The University of California (UC) is the premier public research institution with 10 campuses, 6 health systems and 3 national laboratories. Each year it serves more than 270,000 students, conducts billions of dollars of sponsored research, and cares for more than 5 million patients across the state of California. Tom Andriola, University of California VP & CIO, based at the University of California Office of the President (UCOP), oversees the IT function across the UC system, which includes 9,000 IT staff. To foster innovation within an organization of that size and scale, he believes it is key to engage and collaborate across locations, applying lessons learned and leveraging strengths and focal areas. While Andriola’s perspective is shaped by his experience as a global business and technology executive, he is pragmatic in his approach to the pursuit of innovation and collaboration at the university. In this interview, he discusses UC’s continued pursuit of cloud technology, exit from the data center business, and utilization of commonalities across campuses to drive efficiency and scale. He also shares his approach to consistent communication using social media and a blog, and his view on how best to tackle the broad area of population health management.
One of the things that my global experiences gave me was a great understanding of diversity and that environments aren’t better or worse, they’re just different. In all the situations I’ve been presented with, I’ve taken the approach of identifying the best pieces available and putting them together in ways that create unique competitive advantage.
The fact that we have six semi-autonomous health enterprises that are also collective on some level, allows us to collaborate on initiatives while pursuing them in a timeframe appropriate for each institution. We collaborate on vendor selection criteria, but it may be at different points in the road map for each entity. One institution then can pave the road for another, so the others can follow with less friction.
There is also the element of getting that story to the rest of the system and outside world to inform and educate our executives, customers, students, and patients. It reinforces our message that IT is not just a cost center, but in fact is a strategic enabler for the university and its mission.
Population health is not just a way for us to manage care and dollars, it’s also a means for us to find where we need to energize the level of innovation.
Campbell: You come from a background at Philips and joined the University of California as vice president in 2013. You’re very active on social media and very active in the community, especially with the upcoming conference. With that, can you provide background about yourself, what brought you into health information technology and some of the initiatives you are working on?
Andriola: As you mentioned, I worked for Philips globally, where I built an IT services group running a global transformation program and running IT operations across three continents. The program was essential, after a series of acquisitions, to bring the business back in-line with profit expectations for their $6B medical device business. From there I moved into a General Manager role leading the company’s largest healthcare informatics business at the time. It was at the point that healthcare finally decided that it was an information-centric industry and started to move away from its focus on better and faster medical devices (in our case scanners) and concentrate instead on the value they were creating for clinicians and patients with the data coming out of the scanner. Then I focused on new business development and built a portfolio of IT software and services businesses in growth markets such as Brazil, China and India. Philips is a very global company, and these roles gave me the opportunity to not just travel the world but live in other places and build teams in completely different cultures.
In 2013, I transitioned to the University of California, the world’s most prestigious public research university. UC is a $33B organization that contributes in the areas of teaching, research, healthcare and public service. It consists of many entities – 10 campuses and 6 health systems, with more than 220,000 employees and 270,000 students, and $11B in patient revenues. It also co-manages 3 national laboratories. My experiences with Phillips provided me with the opportunity to step right in and help the academic medical centers figure out how the digital healthcare world was going to affect them. It also allowed me to show UC how to take advantage of the unique capabilities that academic medical centers have in terms of tertiary and quaternary care for the most complex patient populations and leverage not just technology but also, more importantly, the data to improve the quality of medicine, improve patient access, and drive down the cost of care.
Campbell: I appreciate that background. In terms of your global experience, and coming from the vendor side, how did that shape you as a healthcare leader. You’ve previously shared your philosophy on the importance of communication and collaboration. If you could, elaborate on that and speak to how that’s leveraged in your role with UC.
Andriola: One of the things that my global experiences gave me was a great understanding of diversity and that environments aren’t better or worse, they’re just different. In all the situations I’ve been presented with, I’ve taken the approach of identifying the best pieces available and putting them together in ways that create unique competitive advantage.
In joining the University of California, I have encountered great people and assets in the healthcare enterprise. We have deep domain expertise in the system, and it allows us to leverage that expertise to address our most challenging situations. In response to the challenges in the healthcare industry, we’ve created a coalition allowing six health systems and the Office of the President to come together, and look at things both at local and enterprise-wide levels. For instance, one of our locations has deep expertise in digital health, while another’s focus is on gene therapy. It’s a complementary rather than competitive arrangement, and allows us to approach 3rd party partners by putting forward our best-of-the-best along with the UC brand.
Campbell: It sounds like a unique situation for collaboration, and thus offering a competitive advantage. In fact, a recent article featured how six CIOs connected to the University of California, of which you are the group facilitator, have been producing strong results through broad strategic collaboration. That collaboration resulted in the first time ever that two US academic medical centers have linked up to be on one instance of Epic. Can you provide some background on that project in which UC Irvine Health and UC San Diego Health share the same Epic instance?
Andriola: You hear about moving to the new world of healthcare, moving to the cloud, and getting out of the data center business. We are living it. We have one instance hosted by Epic for UC Irvine, UC San Diego, and UC Riverside. The other health centers – UCLA, UC Davis, and UC San Francisco – are looking at their strategic roadmaps and determining when would be the right time for them to decide about going in a similar direction.
The fact that we have six semi-autonomous institutions, that are also collective on some level, allows us to collaborate on initiatives while pursuing them in a timeframe appropriate for each institution. We collaborate on vendor selection criteria, but it may be at different points in the road map for each entity. One institution then can pave the road for another, so the others can follow with less friction.
Campbell: That’s remarkable – the fact that you are leveraging each other’s strengths and using each other’s experiences to buoy the collective whole. That is what makes CHIME so great, that is, the ability for CIOs to collaborate amongst peers and share best practices. You are doing this on a micro level across the health systems, which is compelling.
Andriola: We do have somewhat of an advantage because there is a single governing body. Linkages, like shared financial incentives, also help align those activities.
Campbell: Absolutely. Shifting gears for a moment, The Huffington Post featured you as one of the most social CIOs on Twitter. You are also an avid blogger, bringing awareness to events, awards and news within UC. Tell me about the importance of having a social media and blog presence, and how it helps you to communicate key initiatives, both raising awareness and also potentially soliciting feedback from the IT staff.
Andriola: Our social media strategy serves both an internal and an external purpose. I’ll start with the internal. We are blessed to have 9,000 IT people across the university who come to work every day and try to make this the best darn research university and healthcare enterprise in the world. That’s part of the reason we use social media – to ensure people know that. We highlight the great work that people do, especially the most innovative practices that are going on. The blog and other communications strategies offer a mechanism for our people to learn from each other. Anecdotally, this could be someone hearing about an initiative at UC San Diego, when they’ve been talking about something similar at their own institution, and so being inspired to engage some UC San Diego folks to help solve the issue they are tackling. It facilitates peer-to-peer learning and reduces the time-to-value of technology efforts.
There is also the element of getting that story to the rest of the system and outside world to inform and educate our executives, customers, students, and patients. It reinforces our message that IT is not just a cost center, but in fact is a strategic enabler for the university and its mission. My job is to make sure that the outside world knows about what we’re doing – whether its healthcare, education, or research funding. I see my role as raising awareness about how UC is one of the most innovative places to work and how technology is a huge part of how we are innovating. The fundamental research we conduct changes the way in which domains are perceived and the way that we take care of patients. I use social media and communications as a means of telling the story of IT and sharing the great work that our people are doing. Everyone likes to have their story told, and that also supports engagement and retention.
Campbell: While on the topic of innovation and knowledge share, can you provide an overview of the University of California Computing Services Conference (UCCSC) that recently took place?
Andriola: When I came here almost five years ago and learned that UCCSC existed, I thought it was a great vehicle to drive collaboration. One of the things I was trying to figure out was a good strategy to connect the 9,000 folks we have in IT. At that time, UCCSC involved roughly 200 to 250 people, and was very grassroots oriented. The CIOs didn’t attend. I thought we needed to invest more into the grassroots conversation, but also bolster the impact of the event through executive presence. And so, we really shifted over the last 5 years as we’ve tripled the size of the event, with close to 700 people attending this year, including 11 CIOs. We took it from being a small event for the same people each year to a true communitywide activity, complete with swag.
It speaks to this collaborative fabric we have now across the organization – the realization people have that, “If I’m struggling today, there is likely someone else in the university who is probably struggling with the same thing. How do I connect to them quickly, and how do I extend my network to solve the problem more efficiently and effectively?” While we have tools in place like Slack, which 4,600 of our IT professionals use daily, the conference provides an in-person experience for sharing insights, best practices, and innovation outside of day-to-day tactical issues. This year I challenged the team to use the network to find colleagues and save 30 minutes out of their week. It seems like a doable thing for most people. And at 9,000 people, recovering 30 minutes is equivalent to hiring more than 100 new people. That’s the power of networking.
Campbell: Speaking to this collaborative fabric, an article was recently published on the UC IT Blog providing an overview of the results from a survey UCSB CIO Matthew Hall conducted of the UC location CIOs, asking them to prioritize issues for IT leadership and the university. Can you elaborate on some of those priorities for healthcare, specifically around population health?
Andriola: Population health is one of those initiatives where there is no silver bullet, and it’s not one size fits all. We are moving away from a stance on population health that’s been very individualistic across our UC health enterprise. That doesn’t mean one-for-all population health deployments for all UC institutions. Some of them are multi-billion-dollar enterprises and may have three or four different population health plays. Some extend Epic; others use third-party tools to connect into Epic. We’re trying to take a step back and look at the population health needs in the changing landscape of reimbursement and patient distribution. We are tailoring our population health strategies to allow us to use the data we have, now that we’re fully digital, to make more timely and intelligent decisions. It’s a challenging space. Epic is certainly a large part of it, but it’s not the only part. There are a lot of other systems that have relevant information about patient conditions and experience that we want to pull into repositories so we can generate insights into how to better reach patients.
Campbell: You share the sentiment of a lot of healthcare CIOs, in that they want to steer away from the boil the ocean approach, and instead address specific use cases. There are components that go into making use of the data, access being one of those, but also transforming the data into the format that’s needed and governance as well.
Andriola: One of the other things that is of benefit to us is that, as academic medical centers, we have a teaching and research component to our enterprise. Some of the insights provided help inform us about where we should be innovating more quickly, and where we should be doing pilots. Those pilots are leading us to work with different types of partners who support home centric care models, for instance. As such, population health is not just a way for us to manage care and dollars, it’s also a means for us to find where we need to energize the level of innovation.
About Tom Andriola
Tom Andriola joined the University of California in 2013 as vice president and chief information officer (CIO) for the system. He provides leadership across the university working closely with campus and healthcare leaders to explore opportunities for technology and innovation to enhance the UC mission of teaching, research, patient care, and public service.
Andriola brings over 25 years of experience as a global business and technology executive, having served as a business transformation leader for a multi-billion-dollar enterprise, a global CIO with staff around the world, and the first employee of a brand-new business.
Throughout his career Andriola has been a champion of change inside organizations, as well as a leader for innovation in the marketplace, having brought first-of-kind solutions to market and led the creation of several new businesses.
Andriola is active in higher education and healthcare associations and serves on several boards, including the Corporation for Education Network Initiatives in California (CENIC), OCHIN, the Pacific Research Platform, and the Risk Services Software Company.
With his background in technology and innovation, Mr. Andriola maintains relationships with UCSD’s California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology, UCSF’s Bakar Institute for Computational Health Sciences, UCSF’s Center for Digital Health Innovation, the UC Berkeley Haas School of Business. He is a sought-after speaker on a variety of technology topics in healthcare, higher education, and the changing CIO role.
Andriola holds a bachelor’s degree from The George Washington University, a master’s degree from the University of South Florida, and completed the Stanford Executive program.