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Incoming Cleveland Clinic CIO looks to leverage disruptive technology

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As the incoming chief information officer for the Cleveland Clinic, Ed Marx has big shoes to fill. His predecessor, Martin Harris, MD, served as CIO of the healthcare organization for more than 20 years, bringing it into the digital age as an early adopter of the Epic electronic health record system.

Now, the task of leveraging the Cleveland Clinic’s data-rich environment and furthering its well-earned reputation for technological innovation falls to Marx, a seasoned health IT leader who has left his own mark during an impressive 25-year career.

Marx will be returning to Cleveland—a city he knows well—having served in the role of deputy CIO and CIO for eight years at University Hospitals. He then spent eight years as CIO at Texas Health Resources in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, receiving the 2013 John E. Gall Jr. CIO of the Year award from CHIME and HIMSS for his work.

Most recently, over the past two years, Marx has been executive vice president with the Advisory Board, providing IT leadership and strategy for New York City Health + Hospitals, the country’s largest public healthcare system. He is particularly proud of the fact that he has worked at a mix of for-profit, not-for-profit, community-based and urban, academic centers of medicine.

Marx doesn’t start at the Cleveland Clinic until September 1. However, he provided these insights into his new position and the healthcare organization’s HIT priorities.

How do you see the value of health IT for providers like the Cleveland Clinic?

Marx: When we leverage technology, we can enable superior business as well as clinical outcomes. I believe we are poised now for transformational change. Instead of an evolution, I think we’re ready to see a revolution. We’re going to see the same level of disruption that we see in other industries in healthcare. IT is a vital component of making all of that happen.

With the healthcare industry—including the Cleveland Clinic—moving from fee-for-service to value-based care, are there any technologies in particular that you see helping with that transition?

Marx: The most obvious one is around exploiting data and doing something with it—for instance, predictive analytics. Based on everything we know about you as a patient, we should be able to predict what might happen to you in the future, so that we can take actions today so those things don’t happen. Not only does it reduce costs—which is very important—but better than that it lengthens people’s lives and increases the quality of life. As you know, the Cleveland Clinic has a partnership with IBM leveraging Watson to enable that aspect.

Also See: Cleveland Clinic’s IT expansion seen as critical to operations

The other big area that I think is ripe for explosion is the whole area of the virtual hospital. We can’t continue to invest in brick and mortar the way that we have traditionally, because that’s a very high cost way of bringing about healthcare. We want to treat patients in the lowest cost setting possible but with the highest clinical value. So, we can leverage a lot of existing tools today and tools that are still in development to take care of our patients in areas where they don’t have to actually travel to the hospital. Our reach can also be much broader, as a result. From a cost, quality, and growth perspective, virtual care is one of these disruptive forces of the future.

What are the Cleveland Clinic’s top health IT priorities?

Marx: Number one is leveraging technology in ways that enable a much better patient experience. Patients First is the Cleveland Clinic’s guiding principle in ensuring exceptional outcomes, improving population health, and reducing the cost of care. We can’t continue to do healthcare the way that it’s been done for the last 30 or 40 years. Thankfully, the Clinic is one of the world leaders in disrupting that old school model.

What we’ll be partially focused on is optimizing our electronic health record for that patient experience, as well as workflows to make sure our clinicians are as efficient as possible. Implementation has a start and finish, but optimization never ends. To provide high quality service, we will always optimize because we’re always thinking of new and better ways of doing what we do.

When it comes to taking advantage of increased efficiencies and cost savings, the Cleveland Clinic seems to be embracing cloud computing. Is that the case?

Marx: Absolutely. And, wrapped around it are the appropriate security measures. We make an implicit promise to our patients that we will not only give them the highest quality of care, but we’ll always protect their data—whether it’s cloud computing or any other type of computing.

Healthcare organizations have been increasingly targeted by cybercriminals using malware and ransomware. How do providers protect healthcare data from those kinds of threats?

Marx: If you are an organization, it’s not a case of if you’ll get hit but when. The key to focus on is not only a multi-layered cybersecurity strategy that utilizes best practices, but you also need to focus on resiliency. That is to say, how quickly you can recognize that an incident has occurred and how quickly you can mitigate that incident—all without negatively impacting the clinical aspects of your operations.

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