Dr. Baber Ghauri, CMIO at St. Mary Medical Center and Trinity Health shares his clairvoyant insight into the future of US healthcare
Dr. Baber Ghauri is a practicing physician executive working across multiple health-focused industries creating and employing innovative technology towards the care of his patients and healthcare associates. He has been recognized for an unparalleled record of success and believes that the greatest asset of any organization is not its product or services, but its people. His evidence-based, analytical approach to problem-solving is tempered by a thoughtful, caring, inquisitive character that enjoys a good challenge.
He serves Trinity Health as East Division CMIO and St. Mary Medical Center as CMIO and along with two other partners, has established a wonderful new medical practice in the rapidly emerging field of Integrative Holistic Medicine. Dr. Ghauri is also a doctrepreneur having multiple successes and failures in a number of startups. He enjoys speaking (and learning) and is frequently an invited speaker both locally and nationally. Baber feels it imperative to “pay it forward” through his volunteer work and through social media including multiple active blogs.
Baber spends every free minute he has with his expansive family which is centered on his wife and three young boys. They enjoy playing sports, eating new foods, visiting new places, and wasting as much time as they can immersing themselves in video games!
Sajid Khan: Baber, thank you very much for taking the time out of your busy schedule for this interview. Can you begin by sharing your perspective on the role of CMIO at St. Mary Medical Center?
Baber: Like at every health organization, the CMIO role at SMMC continues to evolve. More now than ever before, prerequisite to the CMIO role is strong leadership and knowledge of clinical process and workflows. Contrary to what many think, comprehensive knowledge of technology is not a requirement! As a matter of fact, it can often get in the way of effective HIT implementation.
I’ve shared a more detailed account of this perspective through a recent blog post: “Every Organization has a CMIO”
Tomorrow’s CMIO needs to take the data that she has spent the last decade collecting in disparate systems and turn it into actionable information that drives everyday clinical and business decision-making. The latter takes an increasingly profound level of understanding in multidisciplinary areas including regulatory, business, sociological, political, technological, and clinical fields.
SK: In your opinion, what have been some of the biggest challenges faced by Healthcare industry and Hospitals during the last few years?
Baber: This is easy- we ran out of money!
Inability to meet budgets and massive globalization of data through the Internet has exposed the American health system for what it really is- incompetent in the area of population health. This realization has triggered a massive overhaul of every health care process beginning with the very infrastructure for care documentation and delivery through the Meaningful Use initiatives into the use of analytics which is now required to drive performance under MACRA payment models. With very few exceptions, we are well-beyond the initial challenge of digitizing our care delivery, that ship has now sailed.
SK: How effective is St. Mary Medical Center in innovating and where do you see your company by the year 2020?
Baber: SMMC is a part of Trinity Health and we have an EI:EIO (not kidding, it’s the Enterprise Innovation: Enhancements, Ideas, and Opportunities) process that was at first heavily criticized, but is now proving to be a saving grace in our innovation processes of late. This process allows equal opportunity for all members of the medical community to propose innovative opportunities to improve care. With almost two years under this model, we are finally beginning to catch our stride with it and it continues to become more streamlined. With all the benefits our size brings, it is also our biggest challenge as agility often becomes sacrificed.
SK: What trends do you see ending their life cycle, what are some trends that you see for the future, for your industry?
Baber: Well, I’m a huge fan of a wonderful a new technology called block chain. Blockchain will revolutionize the way we exchange digital information and has innumerable application in multiple business and social arenas. Physician credentialing, payments, and documentation of care are only the tip of the iceberg here and finally have a platform that is inherently secure for data management will help us move beyond a number of real constraints that prevent us from advancing our organizational agenda.
Now that the majority of our healthcare organizations are digitized, optimizing our systems and establishing true interoperability akin to the way ATMs standardized American banking in the 80s will be absolutely necessary before we will be able to have any significant improvement in the quality of our health care delivery. The challenge will be how we figure out a way to standardize individualized care for all patients.
Finally, we are now witnessing the end of Disease-based management- it doesn’t work. Like it or not, value-based purchasing is putting some of the smartest and most caring people in our society (this includes doctors, nurses, healthcare administrators, and health care staff) on the spot to finally do the right thing for our patients. We are being held to a new standard that must ultimately lead to better care processes and terrific outcomes, or else. Our population is realizing that pharmaceuticals are only ONE intervention for chronic disease. The rapidly expanding body of evidence demonstrating that the majority of our chronic disease is due to poor diet and lifestyle choices is making the Big Food industry the next Tobacco industry. I would strongly encourage anyone to checkout NutritionFacts.org to see Dr. Michael Greger’s daily video post on nutrition in medicine- in one video, he appropriately suggests, “Ask your doctor when was the last time he was taken out to dinner by Big Broccoli?”
SK: How does your organization mitigate risk due to change in technology?
Baber: We don’t have a choice. Trinity Health does a fair to good job adopting technology for the betterment of our patients. We struggle primarily because of our immense size and therefore it takes quite a bit longer for us to adopt clearly viable technology. This loss of agility is offset by our efficiency and buying power and once we have the interoperability previously discussed, it will be less of an issue.
SK: What’s been your greatest achievement in your career thus far?
Baber: Wow- this is like choosing your favorite child- on a System level, the work that I’ve done in establishing electronic documentation across our health system has probably had the most impact. At the time, it was the very first standard informatics initiative in our health system and is the foundation of every episode of care in the inpatient setting. Surprisingly for me, it was extremely well-received and has been revised very little since its initial inception. The impact of this is measured in millions of patient-days a year and it is hard to believe I will ever have the opportunity to contribute so dramatically to the care of our patients ever again.
On a more personal level, implementing the iQuery solution at my hospital and then across the health system was my favorite.
I’ve shared this idea and its implementation through the following blog post: http://medanalytics.salusphysicians.com/2015/05/iquery-it-was-right-under-our-nose.html
SK: What is your leadership style? Does it vary within the role?
Baber: Hmmnn… I’ve been extremely fortunate to have been surrounded by phenomenal leaders throughout my life. Beginning with my parents and extended family members through the present day, I aspire to be among “those that lead” per Simon Sinek’s ground-breaking work on leadership. In other words, I try to establish authority as the defining characteristic of my leadership style because authority is an earned privilege especially when compared with power. Leaders need to inspire others to perform at their highest level and in doing so, should themselves be elevated. Finally, I believe that one cannot be a leader until their followers have become leaders themselves. I’m old enough now to see this happen occasionally!!
SK: What advice would you offer to our readers who aspire to follow in your footsteps?
Baber: This is very easy- have fun doing whatever it is that you’re doing! The rest will follow itself.
I don’t know anyone else that has taken the path that I have taken to my current station and I firmly believe that our most gratifying successes come from blazing our own unique path to our destination(s). If you’re not having fun, do something else until you do!
SK: Is there anything else you would like to share with other fellow C-level executives?
Baber: Yes, BE COLLABORATIVE!!! The tremendous success of the human race since the turn of the 20th century is by far due to the level of collaboration and sharing that the people of the Earth have achieved because of the Internet. Competition is good and an important part of any market, but I can guarantee you that the opposing team knew every play in the playbook of even the most dominant champions in basketball, football and virtually all organized sports. The difference was the ability of the Championship team to EXECUTE. Share your playbook with anyone and everyone and watch others do the same for you to raise the tide for our patients and society at large!
Also, Seinfeld was the least funny member of the often-fabled Seinfeld syndicated sitcom series. Even as a professional comedian, he routinely allowed his colleagues and associates to shine brightest elevating the show to previously unsurpassed ratings now regarded as one of the greatest television shows of all time. Celebrate the success of all of us in health care- it is an unprecedented time for the majority of us and acknowledging even our most minor, mundane achievements will lead us to reach even our most outrageous goals and outcomes- it is possible!