CIO Focus Interview: David Chou

CIO focus interviewThis is the fourth installment of our CIO Focus Interview series. This time, I spoke with David Chou, the CIO of a large academic medical center. A recognized thought leader, David is on the Huffington Post’s 2015 list of the top 100 most social CIOs on Twitter, and I would definitely recommend following him. Enjoy!


Ben: Could you give us some background on your IT experience?

David: I was fortunate to be put on the IT fast track. I was your typical college student getting a BA in Computer Science, and somehow I landed an analyst job at a small community hospital in LA. This allowed me to get the opportunity to really understand the health care industry from an operational standpoint. From there, I focused on understanding operations and then finding the right technologies to fit in. I took the opposite approach than most IT professionals do. I dug deep into the operations model and then figured out which technologies worked well and matched them. That approach led to me getting exposure up the food chain that opened some doors for me. One thing I realized when talking to my counterparts who are successful is that you have to grasp opportunities, even if it means disrupting other aspects of your life.


Ben: What is your job like now?

David: Currently, I work at a large academic medical center. In bigger medical centers, there are typically CIOs across all three verticals – healthcare, research, and higher education. Oftentimes, this causes tension and barriers in terms of adoption. In my position, I have control over all three, which is a pretty unique model to have. In addition, we are a public center which also makes us unique in how we operate.


Ben: What are your main responsibilities?

David: Today, I manage day to day operations and an $82 million budget. Early in my career the CIO operated transactional data entry, maintaining mainframes, etc. Now it’s a lot more strategic. Technology should be at the core of every organization. The CIO has to be involved strategically. This means being a part of the executive team and having a seat at the table.

{Follow David on Twitter @dchou1107}

Ben: What areas of IT do you think are having the biggest impact on the industry?

David: Right now the focus is on the “4 pillars” of cloud, mobile, social and big data. Any executive that doesn’t have that vision is not going to be well off in the future. These are extremely important and strategic to me. I am trying to get the organization to adopt the cloud. Organizational culture plays a big role in this. Cloud can be an uncomfortable topic so that’s a barrier. I’m challenging that traditional mindset.

Mobile is also very big for us. Consumers in healthcare want to have personalized medicine. They want to shop for healthcare the same way they shop on Amazon. That’s where I believe healthcare is moving towards – a retail model. Whoever successfully pulls that off first is going to cause a huge disruption. We’re all trying to figure out how to utilize it. We want to be able to predict outcomes and provide the best customer experience possible.

I really believe in the importance of social media and the value of capturing consumer engagement and behavior. In my vertical, it has not been widely adopted yet. The big focus has been on cloud, mobile and big data.


Ben: How are you incorporating those technologies in your organization?

David: We’re in the process of incorporating a hybrid cloud model in our environment. From a budgetary and contractual perspective we’re all ready to go, we’re just getting the organization’s terms and conditions aligned with the cloud  providers. It’s a challenge for us to get public cloud providers to agree to our terms and conditions.

Our Electronic Medical Record system went live a year ago. Four years ago we had disparate systems that took a lot of manual upkeep. The first step to remedying this was moving from manual to digital. Now that we have that new format, we can take a controlled approach. We’ll look into some consumer friendly products that allow users to have access to data and have self-serving and provisioning capabilities. After this is implemented for a year, my goal is to take another look. We’ll have what we need to solve 80% of problems, so the question will be whether or not that extra 20% is worth a full blown BI platform for analytics?


Ben: What advice do you have for other CIOs starting out in the healthcare industry?

David: Take the time to build that relationship with the business. Learn the terms and lingo. Talking tech won’t work with most business executives so you need to adapt. Ultimately, you need to focus on understanding the needs of the customer and solving those needs.


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By Ben Stephenson, Emerging Media Specialist