CHRISTUS Health’s digital transformation is reimagining health technology and IT

With a network of more than 45,000 associates, more than 15,000 physicians on medical staff providing compassionate, high-quality care, CHRISTUS Health is one of the largest Catholic healthcare systems in the United States.

The company has been committed to extending the healing ministry of Jesus Christ for over 150 years. While the founding father and sister began their mission by forming CHRISTUS in Houston, Texas, there was always a larger vision for expansion, extending its footprint across the United States.

Six years ago, the decision was made to move the company’s base of operations, its more than 150-year-old home, from Houston to Dallas. As with any major move, especially after decades of operation, CHRISTUS faced a daunting challenge.

“With such a rich heritage, we had many very loyal and dedicated associates and leaders who had given their whole lives to CHRISTUS,” says Bennetta Raby, System Director, Strategy, Performance Improvement, ITSM, TBMO, Learning and development, Christus Health.

“When the decision was made to uproot and relocate, from a technology perspective, we lost a significant portion of our workforce, over 60%. Everyone, from leadership roles to outside roles, we’ve lost people from all walks of life. »

Such a loss of resources meant that CHRISTUS had to adopt a new strategic direction that gave him the best chance of first surviving and then thriving despite such a level of seismic change.

This is where Bennetta Raby, having worked successfully in transformation, project management and health IT for over 10 years, was brought in alongside Christa Barclay, program manager Strategy, performance and innovation, Office and ACIO, to provide vision, strategy and stability. to the organism.

“When myself, Christa and our SPI team were brought into the organization, it was a time of turmoil and uncertainty,” she says. “But we thrived on that, and it allowed us to be able to identify, from a transformational perspective, the key areas where we lost intellectual capital, or weren’t as mature. .”

CHRISTUS had a long history of working with people who had been with the business for decades, who understood the systems and, as Raby explains, “didn’t rely on a transformational practice or discipline, but rather on their own knowledge. individual for a long time”.

Of course, this only serves to underline the importance of losing 60% of staff and the challenge that Raby and Barclay faced.

But what the two have brought to the organization is a fresh and innovative approach.

“Whenever an organization is faced with the loss of this level of capital, for me it is an opportunity to acquire new talent, new philosophies, ideas, methodologies and systems that could better position us for the future. future,” says Raby.

The first step for Raby, as noted, was to identify where the organization’s growth opportunities lay, where she could truly implement strategic change management. While visiting and communicating with each of the organization’s internal clients and community leaders, Raby faced a difficult situation.

“Some highly qualified people were not positioned in the right places to align with their strengths and skills to drive organizational growth,” she says. “So I brought in a team of innovative thinkers to focus on back-end work while I focused on change management and customer relations.” This team, aka “the SPI team”, is made up of strategic individuals who actually function as strategic partners across all disciplines (Strategic Automation, Performance Improvement, Workforce Transformation in Financial Management) .

These two teams have joined forces and aligned to develop a stronger technology solutions team. This is where Barclay was brought in to review strategy implementation and improve financial performance.

As was the case with Raby, his leadership team faced a lack of digital maturity and quickly identified key growth opportunities through the implementation of digital technology platforms and key enablers that are delaying the growth of these platforms.

“There was a big gap when I arrived,” admits Barclay. “The processes were not documented; the finances were based solely on tribal knowledge and the finances of the organization went over budget with a real lack of clarity as to why. As with most IT organizations, lack of clarity and static annual budget cuts can kill the game-changing capabilities that technological innovation can provide. »

She was tasked with installing a financial maintenance infrastructure and creating databases to monitor expenses and accrued liabilities in order to “clean up the finances”.

Leveraging Barclay’s financial strategy experience with Raby’s SPI team, the focus shifted to a much more pervasive digital transformation, strategically partnering with suppliers to become a cutting-edge department. technology, which no longer came to this strategic change management from behind.

“We have gone from being just a processing division to becoming more of a partner,” says Barclay. “We operate as an innovative, customer-focused technology division that can step forward and communicate with customers and help them realize the growth opportunities that can be created through technology implementation.”

No digital transformation can be achieved alone and CHRISTUS has strategically partnered with Microsoft and Service Now, two partners who have truly enabled Raby and Barclay to drive innovation across more than 12,000 applications in the CHRISTUS healthcare system. .

“When we look at a transformational partner, we are looking for those who see the mission of CHRISTUS, support it and want to work alongside it, we use John Kotter’s mantra of Changing Hearts and Minds every day,” says Raby.

“Everything we have strived to accomplish, Microsoft and Service Now have been with us and supported us every step of the way.”

It’s a sentiment shared by Barclay, not least because of the transformational requirements needed to bring maturity and stability to the organization’s capital spending and budget management.

“They’ve redrawn the boundaries of what it means as a technology provider to be a true partner,” Barclay says. “It was amazing to support them in their field, to use their technological solutions and their resources to facilitate what myself, Bennetta and his team tried to achieve. Our team: Omar Martinez, Velisha Mosby, Aaron Almaraz, Alan Carrington and Kevin Frye take every opportunity our vendors have to offer to continuously create solutions that fill the execution gaps.”

With any digital transformation, there is an immediate change and impact that can be highlighted. An efficient and faster way to work, to work smarter, but what legacy will this transformation leave, not only for the future of CHRISTUS, but for other healthcare organizations?

Raby can already point to the industry recognition, with CHRISTUS becoming the first healthcare organization to receive an award for its strategy and innovation. At its grassroots level, the award recognizes Raby and the SPI team and all of CHRISTUS for their stewardship of technology affairs. For Raby, it goes even further.

“We have been recognized for our resilience in a very difficult context of organizational change, loss of income, lack of resources. We were an organization that was drinking from a fire hydrant for six straight years,” she says. “They saw us as pioneers in change management and IT.

“It’s not me bragging, the road has been and continues to be very challenging and challenging, but with the help of a strong partnership and our solidarity and understanding of what we want the road looks like, it was a winning combination to stabilize the course.”

That road ahead, whatever it is, will be one of digital maturity and an unwavering determination to keep delivering on a promise made 151 years ago.

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