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Digital as a Tool, not a Strategy: A Conversation with Christopher Longhurst
Posted by The HCI Group
on April 12, 2022 at 9:17 AM

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In a recent episode on the DGTL Voices Podcast, Chris and Ed discussed the details and the importance of a Chief Digital Officers ability to collaborate with clinicians. Chris shared his story and explained how to get involved in CDO or CIO roles with a clinician background or starting from scratch with some of the most important takeaways being:

  • Real world experience and mentoring
  • Role models
  • Formal education or training

Ed Marx stated, “The more crossover, the better. When you bring the two together, is when you see the most transformation and understanding various parts of the spectrum is important. Where do you see the industry going?”

Chris explained that “digital health is not a strategy, it is a tool that is used to help accomplish your goals as a health system” as he began to explain some on his strategic goals. “One of our strategic goals is to expand our clinical network. As we execute on that goal, digital health tools have been critical. We have extended our electronic health record platform to a number of our affiliate members in our clinically integrated network. We have extended our analytics platform and we are even partnering with our medical education team to use that platform to help measure outcomes on medical education and to deliver clinical research in a way to the patient community that we would not otherwise be able to deliver without the partnerships of these affiliate practices” Chris shared.

He explained how critical it has also been to adopt a mobile strategy. Things such as Telehealth have been able to help reduce the time of data entry and burnout. Using all these tools together and thinking about how to help the mission and vision of the health system as it delivers care to the community is essential. Chris mentioned, “Our goal is to be regionally dominant and nationally prominent.” Digital health is one of the top ways we will be able to deliver on those goals.

CDO With a Clinical Background

Growing up in the country with an interest in information technology is the backbone of how Chris Longhurst evolved into who he is today. Growing up in a rural area with no driver’s license allowed him to be creative with technology. Chris figured out that he could speak with people all over the country and world if he plugged the back of his computer into the telephone and joined bulletin boards.

Later, while attending college, he was pursuing his interests in molecular biology and science while still also being interested in information technology. In medical school to become a practicing physician is where he was introduced to informatics and that was able to cement his career.

In the midst of his successful career, Chris made a move down to UC San Diego. He has transformed the digital infrastructure of how care is delivered, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Without the sophisticated data and analytics platforms, their response team would not have been able to respond.

Achievements at UC San Diego

His team’s response to the pandemic is one of Chris’s proudest achievements. Without the use of their EHR and digital health infrastructure, it would have been impossible in the early days of COVID-19 to still be caring for patients. Things such as Telehealth, Telemedicine, and even remote work for his employees all played a large part in their success as a team.

Some other accomplishments Chris has been a part of was UC San Diego opening the very first vaccine super station in the state of California and one of the first in the country. They joined the National Vaccine Credential Initiative to help support and enhance the smart health card standard that is now adopted across half of the U.S. states as a means of digitally validating clinical information.

They also published one of the first studies in the New England Journal in March of 2021 showing the real-world effectiveness of vaccines in their employee population which was determined by mandated testing. With the Delta surge, they realized many fully vaccinated employees were experiencing break through infections in contrast to what they were hearing from the CDC at the time. They were able to publish that data in September 2021 in the New England Journal. Their data was directly used by the FDA and CDC when recommending booster shots for all healthcare workers. Participating in national initiatives and influencing national policy has been rewarding for him and his team.

To listen to the full conversation between Chris Longhurst and Ed Marx, click the link below: https://www.thehcigroup.com/podcast