Tampa General CIO Scott Arnold: Consumer-like conveniences will be a growing demand [Q&A]

Tampa General Hospital is in the midst of revamping its digital presence, with a focus on creating consumer-facing conveniences.

The program, a very large undertaking, according to Chief Information Officer Scott Arnold, is a combination of the work of lead strategists, the head of marketing and IT.

"Consumer-like conveniences are going to become more of a demand as the population shifts to a higher concentration of the Millennial age and below," Arnold (pictured), who also is the vice president of the Florida hospital, tells FierceHealthIT.

Some of the components of the digital presence makeover will include a more robust mobile presence, and enhanced innovations such as apps, self-scheduling, e-visits, video visits and personalized health. Integration of fitness wearables and patient data into the patient portal will also be key, he says.

The healthcare industry is 10 to 15 years behind the times when it comes to technology, Arnold says, and must provide the conveniences people already get in other realms of life.

"When was the last time that you called to order a pizza?" he says. "These days, people mostly can do that right from their phone."

Currently, the digital makeover at Tampa General is "in the very formative stage," but it will be remarkably different in about six months, Arnold says.

In this exclusive interview, Arnold also speaks about other initiatives under way at the hospital, his management style, and how CIOs can stay relevant. 

FierceHealthIT: Tell me a little about projects under way at Tampa General.

Arnold: I think we have a very healthy mix of both strategical and tactical initiatives under way. On the strategic front, we're in the final stages of completing an extension of our electronic health record system to our major academic partner, USS Health. We're also preparing for significant outpatient growth with the construction and planning of multiple ambulatory centers throughout Tampa Bay.

In addition, we're building the foundation for a clinically-integrated network in a joint venture with Florida Hospital. We also have a handful of tactical initiatives underway; for instance, we're in the final readiness and preparation stage for ICD-10 implementation on Oct. 1.

FierceHealthITHow are you handling security and privacy of patient information?

Arnold: I handle cybersecurity really as a strategy. It's no longer tactical for me. It's a strategic thread inside of everything we do.

On the front, we have a chief information security officer accountable directly to me, and we have, over the last 24 months, doubled our investment in cybersecurity operations and personnel to safeguard patient and employee information. We've not only doubled our investment, but we take a very conservative approach to cybersecurity. It's a balance between convenience and security, and I lean more toward the side of security.

FierceHealthITWhat is your management style? How do you run things at Tampa General?

Arnold: I am blessed with an ambitious aggressive and talented group, so style-wise I extend quite a bit of trust to much more talented folks around me. I will tend to surround myself with people much smarter than me to do the work they do well. I also manage by the numbers; I would say that metrics and performance mean a lot to me.

FierceHealthITWhat do you enjoy the most about your job?

Arnold: The interesting part is getting out on rounds with clinicians on patients. That, by far, has been the most interesting thing to see how the investments we make in technology contribute to making our patients heal and making them better. That puts an entirely different perspective on things, and I would suggest to other CIOs if they're sitting behind a desk and they haven't had that perspective on rounding on patients, that they should do that.

FierceHealthITWhat is your biggest challenge?

Arnold: What's exhausting is just keeping up with technology changes. Technology turns over so often, every 15 months there's something new. So staying contemporary and keeping up. I think we do it well, but it is by far the most changing part.

FierceHealthITHow will health IT changes and advancements impact the position of CIO, going forward?

Arnold: The healthcare CIO will remain relevant for the foreseeable future, only as long as they're not standing still. If they're letting grass grow under their feet or not making the case to stay technologically relevant, than it's going to cost them.

If they're standing still, they're going to be left behind and rendered irrelevant and, in some way, shape or form, someone is going to accomplish their work for them. That may be an outside source or an alternate health system or the marketing department, to be quite honest. For the next year healthcare CIOs will remain relevant, but they have to keep their feet moving.

Editor's Note: This interview has been condensed for clarity and content.

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