Chief digital officers in healthcare come from tech, retail

It’s helpful for health systems to have a clear sense of how digital technology fits into their strategic vision, so executives know how their responsibilities intersect with the rest of the organization’s work and feel empowered to make decisions.

Leadership can’t expect to bring in an outsider to solve digital challenges for the entire organization without providing such guidance, said Matt Johnson, a managing director in West Monroe’s product experience and engineering lab.

“The healthcare organizations that are getting the best talent do a good job of that,” he said.

Executives at Coral Gables-based Baptist Health South Florida 
realized they needed a chief digital officer roughly three years ago, after developing a digital transformation roadmap. In doing so, they sought input from a multidisciplinary steering committee of physicians and executive leaders, as well as recommendations from consultants at KPMG, on how technology could improve consumer experience and provide physicians with access to useful data.

The health system wanted a leader who could meaningfully contribute to its digital strategy, said Joe Natoli, executive vice president and chief administrative officer at Baptist Health.

“We were looking for someone who would not simply be an executor of the technology that we determined, but someone who could really help us create a clear vision for digital transformation,” Natoli said.

After interviewing about a dozen candidates, the leadership team in 2020 landed on Tony Ambrozie, then a senior vice president who led technology and digital at Walt Disney Company. Before his nearly seven-year career at Disney, he spent more than a decade at American Express, where he worked on digital technology initiatives like getting the company’s credit and debit cards into the first version of Apple Pay.

Ambrozie has also brought other technology leaders to Baptist Health; the health system’s chief technology officer is one of his former Disney colleagues.

As chief digital and information officer, Ambrozie said his focus has been on helping the health system catch up to digital experiences consumers have in other industries.

“Healthcare, in general, has been somewhat behind the curve compared with other industries in terms of technology adoption,” he said.

For Ambrozie, much of the transition seems familiar. He said integrating virtual care and apps into healthcare feels reminiscent of the shift to online banking, for example.

His first order of business was improving the health system’s cybersecurity foundation, followed by improving consumer experience and access—a task Natoli said Ambrozie was well-suited for, given his background at Disney.

Last year, Ambrozie led the relaunch of Baptist Health’s mobile app. Previously, the app had mainly housed links to other websites and didn’t have features of its own, according to Ambrozie. Patients can now use it to find doctors, schedule visits and check in for appointments virtually.

“Sure, people don’t come to hospitals just to have an excuse to use an app,” he said—but it’s a competitive differentiator if patients find it easier to access care through Baptist Health’s system.

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