four months, for example, the hospital brings on approximately 300 students who must quickly gain access to certain medical records for 16 weeks. By automating the process, Wright explained, clinicians are no longer tempted to share their own log-in data, and students' productivity isn't hampered.

Seattle Children's Hospital SVP/CIO Wes Wright
Seattle Children's Hospital SVP/CIO Wes Wright

Knowing these pain points comes from knowing clinicians' needs. But strong communication skills are not limited to internal stakeholders. As Seattle Children's partnership community expands, Wright and his team must ensure that all parties can easily exchange disparate electronic medical records.

About 18 months ago, Wright approached Seattle Children's CEO about creating a pediatric health information exchange as the foundation of a network to enable this communication. Although the exchange is not yet as robust as he'd like, the hospital and its main pediatric partner currently use the InterSystems HealthShare HIE to share data.

Seattle Children's plans to expand both the partner base and records communicated across the network. "I have to take all that data from all those records and mash it all together in one place so we can take care of the patient across the continuum of care," Wright said. "I need to capture all the care that happens, and that's really what's going to make or break the new healthcare models."

Despite all the technological advances Wright has seen in his career, he said it's this attention to collaboration and integration that marks the biggest change. "I have to be a lot more agile in how I can gather and share information."

That focus extends to his role as CIO, a role that today includes three hats: leader, healthcare executive, and CIO. Only by juggling the three roles, Wright noted, can CIOs truly deliver the value their organizations need.

"I'm looking at what the organization needs from a healthcare perspective. I need to be greatly aligned with the business direction, and then I can take the tools the CIO brings to the table and apply to them those business directions," Wright said. "For a little while -- and at some places it's still the same -- as IT leaders we would first apply the tools: 'Here's what I can bring to the stable: This shiny new tool,' without the business requirement to bring this new tool, because that was easy. That was what you did in IT. Now you're a business leader, healthcare executive, then IT leader."

And Clark Kent.

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Alison Diana is an experienced technology, business and broadband editor and reporter. She has covered topics from artificial intelligence and smart homes to satellites and fiber optic cable, diversity and bullying in the workplace to measuring ROI and customer experience. An ... View Full Bio

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Li Tan
Li Tan,
User Rank: Ninja
9/3/2014 | 3:00:16 AM
Touch the base
To be a successful IT professional, you need to really touch the base and run day-to-day business properly first. We need superman with high talent but in most cases we need to be Clark Kent. You cannot always imagine inventing great things but need to diligently handle daily work. So I fully agree with the points in this post.
User Rank: Author
9/3/2014 | 9:10:13 AM
Re: Touch the base
I really loved the imagery Wes invoked with this comment -- but much more importantly, he's right: Superman swoops in to save the day, but Clark Kent plugs away, day after day, to ensure there are no emergencies to save an organization from! CIOs who are understand their organization's business, who are true leaders across both IT and the entire organization, and who prevent (as far as humanly possible) big emergencies from occurring, are much more valuable and important than CIOs who thrive on danger and prevailing against big problems. Granted, those latter CIOs are invaluable in crises -- and we've definitely seen instances when that type of IT professional is needed. But to steer a company's vision, to drive an organization's IT investments, and to recommend and oversee how IT can best fit into an organization's overall strategy, Clark Kent (or Lois Lane) is the one you want.
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