Ken LawonnKen Lawonn of Sharp HealthCare discusses security, public cloud and the Internet of Things.

We’ve published excerpts of interviews Sean Ferrel and his Managed Solution team have conducted with Todd Stewart, VP of global infrastructure and IT operations for Western Digital, Gavriella Schuster, corporate vice president, one commercial partner with Microsoft, and Jeromy Giacosa, IT director with Accriva Diagnostics. We’re happy to share this interview Sean conducted with Ken Lawonn, senior vice president and chief information officer with Sharp HealthCare.

Here are excerpts from the interview:

What are the top three areas of focus for IT executives?

Security is one of the top three areas because it can cause both financial and reputational damage. Analytics is a big focus for us, especially in healthcare, because we spend so much time automating our data. Now, we have to spend time figuring out how to leverage that data. The third one is incorporating a digital strategy and how we transform operations. In healthcare, we have to move out of this operational model toward a digital model and how we leverage clinical data to make better decision-making. Healthcare is data-rich, knowledge-poor. We have all this unstructured data and have to figure out how we bring all of that data together.

What’s your take on public cloud?

We have been hesitant because of privacy issues. Early on, the public providers couldn’t support business associate agreements. Cloud is revolutionizing the way computing is provided. It’s changing the way we think about computing. Hybrid clouds have shifted an alternative view to the public cloud. It’s really large-scale computing served up on demand. It’s changing the way we think about it and the way other providers think about computing services. I think it’s the early phase of where we are headed.

How is IT helping to drive revenue through the company?

We are looking at taking our current assets to expose those services to more people and make them more readily available through things like telehealth, video-based, online services which allow us to extend services without having to build new buildings, or have people come to us. Using technology makes things more convenient for individuals. You can schedule an online visit with a physician, or a nurse practitioner, and use it for follow-up visits. It doesn’t always make sense for you to come back in. Very easily, you can do things online, at your convenience, and even after hours. We use technology to understand if we are providing the best treatment, and make sure we are not penalized or making sure we are effectively leveraging our payment process. and that we are effectively leveraging technology to help increase revenues.

We partner with Cerner primarily and do some work with Allscripts. We look at what technologies can run those platforms, then we pick a storage partner to work with. It’s not unusual for a healthcare organization to have hundreds of applications that they are supporting.

What could the Internet of Things for your business look like?

We see it as huge, both in what it provides us and the elements to support it. Today, we have invested heavily into integrating medical devices into our electronic data records, from pumps to monitors. We are going to make all the devices able to communicate, in kind of a standard that we can accept and look at. We have chronic patients with diabetes or congestive heart failure. We need to keep track of them at home to see if they are weighing themselves, etc. We have devices that can relay that information automatically to us so we don’t have to go out to their home. We see tremendous advantage in using those kinds of capabilities. We can monitor and track patients to provide better care at a lower cost. Having a connected world of all these devices helps healthcare leverage continued monitoring and the movement toward consumer involvement in their health.

What kind of messaging is coming down from the CEO/key executives about their partnership with IT? 

We’ve gone from IT being a backend service, to being partners with the business, which is still a critical approach. It is the engine for business transformation and growth. There is hardly anything we look at that doesn’t have technology involved in some way. There is so much technology available. Pick the right technology and hold people accountable to leverage it and provide value. We have to think about how we bend the cost curve. We can’t keep increasing the spend if there isn’t some return. We have to work together and they want us to make it simple, make it work. How do we transform to become a different kind of business, become more of a digital, real-time business? You can’t just keep adding cost. Everyone likes to add stuff, nobody likes to take things away.

Has the idea of using the cloud changed your mindset of using outsourced/managed services?

It’s changed the outsourcing model. We used to think it was turning it over to someone else. Now we think of purchasing services, and renting storage as a service. It’s just different thinking. The message we keep saying is let’s stop worrying about who owns it or where is it physically. Let’s think about what’s the best way to provide a service to our organization and that’s just different today than it used to be.

If you could give guidance to any IT manager/director about how they position their careers what would you tell them?

If they want to be successful, they have to invest in knowing the business and the customers they are serving and how to form a partnership with key business leaders to support, grow and sometimes transform that business. They are relying on you to help them understand what can be applied and what the requirements are and how to leverage them. Think about your resources differently. Do you have to own it or can you rent it?

(Editor’s note: To read the full interview with Lawonn, click here.)

-- Sean Ferrel, Managed Solution