MIT Sloan winner: Healthcare technology will boost business value

In May, Scott Blanchette, senior vice president and CIO at Vanguard Health Systems, was named the winner of the MIT Sloan 2013 CIO Leadership Award, which honors IT executives who lead their organizations to deliver business value and innovative use of IT in exceptional ways. Blanchette said healthcare is poised for a "tremendous period of change" in the next five to 10 years, and that technology will be inherent in this transformation.

In this CIO Innovators video interview, filmed at the MIT Sloan CIO Symposium in Cambridge, Mass., Blanchette sits down with SearchCIO Site Editor Ben Cole to discuss how advances in healthcare technology can ultimately improve patient care, better customer satisfaction and increase information interoperability in the 21st century.

Scott, the MIT Sloan CIO Leadership Award honors CIOs that are delivering business value and using tech in innovative ways. Can you explain the business value that you and your team delivered this past year, and was it a specific project or a combination of projects?

Scott Blanchette: I think we in healthcare recognize that we're going to go through a tremendous period of change over the next five to 10 years, and that change is driven by the manufacturers; economic, clinical, operational, financial factors are going to drive that change. Vanguard, I think, is heavily committed to driving that sort of change in very transformational ways. And I think the technology is very central to that transformation.

We have some reasonably simple notions at Vanguard, things that may seem fairly simplistic, but they're not in its implementation. Your doctor might expect to know more about you than your local grocer or your local car dealer. The reality is, today your grocer and your car dealer know more about you than your doctor does at any given time. And that's something that we expect to change.

The reality is, today your grocer and your car dealer know more about you than your doctor does at any given time. And that's something that we expect to change.

We also think that healthcare shouldn't necessarily end the minute you leave the hospital or a clinic, but it needs to cross multiple continuums of care and impact people in their everyday lives. And we want to extend that beyond the four walls of the hospital. We also think the experience that you have in engaging the healthcare system needs to be much more improved. Technology is central to that transformation. We intend to drive a lot of that change at Vanguard.

Can you talk a little bit about any specific technology and IT skills that are required to deliver those services?

Blanchette: One of the things I think is a particular asset for Vanguard is quite a few people driving that transformation today are not necessarily from healthcare. So people that have come from financial services, from retail, from consumer relationship management backgrounds, that understand things like employee engagement and customer engagement much better than we do in the healthcare system have been tremendous assets for us.

One of the projects that has been particularly innovative for us has been driving consumer relationship management in ways that retailers have driven into the healthcare system. And I think that's been extremely positive for us. And we intend to expand that sort of program very aggressively over the next few years. We think that's something we're particularly proud of, among other things.

The theme of this year's MIT CIO Symposium is 'architecting the enterprise of the future.' If change is the new normal, how do you plan for the future that is constantly evolving?

Blanchette: Last night at dinner, I commented that in 2008 the banks were too big to fail, and in 2013 healthcare's too important to fail. We're 20% of the [gross domestic product] today or we're approaching that very quickly. We employ one in six Americans, and everyone in the United States will touch the healthcare system, whether it's as parents, as spouses, as care providers for your parents, across multiple generations. And so, we think that healthcare needs to change very radically, very drastically over the next few years, very aggressively. If you're uncomfortable with change, this is not a good time to be in healthcare, because we're committed to that. And the notion of a future that looks like today is something that, for many of us, is very unsatisfying.

What technology do you think seems to revolutionize the healthcare industry or the way business is done in general? Also, how do you plan to take advantage of that technology?

More on the business value of IT

CIO Innovator: IT roadmaps support business value, agility

CIO Matters: Big data provides big business value

Blanchette: Well, the notion of consumerism is almost absent in healthcare. And you can think of consumerism in almost any other industry having fundamentally changed that industry, whether it's banking, whether it's in retail, whether it's in even travel. When's the last time you visited a travel agency? That's been completely displaced by technology. We think that evolutions like that are going to be very similar in healthcare.

So, we're taking a lot of lessons learned from those sorts of industries, but I think usability is one of our primary focuses. Mobility is one of our primary focuses, and interoperability. The fact that none of your healthcare data exists in any one place is a real challenge. And we need to find a way to bring that together, make it much more usable and make it much more mobile than it is today. I think those things have been solved in many other industries, and we're starting to solve those now in healthcare.

What's your next big business project [or] next business project priority and why?

Blanchette: The three things I just talked about -- usability, mobility and interoperability -- are clearly at the forefront of what we intend to do. We also intend to adopt things like cloud.

The notion of PCs sitting under desks anymore or, in the case of our hospitals, our doctors and nurses aggregating around PCs to type in information, is a very antiquated notion. That doesn't happen anywhere else in your life. But yet when our clinicians come to our hospitals, they're sent back to essentially the 1980s in terms of their computing experience, so we want to replicate the computer experience they have in other aspects of their life, drive mobility, drive interoperability of information, usability, and really revolutionize the footprint of our hospitals.

Then, I think the last thing is really the opportunity for analytics. Analytics -- big data analytics in particular -- are just now starting to come to healthcare and become very relevant. But we're focused now on velocity, which is taking analytics and actually delivering them in a time and a place that they're much more usable than they are today. And I think that's the next big challenge for us in the near future.

Let us know what you think of this story; write to Ben Cole, site editor, at

View All Videos

Start the conversation

Send me notifications when other members comment.

Please create a username to comment.