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May 14: Today on TownHall Sue Schade, Principal at StarBridge Advisors talks with Paul Browne, SVP and Chief Information Officer at Henry Ford Health System. As he shares his journey through the healthcare technology industry and the strategic plan at Henry Ford, key questions surface. How are we redefining patient and workforce engagement in this digital age? How does the idea of 'precision health' disrupt traditional healthcare models and what does this mean in building a more personalized patient-care approach? And importantly, as we innovate healthcare cost structures and experience labor cost rises, how does the role of CIO evolve in terms of workforce development and succession readiness?

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Transcript

This transcription is provided by artificial intelligence. We believe in technology but understand that even the smartest robots can sometimes get speech recognition wrong.

Today on Town Hall

I really do believe that we can move to a world where the human body, maybe in 10 years, is loaded with all kinds of sensors. That are emitting data, that are telling us something may be going wrong long before we have a condition or a symptom and if we can do that, then we can relieve human suffering sort of before it even starts.

My name is Bill Russell. I'm a former CIO for a 16 hospital system and creator of This Week Health.

Where we are dedicated to transforming healthcare, one connection at a time. Our town hall show is designed to bring insights from practitioners and leaders. on the front lines of healthcare. Today's episode is sponsored by ARMIS, First Health Advisory, Meditech, Optimum Health IT, and uPerform. Alright, let's jump right into today's episode.

Hello, I'm Sue Shade, Principal at Starbridge Advisors and one of the hosts for the town hall show at This Week Health. Today, my guest is Paul Brown. He's the SVP and Chief Information Officer at Henry Ford Health System in Detroit. He's been in this role since 2018. Prior to that, he served at Tenet Healthcare and Trinity Health.

After a long and very accomplished health IT career, Paul is retiring this summer, so congrats on that. I'm looking forward to talking with Paul today to hear what he and his team at Henry Ford have been focusing on, as well as his transition plans. Welcome, Paul.

Thanks, Sue. It's a great pleasure to be here with you today.

All right. I'm definitely looking forward to this conversation. So let's start by having you briefly introduce yourself and tell us about Henry Ford Health System.

Sure. I'll start way back, Sue. So I grew up in a family of nine kids. I'm the seventh of nine. My father, when his first child was born, was a teamster.

When his last child was born, he was a radiologist. So, he used to like to say he could break our thumbs and then prove it with an x ray. So, and my mother was a medical social worker. And while she was raising nine kids, got a degree in theology. I just mention that because if Some of the things I say seem a little screwy, you'll know where they came from.

So, I went to the University of Michigan, did an undergrad degree in healthcare economics. And 20 years later did a master's in public health. And along the way, as Sue said, I've spent about 35 years. in the healthcare tech industry started with Accenture, was there for about eight years, then was the CIO at a regional health plan for about five years, CIO at Trinity Health for about a dozen years, and the CIO at Tenet for about six years, and about the last six years at Henry Ford.

So I've seen, Faith based health care investor owned health care academic health care, many different angles, and it's been terrific.

Great. Well, it's the background all the way back. I love hearing it, and it sounds like, probably a Catholic family, but if your mother went into degree in theology, then that would tell me something else, I guess.

This sounds like a conversation we should have another time, Paul. I was raised Catholic, and my husband went into the ministry from IT in the mid 90s, and is now a retired Unitarian Universalist minister, so we probably have stuff to talk about. In that realm.

I think we were raised in a caring environment and that's part of being a CIO is really wanting to extend technology to care for those in need.

So, it's kind of an odd route for people like you and I, but I think it makes sense in certain ways.

Yeah, well and that's absolutely critical is the caring environment and it's not just the clinicians who are touching the patients, but all of us in IT and other areas that support them. I, as I call it, it's part of the extended care team.

So, on that note, what are some of your current priorities? And I would imagine some of them are very patient focused.

Sure thing. Before I do that, Sue, just a quick word on Henry Ford Health. Sure. We're a regional health system in southeast Michigan. We're an academic medical center, so we have the triple mission, if you will, of research, education, and clinical care.

some of our facilities are safety net facilities. Our flagship hospital is a safety net facility. So we have this really interesting three part mission, as well as caring for people in the community who are the very most vulnerable. That makes it very exciting from my perspective.

We have a very large multi specialty employee group, but we have many independent physicians as well. We're about 6 billion year in revenue. We have a sizable health plan about. 400, 000 members or so. And interestingly, the organization was founded by Henry Ford himself in 1915. And the very first beds in the hospital were used to treat patients with drug addiction issues.

And so, in 107 years, we've provided care for a lot of people in a lot of ways, but in some regards, the human condition doesn't change and our goal is to be here 100 years from now to care for those people in need. So, that's a little bit of a background with respect to Henry Ford. With respect to our technology priorities we did just recently refresh our strategic plan as an enterprise.

There's sort of three main pillars. Within that strategic plan the first pillar we call engage the second pillar we call innovate. And the third pillar we call grow. And within each pillar, there are sort of two subcomponents, major subcomponents. So engage is really about engaging patients and members.

And of course, a lot of people think of that as the digital front door or consumer facing digital solution. So all those things that enable patients and members to interact with us the way they want. And as I like to say, let's bring the care to the patients rather than the patients to the care. So wherever we can do remote.

Visits, remote monitoring, telemedicine, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. And then the other part of ENGAGE, it's really about engaging our workforce. And we all know that, for 10 years, healthcare's been on this trajectory of a declining number of nurses and doctors and pharmacists and others to care for patients.

It was really accelerated through COVID. And so now that's become kind of moved from a slow burn issue to a fast burn issue. And strategically we're doing a lot of work to try to understand the demographics of our future workforce and how can we most effectively let everyone operate at top of license and use automation wherever we possibly can

within innovation, there's two sub components. One is innovating with respect to care. We're really focused there on something we call precision health, and a lot of people will think of precision medicine, particularly with respect to using genomics to understand people who may be predisposed to a condition.

and intervening, before the condition manifests itself. We've kind of expanded the concept to what we call precision health, which is really, how do we use every piece of data we can know about an individual? Whether that's genomic data, whether that's behavioral data, whether that's wearable data, how do we put all of that together and start to develop algorithms that say that the composite of this data, or the mosaic that it creates, Is telling us Paul's future trajectory looks like this, so that then we can intervene with Paul in a way that's meaningful to Paul, which is another really important aspect of how we're thinking about precision health.

And we think that's really complementary to population health with the whole idea being, how do we understand disease before it manifests in individuals or groups? and intervene appropriately. And then the other element of innovation, which might not sound terribly innovative, but it's incredibly important, is innovate around cost.

And like most health systems, labor costs now have become more than 50 percent of our cost structure. you know, as everyone knows in health care, most of us are price takers, the payers, the state policymakers, the federal government kind of dictate what we receive in terms of reimbursement.

So we sort of have relatively fixed reimbursement. Costs are rising, particularly labor costs. So how can we really bend the curve on that? One of the things we're doing strategically in Henry Ford is looking across segments of our workforce and identifying very specific segments where we have a lot of people doing a job, where the job could be substantially redefined using new technologies.

And how do we redefine it in a way to take advantage of the technologies? And then, let's not lay off the people. How about if we get them pointed in the work that only humans can do? And really try to make that come to life. So we make this a reduced cost and create more fulfilling careers for people.

So that's what we're focused on there. And then in the growth pillar, there's really, two elements. Microsoft One element is, really having what we call facilities that are destinations of care. So, we are rebuilding a 107 year old flagship facility in downtown Detroit that's about 850 beds today.

We're going to redevelop an entire campus, revitalize a whole neighborhood in the city of Detroit. There will be not only an acute care hospital, but an ambulatory surgery center, cancer center, lots of green space. research facilities to enable our research partnership with Michigan State University, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

And so we really want to create a campus where people say, you know what, I need care. That's where I want to be. That's where I want to go. And the other aspect of growth is really this notion Of really extending the concept of population health. So how do we grow in the sense of extending our mission to all of those populations we serve?

Whether they're seeking care from us or not, whether they need care or not. How do we keep our communities healthier? How do we understand them with analytics? How do we know what kind of interventions are appropriate? How do we deliver those digitally wherever we can? So again, the population health we think is very complementary with our concept of precision health.

And we're excited about all of those strategies. So, and IT is playing a big role in bringing all of those to life

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. Okay, that is quite long list. And aggressive plans. I love it. So thank you for that. I'm trying to figure out where do we go from here in terms of unpacking some of it? And maybe if you can give us some examples of um, it obviously is in the middle of it all and supporting all of it.

Are there any key areas that you wanna talk about in support of those strategies that you and your team are working on?

Well, one of the furthest along is really engaging patients and members and really. We're an EPIC shop, we're very highly standardized on EPIC, and basic things like how do we get really high levels of adoption of MyChart or whatever your version of a portal or an app is, so that you can enable things that are related to population health, like proactive outreach, like Thank you.

Plans of care where the patient actually engages with the clinicians in their own care. So I would say, that area of engaging our patients and members is one that's maybe the most mature, furthest along, and I think we're doing a lot of exciting stuff. We're getting a ton of adoption. People like the idea that they can manage their financials with an app.

They like that they can manage their health with an app. And I think that's really, A great thing. As somebody who's been responsible for the care of several people in their 80s for the last several years, when you can do virtual visits and when you can do interactions digitally rather than having to bring someone to an office or facility, it's a game changer.

And as an industry, I think we need to do that in every corner we can.

Absolutely. I think

what holds maybe the most promise for the future I get really excited about is this notion of precision health because most people come to us when they're suffering. People generally don't seek care because they feel great and everything's going wonderful in their life.

I really do believe that we can move to a world where the human body, maybe in 10 years, is loaded with all kinds of sensors. That are emitting data, that are telling us something may be going wrong long before we have a condition or a symptom or something else that triggers us. And if we can do that, then we can relieve human suffering sort of before it even starts.

And so I really get excited about moving things upstream. And I also refer to that as the Growing area of bioconvergence, where I think the science like anatomy and biology are becoming infused with information technology. And the example I'd like to use with people is I think Zimmer last year released a knee implant that has a little half inch pod that sticks out of the knee implant.

It's bloated with Bluetooth sensors and emitters. And if you think about what it can do then is we no longer need every patient who's had a knee implant. Surgery replacement, seeing an orthopedic surgeon two weeks a month, two months after the visit. Because the data can provide information on gait, range of motion, balance, number of steps.

We can feed that into a machine that says, Paul, you're on track. Keep going. Sue, we're a little concerned about you. We'd like to get you into a visit pretty soon. Let's get that scheduled for you. That's where we need to be if we're going to make healthcare work for everyone. So I get excited about, 5 to 10 years from now, these concepts of bioconvergence really.

Coming to life in a bigger way.

That's awesome. And when you first mentioned it, 10 years from now, we'd have all these sensors. I have to think about John Halanta, who had a chip implanted many years ago. not sure what all it does or the purpose, but you're not hearing that much about those kinds of things.

So is this something that Henry Ford is actively working on at this point?

We are working on some things. The reason it's of interest to me is I think as CIOs and healthcare technology professionals, we've all gotten very good at understanding revenue cycle and supply chain and scheduling and even EMRs, but we've not really been historically in the science of care.

And I think there's a lot to be had. infusing computing and data and networks with the actual science of care. And so what I would urge all of our IT colleagues and leaders to do sort of in the next iteration of being CIOs is get really close to the scientists in your organization, get really close to the physicians and start to explore the kinds of things I just talked about.

From a couple of directions, I mean, the knee implant I just talked about, there's probably a lot of people going, holy smokes, there's so many security concerns about that. That's going to be a massive amount of data. How will we store it? And it's our obligation to think about those things and prepare for it.

It's also exciting to think about, that potential and how we enable it. And so, I hope there's a generation of CIOs that follow us that are very comfortable getting into kind of these scientific discussions. And those are the things I think can really make a difference over time.

Great I want to make sure we pivot to your future plans.

I'm not sure we're ready to do that yet. Let's, we've talked about technology. We've talked about bioconvergence, some of the things that you're focused on in support of the strategy. Let's talk for a minute about how we develop the talent and the workforce of the future, because you're talking about.

That next generation of CIOs and what you hope that they would be doing and focusing on. What steps have you taken to develop the workforce of the future in IT there?

So one thing, Sue, I want to say off the bat is for most of my career, like the first two thirds, I really sucked at this kind of concept.

I just wasn't nearly as attentive to it as I should be. But at Henry Ford, I'm very proud That what we did with our IT leadership team is let's not think about succession planning, let's think about succession readiness.

And

to me, what succession readiness is, has been for the last five or six years, is taking the different IT executives that report to me and saying, I'll tell you what, why don't you go do this meeting instead of me?

Why don't you go do this presentation? Why don't you talk to the board instead of me? And I'll tell you what, I'll coach you up ahead of time, and I'll do prep work with you, and I'll do debrief after. But let's put the folks who report to us into our positions in little ways, and be very deliberate about that through time.

And, let them struggle and stuff. And, you know, as you know, our roles are There's no textbook, it's very situational. It's about being able to respond sort of in the moment, and that's learned through experience. So at Henry Ford, when I arrived, there were a few of our IT leaders who had FHIR, Applied for the job that I ultimately got.

The organization didn't feel that they were ready, but I from day one said, when I leave, I want to feel like there's a couple people here who are really viable successors and can carry on this organization, provide continuity. And there are. And, a couple of them are in the process right now of applying and interviewing for the role.

And I think we have many people, many executives in the organization who are very comfortable with that and that notion of promoting from within. But it's because we've been very, deliberate. Another thing I've done a lot of over the last several years is My peer executives, I've spent a considerable amount of time talking about everybody who reports to me.

What I see is their pros and cons. Why I'm having them interact with my peer instead of me. That's deliberate. So, I think maybe morphing the concept of succession planning to be more succession readiness.

Yep.

Might be a way to think about that.

I love the concept and I think when Bill Russell listens to this interview, he's gonna love what you're saying because he talks about mentoring and basically exposing people to opportunities to your network and, how to help them to grow.

And it sounds like you're doing a lot of that with your leadership team. That's great. So, you are going to be retiring soon. You've talked about the concept of succession readiness. Some of the folks on your team who are interested in going through the process so that you'll be transitioning to a new leader.

How are you approaching the next few months?

Well, how I'm approaching the next few months is we're in the process of identifying, my successor. Once that person is named, I'll work very closely with them, on the mechanics and the tactics of, I was doing this, you need to do this, here's the backstory, all that, you know, kind of jazz.

What I'm also doing is talking to people within the health system right now to say, Are there areas where I could provide value to the health system on a part time basis going forward, maybe one to two days a week, continuing to work on this notion of bioconvergence and the thing that keeps in my brain is as CIOs, healthcare leaders, Be real, we spend 99 percent of our energy on this month, this year, 1 percent on next year, almost nothing beyond that.

But we live in a world where these technologies keep coming at us, and we're always reacting. I'd like to help get out of that cycle and say maybe there's a role for me to be focusing on things that are 2, 3 plus years into the future. And maybe I can help the organization sort out the wheat from the chaff.

And help

the organization figure out some small things we should be doing in the next couple years to be ready for that future. So I want to keep talking to people within the system about that concept. I want to help in some way health systems in this country be ready for a future where science and technology are fused together and can really change health care.

I don't know what form that'll take, maybe some advisory services to organizations. But all that said, my primary reason for retiring from full time executive work is I do want to spend more time with my wife. And, I encourage the people who work for me to. It's hard to say but we all have a limited amount of time and we need to make sure we're spending time doing the things we want to do with the people we love and it's easy to get into a cycle where that doesn't happen and so I'm also in retirement just really looking forward to Having coffee time for three hours instead of three minutes.

And that's living life in a little bit more balanced way, I guess, would be one way to say it.

Yeah, I love it. That's another conversation you and I could have certainly some point. and, maybe advice to people who are younger in their careers who still have a lot of years ahead of them to make sure they're finding that balance, so they don't get to a burnout point.

It's like, okay, the way I'm going to find it is I'm going to, cut back and go to semi retirement or full retirement. This is great. I would love to catch up with you again. when you're done in, if you have been successful in positioning what you're talking about at Henry Ford. Because it sounds like an area of need there, and in probably many organizations, if CIOs are maybe limited in their time and ability to be looking ahead several years, like you're talking about, we need to be doing.

So that's great. We're coming to the end here, so I just want to check. Is there anything else that you want to highlight that we haven't covered?

All I would say to you, Sue, is, for folks who might be listening to this or watching this, if they want to reach out and chat about this, that, or the other thing I'm very happy to do that.

I really want to help healthcare, healthcare professionals exist to relieve human suffering. It's the most important thing we can possibly be doing. And if there's anything I can do to help healthcare professionals be successful I want to do it. So don't be shy. And we'll go from there.

Great.

for being able to speak with you, Sue.

Absolutely. I assume people can find you on LinkedIn.

Probably not. They can find me through you. I am one of those. I am very, Intentionally, like, hiding from the digital world myself.

Oh, boy. Okay. Well, okay. So I've now become your agent. Is that right?

Because people know how to find me, Paul. There

is a method to my madness.

There you go. Well, we have a shared passion in terms of healthcare. So happy to help and connect people to you anywhere I can. So thank you very much. This has been a pleasure. Take care. Bye bye. Bye.

Thanks for listening to this week's Town Hall. A big thanks to our hosts and content creators. We really couldn't do it without them. We hope that you're going to share this podcast with a peer or a friend. It's a great chance to discuss and even establish a mentoring relationship along the way.

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