How UC Irvine’s IT team is driving healthcare innovation

Learn how UC Irvine Vice Chancellor Tom Andriola is leading IT to play a key role in the university’s mission to create and share knowledge.

The University of California is a distinguished and sprawling public university system with 10 campuses across the state and an enrollment of more than 280,000 students. But it is not just a university: it also encompasses three national research laboratories and five medical centers.

In 2013, Tom Andriola began at the university as VP and CIO with the Office of the President. He was getting a great high-level view of the system. But later, as he told Network Disrupted host and BlueCat Chief Strategy Officer Andrew Wertkin in Episode 3 of the podcast’s second season, he decided to become more involved with the “dance” of day-to-day life at the campus level.

So, in 2019, he took on an inaugural role at UC Irvine. There, he serves as the Vice Chancellor of Information Technology and Data, and is involved in some of the most innovative ideas coming out of the university today.

 

Focus on your organization’s mission; the rest will follow

A faculty advisor once told Andriola that the university has two roles: to create knowledge, and to disseminate knowledge. Just like McMaster University CTO Gayleen Grey does, Andriola returns often to that core mission. When he considers all the opportunities he and his department have, he always favors “staying true to the things we’re good at.”

For example, in his previous role with the university, he launched a leadership academy for more than 8,000 IT professionals throughout the entire UC system. Andriola explains that his vision for the academy was for the knowledge that learners acquire to eventually permeate through the whole organization and beyond.

“My job is to try to figure out how many innovative ways to disseminate knowledge out into the rest of the world,” he reasoned. “Everything else will then start to take care of itself.”

Consider technology part of your strategic toolkit

Andriola highlights how forward-thinking organizations approach technology in the health care space. They don’t call it “telemedicine” anymore; now, he says, “It’s just ‘health care.’” Instead of technology being bolted on at the end, it’s naturally integrated into a system that better supports doctors and patients.

That’s how Andriola and his team approach UC Irvine’s health care institution, too.

For example, Andriola’s team deeply considered the case of chronic geriatric patients who frequently visit their medical facilities. For them, doing so is especially challenging (and even more so now in light of the pandemic). Those patients could be served in the home. Well, what if in-home care was the rule, not the exception? Imagine equipping patients’ homes with easy-to-use technology (and a little training) in order to save on the stress of routine trips to the hospital.

This evolved into a model that UC Irvine dubbed “hospital-at-home,” which marries clinical practice with home-based care. They’re still a ways away from a scalable framework that institutions around the world can adopt. But with their strategic approach to technology and the amount of data that the institution is collecting, they’re in a strong position to pioneer it.

In another case, Andriola recounts how simply helping connect technology-minded groups with more specialized groups (like UC Irvine’s schools of medicine, nursing, and pharmacy and pharmaceutical sciences, for example), can make a massive difference.

Recently, university faculty who are members of the Radiological Society of North America developed algorithms that help to predict whether vulnerable COVID-19 patients are likely to end up in the ICU. By examining medical images of pneumonia and the subtleties within them, the researchers could predict if a patient was headed to the ICU.

He reflects, “By having clinical science expertise, and being able to connect data science expertise, we have this whole opportunity to really build a pipeline of using our data in a research setting to develop predictive algorithms that we then bring to the point of care.”

Choose your partners wisely

Partnering with the university comes with a number of benefits. Not only can partners partake in the university’s initiatives, but the university is directly involved in facilitating partner innovation through a “collaboratory” that brings together partners and subject matter experts.

With a lineup of organizations eager to work with the university, vetting candidates is a role Andriola takes especially seriously.

He doesn’t have a hard-and-fast measure but does look to work with organizations that aren’t only motivated by an exchange of goods for money. He looks for groups that are truly aligned with the university’s values—not just those who say they are. So, Andriola vets organizations by thoroughly looking to see if, for example, internal incentives and goals match what representatives say. Below is a clip outlining some ways he does that.

 

If you’d like to hear Tom Andriola’s full episode on the Network Disrupted podcast, you can listen to it here: https://podcast.bluecatnetworks.com/player/daacf72e

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