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CIO50 2018 #26-50: John Sutherland, Ramsay Health Care

  • Name John Sutherland
  • Title Chief information officer
  • Company Ramsay Health Care
  • Commenced role December 2014
  • Reporting Line Chief executive officer
  • Member of the Executive Team Yes
  • Technology Function Over 100 staff and 4 direct reports
  • Improving clinical outcomes for patients through healthcare and medical science has always been inextricably linked to technological innovation, says Ramsay Health Care’s chief information officer, John Sutherland.

    “It’s important for Ramsay Health Care that we continue to understand how technology is best used to support our workforce of 30,000, the many doctors and clinicians who care for more than a million Australians admitted to our facilities each year, and the many clinical studies underway across our business.

    “Technology for technology’s sake isn’t something that motivates us. What really drives our organisation is how we can use technology to deliver on our brand promise of ‘people caring for people,’” he says.

    Sutherland and his team have delivered an innovative approach to engaging with its national workforce. They created the ‘MyRamsay’ smartphone app with the sole purpose of promoting staff engagement and encouraging employees to provide the best care to the sick and vulnerable, he says. 

    Despite all the incredible advances in medical technology and models of care, the healthcare sector continues to lag behind other markets in digital adoption.

    “We wanted our solution to catapult Ramsay into the 21st century by taking an approach heavily influenced by consumerism and social media. MyRamsay is being used to improve the support we give to our dedicated staff, creating a stronger sense of belonging and reminding them how special they are. We are connecting people locally and nationally, promoting their successes and the many benefits and opportunities to working at Ramsay Health Care,” he says.

    The strategy behind the app is to encourage small, incremental changes to staff behaviour, engagement and sense of duty. Sutherland and his team deliberately positioned the product as a quasi-social media tool, harnessing the enjoyment users derive from consumer products like Facebook and LinkedIn.

    The app recognises staff milestones, non-work achievements, retirements and HESTA awards; it celebrates staff accreditations and clinical safety achievements; and drives community engagement such as the blood bank, and local community fund raising.

    It also promotes Ramsay’s culture (The Ramsay Way), reinforces workplace safety, cybersecurity, and senior appointments; communicates special announcements and new job roles, as well as staff benefits.

    Sutherland says that using analytics, his team has clear insights into what features are used most heavily and the nature of the most popular content posts. This helps the team feed the app with information that is most appealing to staff.

    “Once launched, we were stunned by the number of innovative uses for MyRamsay, far beyond what we originally conceived,” Sutherland says.

    Sutherlands adds that Ramsay’s CEO spent half his keynote address at the company’s annual management conference focusing on why employee engagement was critical to the business and how MyRamsay would promote its culture.

    “As a technology executive, that was probably one of the proudest moments of my career, seeing the CEO on stage, backing one of your initiatives to the hilt to our most senior executives and the board,” he says.

    Sutherland’s team relied heavily on experts to guide the user experience and consumer UI design, ensuring the app was simple to use and would help drive a position first experience.

    Another challenge was building momentum following the launch to get staff excited about the app and encourage their peers to get on board.

    “We achieved this by orchestrating a competitive tension across those 200 top executives so they could see what their colleagues were posting and the different rates of adoption across our 73 hospitals.

    “This helped ensure content kept flowing and there would be a reason for staff to return and check their feeds on MyRamsay, establishing patterns of behaviour and institutional adoption in the same way we addictively return to the social media platforms.”

    Without trust, you’re lame duck

    Sutherland says his biggest career lesson has been to gain the trust and confidence of the CEO.

    “Without this, you are a ‘lame duck CIO’ and you can never succeed in the role or help contribute to the future success of the organisation,” he says.

    Sutherland says he maintains trust and confidence by actively working to manage expectations. Key to this has been to trust his intuition and build a foundation of strong personal relationships with his key stakeholders.

    “Speaking the business language, actively listening to their concerns, playing back and validating what is heard and then delivering on what we said we would, is our playbook.

    “Occasionally, we exceed those expectations and make the business feel good about the trust they’ve given us. It is far better to have someone else sing the praises of the technology function than it is for me to sprout our achievements. To me, this is my biggest career lesson,” he says.

    Byron Connolly

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