This week we were joined by AltaMed’s CMIO Dr. Eric Lee and SVP/CIO Ray Lowe to share the principles and best practices that other clinical and administrative organizations can adopt to ensure success. AltaMed is a leading health care system providing care to more than 300,000 Southern California residents at 35 accredited locations. Eric and Ray have served together for over 2 years and are co-leading the digital transformation of AltaMed, making them ideal candidates to explore the topic further.
What is the one key component of a great CIO/CMIO relationship?
Eric – “Constant communication. It’s probably an overstated and overused phrase, but I believe that it is completely necessary to develop a great dyad partnership. It won’t work if you have a one-on-one meeting scheduled once a week. The communication needs to be constant and consistent. Ray and I communicate multiple times a day to keep each other updated on what is going on in our respective worlds.
Ray – “Additionally, I would like to say integrity is key. The basis of the word is “integer” which means one and moving in the right direction. Dr Lee and I have such good integrity with each other, and we view things as how to we reach that ultimate goal. When we start going sideways, we quickly realize it or one of us will, as we are so in tune with each other that we check each other. If someone is having a stressful day, your counterpart reads that and gets it. We can talk through it together and maintain that integrity of what we are looking to deliver in terms of our health care systems.
Do you think close proximity to each other is essential for a great working relationship?
Ray - Originally Dr Lee was on the third floor and I was on the first floor. In IT healthcare you’re usually located on the first floor or in the basement by the morgues, but actually Dr Lee does sit next door to me. This makes it very easy for us to have quick check-ins, but also with the advent of covid, social distancing and remote working, Dr Lee and I are not always together every day anymore. Therefore, we needed to work out how to use out collaboration tools to stay close. Video is important to share the information, collaborate and continue to talk, but there is also strong value in that interpersonal contact to keep that relationship strong.
Eric – Working in close proximity makes it a lot easier, but you still have to make that effort to communicate. It shouldn’t feel like effort. It should be effortless and if it’s not then that is what you work on to make sure you’re constantly communicating. Call, text, use a tool like Teams… Keep the communication open.
Has there a time where you conflicted or disagreed with each other?
Ray – The example that jumps out to me is remote patient monitoring. There are many, many providers in that space that are vying for your business and Dr Lee was so enamored with one. He absolutely loved it and I wasn’t quite sold that this was the right solution for us. Our approach to resolving these issues to walk our six-story parking structure. If we have a conflict, take a pause, go for a walk all the way up to the top and all the way down to the bottom, talking about it as we go, until we reach a resolution.
Lee – Sometimes it can be different perspectives about how approach problems. It is really an understanding that we are all human beings, and we are all built differently.
What can a CMIO and CIO do to keep strengthening their relationship?
Ray - There’s the concept of control and whether you need to control it all. I think that Dr Lee and I have a very good mutual respect of our areas and we do not micromanage each other. We trust each other and that we are each doing the right thing.
Lee – We have a shared vision, and we have an approach of a mobile first strategy for our patients and providers and how we are going to enable that. There are core components to each of them. We naturally divide the work and respectfully go off to work on our own components. Again, it goes back to communication and integrity. I trust Ray implicitly and he has that same trust and integrity in me. That is how we complement each other.
The Summary Key Components to a successful collaborative relationship:
Physical proximity is also very helpful but not essential!