“I’ve been fortunate to work with several large organizations and with many remarkable people,” opens Will Conaway, Prime Healthcare’s Chief Information Officer and Vice President of Technology. “Prime Healthcare's hospitals have received hundreds of awards for clinical excellence, including more than 200 in the last year alone. Prime’s hospitals have ranked among the “100 Top Hospitals” 47 times according to IBM Watson Health. This is a reflection of the commitment and dedication that our hospitals and clinicians make to our patients every day.” In addition, Prime Healthcare has more Patient Safety Excellence Award recipients for four consecutive years (2016-2019) than any other health system in the country, according to Healthgrades.
Before his move to Prime Healthcare, Conaway worked with several more of the largest healthcare systems in the United States. “A little over a year and a half ago, I decided to join Prime Healthcare because it was a good fit both professionally and culturally,” he says. “I had a plan to become CIO of a large and distinguished healthcare organization, and I’m delighted to be part of Prime Healthcare.” Since Conaway arrived at Prime Healthcare, he has overseen significant growth of the IT department: “There is a renewed positive attitude, an increased vigor, a desire to be a celebrated department. The entire IT leadership team has internalized the goal of becoming a world class IT department.”
The technology strategy that saves hospitals
Conaway states that Prime Healthcare is adept at saving hospitals, and that expertise is at the center of IT and the organization as a whole. “When you consider that Prime Healthcare has gone from one hospital in 2001 to 45 in 2019, you can clearly see this is part of the organization’s culture and DNA,” he explains. Though Conaway is unsure when the next acquisition will be, he says that IT is integral to this decision-making process. He strongly feels that technology should be considered a part of all strategies, as do his fellow C-level executives. “We are very fortunate to have corporate CMOs who are very interested and active in technology, along with divisional Presidents and CEOs who are engaged.” He goes on: “IT strategies only work when IT and other executive leaders communicate well with each other and establish agreed-upon goals and objectives lucidly.”
Exceptional customer care
Conaway says that IT has internal and external customers: the patients and their families, and the providers. “Compared to 2001, Prime Healthcare’s customers have nearly unlimited access to information, and they are much more informed about their healthcare needs and expectations,” he says. “Patients today tend to be more active in their healthcare. As with any industry, the needs of the customer will drive changes, but at times IT in healthcare can't deliver to meet those expectations as quickly as would be desired due to many external forces.” He emphasizes that consumers in the healthcare industry often become customers out of necessity, and can be apprehensive and anxious about interactions.
When it comes to technology and improving customer satisfaction, Conaway says that the Internet of Things (IoT) has provided a new level of personalization and convenience. Yet, despite healthcare's position as a hot market for technology, a business needs to wait for trending products to reach a reasonable price before deciding to adopt. One innovation reaching this point is virtual reality (VR) headsets, which Conaway has been evaluating for potential use in pediatrics. "There is promising evidence with this technology in pain management, and many experts see VR as a US$4bn business by the end of 2020,” he says. “It’s exhilarating that healthcare IT allows non-providers to improve outcomes, and empowers providers with opportunities to not only help their patients, but all patients and even future patients with the insights gleaned from IT.”
Prime Healthcare develops its innovations in-house. “You don’t see this often in a healthcare system setting,” Conaway says. He is proud to confirm that there are currently 30 proprietary applications being used daily, and several more being rolled out across the company’s sites. "These include applications such as KryptosText secure texting, a project management intake tool, a physician rounding tool, and an infection prevention and control application." The organization also has more applications that will improve the patient experience, as well as a budgeting tool. "We have an entire department dedicated to innovation, and we have recently launched our Innovative Design Enhancement Approval (IDEA) Portal that allows cross-team, cross-continent, and cross-level pollination, along with direct access to Senior Leadership approval for new initiatives. We are anticipating great things for this innovation."
A promising future
Looking ahead, Prime Healthcare will build upon its strong foundations in the US. “To say the sky's the limit for healthcare technology would be limiting.” Conaway says. He affirms that this is driven by the collective belief of employees across the company and reflected in its mission statement: ‘to save and improve hospitals so that they can deliver compassionate, quality care to patients and better healthcare for communities.’ It’s a vision that he describes as “truly peerless in the healthcare industry,” and one that has “created a family feel at Prime Healthcare that unites all employees.” On a personal level, Conaway has big plans for his department: “For Prime Healthcare’s IT department, I will also focus on volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity (VUCA). The ability to be prepared and run scenarios will help us stay relevant. Experience has taught me that there will be problems, and those who turn obstacles into opportunities succeed.” With the commitment to empathetic customer service, and building upon the technical excellence of its IT department, Prime Healthcare will continue to revolutionize the healthcare industry.