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Optimum’s Executive Interview Series

Welcome back to Optimum Healthcare IT’s “3 Questions with…” series, where we interview top executives in the Healthcare IT space. We search for the leaders with track records of service excellence, who are passionate about their work and make patient safety their top priority.

In this installment, we talk with Christopher A. Longhurst, MD, MS, Chief Information Officer and Clinical Professor at UC San Diego Health.

OHIT: What determines whether a CIO succeeds or fails?

Dr. Christopher Longhurst: I learned early in my career from one of my mentors, Ed Kopetsky (CIO of Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford and Stanford Children’s Health), that a CIO’s success is determined by a finite number of factors. Chief among these is expectation setting: The same project can be deemed a success or failure based on the expectations of our stakeholders, and the CIO plays a critical role in managing those expectations. A second key factor for a successful CIO is building and nurturing a terrific team. Period. Hiring can be a daunting process, but it is worth the upfront investment to get the right people around you. Without a strong team rowing in the same direction, a CIO cannot be successful.

OHIT: As the healthcare industry continues to consolidate, how can multiple IT departments with varying technologies successfully work together?

Dr. Christopher Longhurst: With numerous mergers and acquisitions, along with the proliferation of affiliations, we are seeing a fascinating corollary with how to handle multiple IT departments and various electronic health record (EHR) instances. In the case of our collaboration with CIO Chuck Podesta and his team at UC Irvine Health, we’ve recognized that sharing a single instance of our EHR allows both institutions to deliver a higher quality product at a lower cost. In addition to substantially reducing implementation time, we have jointly committed to developing a single service team that combines both IT department’s strengths, focuses on innovation, and supports the strategic growth of our organizations.

OHIT: How do you incorporate technology change into your business strategy?

Dr. Christopher Longhurst: Changes in health IT are a constant and they can have a positive impact on one’s business strategy – that’s what makes this job so exciting! Thinking opportunistically: As health IT improves, it becomes an enabler – allowing us, for example, to make video visits easy and affordable or to use big data to tailor care to specific populations. The changes in health IT can also push strategy forward; for instance, adopting cloud services allows us to offer more uptime with redundant systems that protect data, or to focus more of our efforts on providing innovative technology to support UC San Diego Health’s clinical care, research, and teaching.

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