Rebranding IT as more than a cost center

Oscar Perez , Vice President of IT at Memorial Healthcare System of South Florida, shares how to change assumptions about IT in the healthcare industry

For as long as he can remember, Oscar Perez has been interested in technology. Whether it was programming or troubleshooting, he didn’t just want to engage with it, he wanted to figure out how it all worked. As vice president of IT for Memorial Healthcare System of South Florida, Perez is thrilled to be in the perfect field—knowing his work has a positive impact on patient care. Here, Perez speaks to Sync about his role and his mission to change the perception of IT.

What do you enjoy most about the work that you do?

Oscar Perez: A lot of tech people in health care will tell you they don’t see how their work directly impacts patient care, but it does. I get to see that impact in action every day; it’s remarkable and humbling. I also enjoy bringing the latest technology to health care, technology that helps automate and improve operational efficiencies, improve physician and clinician workflows, and improve patient experience.

“Health care is our business, but I see health IT, if used correctly, as being strategically positioned to help the organization reach all of its goals and maintain a competitive advantage.”

Is battling a negative perception of IT something you’ve encountered?

Perez: Our reputation isn’t bad; IT is just often misunderstood. That is kind of a pet peeve of mine and it’s my lifelong mission to change that perception. The perception is that IT is overstaffed, utility-like, and a large cost center that is a necessary evil to the organization, which misrepresents what IT does and the value that it adds. Part of it comes from not understanding technology and fearing it. Part of my job as an IT leader is to educate.

Why is that perception particularly upsetting to you?

Perez: It really doesn’t paint a complete picture and this perception often means IT isn’t used to its fullest capabilities, which means missed opportunities for the organization. Health care is our business, but I see health IT, if used correctly, as being strategically positioned to help the organization reach all of its goals and maintain a competitive advantage. I’m passionate about this because I see the work my team does day-in and day-out. I know we bring more value than what is perceived. 

How is the IT department seen differently at Memorial Healthcare System of South Florida?

Perez: Memorial is a world-class organization and I had the privilege to join an all-star team. It’s a progressive organization that invests in technology, and although we are an expensive department, the organization understands. It understands that expense is really a reflection of the organization’s needs and demands, which are met with technology. With the support of leadership and using every opportunity to educate, a new narrative is being developed.

What are the challenges of communicating that message?

Perez: Change is hard. Changing people’s perception is difficult. It’s almost like rebranding a marketing effort for IT. The challenge is getting the message out to the masses.

What is the benefit to the organization when other departments see IT as more than “a black hole”?

Perez: We get involved in the strategic conversations, which is key. They get us involved earlier when it comes to making important decisions that impact our business and its needs. This can drastically help reduce costs and really position our organization ahead of the competition. The reality is that IT touches every aspect of the organization, from patient care and medical records to biomedical equipment and hand-held communication devices for nurses. Because we have this 360-degree view of the organization, the organization should leverage that expertise and use it to the max.

Moving forward, what are your goals?

Perez: One of the things I love about IT and technology in general is that it’s always changing, and because of that, we as IT professionals need to be agile and nimble enough to embrace the change. Every year you need to tweak and realign to ensure you are ready to deal with all the regulatory, financial, clinical, and technological changes. I look forward to continuing to see health IT have a huge impact on patient care.