CIO Chat – Patrick Wilson, Contra Costa County Health Services

This is a guest post provided by Patrick Wilson, CIO and CISO at Contra Costa County Health Services. Huntzinger periodically invites its clients and partners to contribute to The Huntzinger Blog.

By Patrick Wilson, CHCIO, CISSP
Chief Information Officer
Chief Information Security Officer
Contra Costa County Health Services

Time in Healthcare
16 years

Time in Current Role
CISO since 2009, and CIO since March 2018.

What are the Greatest Current Challenges Facing Healthcare IT?
I am not sure there is a single greatest challenge. If anything, just like in information security, probably humans are the greatest challenge. Here is why:

  • Not enough trained staff to do the work that is required. Significant effort is spent training staff and then off they go to either another company or to another industry.
  • One-sixth of the GDP is related to healthcare. However, as a safety net hospital/clinic, the funding is not keeping up with the cost of supporting the technical infrastructure required to deliver efficient, safe, and timely care.
  • Humans also want access to all their data, from everywhere, from anything (watch, phone, home health equipment, etc.), so it can be viewed or interacted with on nearly any device (clearly not my Atari 400).
  • Because fewer people are taking up the sciences (e.g., math, etc.), soon we will be relying more and more on automation. Automation is only as good as the human who wrote it.

What will be the Next Major Impact Area of IT on Healthcare?
The next major impact will be a breach of data that is large enough to question the validity of privacy and HIPAA regulations. Though consumers give their data away freely at Facebook, Instagram, etc., there is an expectation of privacy within healthcare. A data exchange will be breached or the mergers between health systems, health plans, and/or drugstores will result in data being used against the will of the consumer/patient. Imagine being a consumer buying beer, cigarettes, or something like that. The data at the health plan that merged with the brick-and-mortar store now knows to raise your rates because of the “habits” that you have.

Big data is great when used for a common good, but there is evil out there, including corporate America, that will use it to increase their profit margins. Remember that father who found out his young daughter was pregnant because Target was using big data and sent the daughter coupons for prenatal vitamins and such? So, if it isn’t a breach of the data, it will be misuse of the data. Remember the Google Engineer who wrote software to pull WiFi information from the vehicles used by Google to take pictures of the roads?

What is the Biggest Challenge of Being a Healthcare CIO?
Right now, the biggest challenge is aligning the new payment models and IT spending. There is a significant gap that will happen over the next five-to-eight years. Though IT will need to optimize and increase efficiency, we will need to do so at the same funding levels. In doing so, we will become more proactive and a part of the business operations. We will need to move away from just being infrastructure and deliver business insights that drive a successful business plan.