KirkLarson Regional CIO NetApp Healthcare.jpgTwo years ago, NetApp sat down with the Vice-President and CIO of Children’s Hospital Central California (Children’s) for a Q&A to discuss how NetApp solutions were helping them treat patients and grow for the future. Fast forward 18 months and former Children’s VP & CIO, Kirk Larson is now Regional CIO with NetApp Healthcare; helping countless healthcare facilities like Children’s treat patients more efficiently and effectively through technology.

I recently sat down with Kirk to chat about what motivated him to get into the healthcare field, his transition to NetApp, the current state of the healthcare technology industry and its future.

Meghan: What inspired you to get into the healthcare industry in the first place?

Kirk: Not only have I spent my entire career in healthcare, but I grew up in the industry. My father was a hospital CEO, and my mother is still a practicing registered nurse.

So the short answer is: It’s kind of who I am. For the longest time, I’ve always wanted to work in an area where I can really contribute to helping others. Technology will play a really important role in the future of healthcare, and it’s an area where I feel I can make a real contribution to improving patient care.

Meghan: You joined NetApp officially this summer, but – as our previous Q&A can attest – you’ve lived and breathed NetApp culture much longer. Can you tell us about your career prior to joining NetApp?

Kirk: During graduate school, I saw the potential technology could offer the healthcare field, and subsequently began to focus on bringing together healthcare workers and technology vendors to make patient care more effective by improving the tools available to them.

This eventually led to my most recent post, before making the jump to NetApp. As the blog’s readers know, I was the Vice-President and CIO at the Children’s Hospital Central California – one of the ten largest pediatric hospitals in the U.S. and the busiest in California. In that role, I was responsible for overseeing the hospital’s information systems and identifying new tools for improving electronic workflow, thereby, improving patient care.

While in this position, Children’s became the first hospital in the country to transition its MEDITECH (Medical Information Technology) to certified NetApp technology to improve storage efficiency and performance, security, and streamline IT operations.

Having worked so closely with NetApp to overhaul Children’s information systems, I was invited to sit in on the NetApp CXO Neural Network. The CXO Neural Network is a consortium of healthcare CIOs and other C-level executives pooling their knowledge to help deliver the next stage in healthcare technology and to advise NetApp on these trends.

Meghan: It sounds like you were able to help a lot of young people during your time at Children’s. What motivated you to join NetApp?

Kirk: With everything that is currently happening in the healthcare industry, I felt I could have a greater impact at NetApp helping fellow CIOs of healthcare organizations around the country improve patient care through technology.

My new role allows me to continue my work on the CXO Neural Network, just in a different capacity. In addition, I am able to educate healthcare workers and executives in the U.S. and abroad about the tangible ways technology can improve patient care.

Meghan: I think we’re all aware of how much technology has changed in the past decade. Can you talk about some of the biggest changes that have happened and what they mean for patients and healthcare workers alike?

Kirk: One of the most significant changes I’ve seen is the true conversion to electronic medical records (EMRs). Ten years ago, the majority of patient records were paper-based. The Affordable Care Act has helped to accelerate the adoption of and conversion to EMRs.

In that time, seeing the reliance on technology and what technology can do to healthcare has changed tremendously. As a result, the roles of a CIO and information technology worker has undergone a major transformation; moving from custodians of data to stewards of information.

Because of this, the CIO role has really blossomed into a full executive-caliber role. Gone are the days of supervising the data processing department; the CIO needs to be at the table with the full executive team.

And more specifically with the data. CIOs and their teams are increasingly able to deliver real-time population health information to physicians, nurses, and other caregivers. Previously, a child could be present in an emergency department and the population health information could be up to four weeks old. As the technology evolves, it is now possible to deliver real-time information and ultimately knowledge directly at the point of care. This enables a physician to determine if the child has a case of the sniffles or their illness is indicative of a broader flu pandemic.

This demonstrates how technology is making a difference in a people’s lives; and personally, inspires me to continue to help improve patient care by contributing to the broader healthcare technology industry.

Meghan: How will healthcare IT change in the next 5 to 10 years?

Kirk: From the patient perspective, the contribution healthcare technology is making to improving patient care will only accelerate. EMRs are currently making healthcare providers stronger and better equipped to do their jobs. They are also enabling patients to become better engaged in their own healthcare.

From the broader industry perspective, Big Data will really mature in the next several years. As the amount of data at a healthcare organization’s disposal grows exponentially, healthcare analytics will be a very real and integral part of the healthcare continuum moving forward. The exciting thing is we will all see what it turns out to be, as the healthcare industry truly touches us all.

The Corner Cube is a series of interviews and feature posts that highlight the people of NetApp. Whether you’re hearing  from an engineer, marketing, sales or executive leader, The Corner Cube brings you an unfiltered point of view around a variety of topics in technology and business today.