Overseeing the digital hospital of the future
Bill Le Blanc
Master of Business Administration
Executive Director & CIO of SA Health
In 2013 UniSA alumnus Bill Le Blanc took on the role of Executive Director & CIO of SA Health. Since then he has begun to appear frequently in the media, drive innovation in health ICT, and has overseen the technology elements of the 'digital hospital of the future'.
Bill was recently announced by CIO Australia as the top CIO in Australia for 2017, in its annual ranking of Australia’s top 50 technology leaders.
The past few years have seen the construction and recent opening of the new Royal Adelaide Hospital. Covering 10 hectares of land, the complex has over 6,000 staff, 40 operating suites, and is gearing up for full use of electronic medical records. As CIO of SA Health, Bill has spent his time driving business transformation through new technologies in medical imaging, pathology and electronic medical records, in addition to overseeing a wide range of new technologies being incorporated into the new hospital.
“As a leader, it is sometimes difficult to keep teams motivated in the face of public criticism, but conviction and drive to deliver has carried us through. It’s been through the hard work of a huge number of people over many years that we have this collective achievement,” says Bill.
The hospital’s construction has faced a number of criticisms from both the media and the public over the building period. While Bill says there have been a number of challenges during his time as CIO, the voyage he has taken with the hospital and SA Health staff has ultimately paid off.
“The new hospital requires different ways of working for hospital staff when compared to the old Royal Adelaide Hospital. Working together with clinical leaders, executive and administrative leaders, to take staff on the change journey and providing effective leadership and governance over the program of work, has been one of our key challenges.”
A major mainstay of the new RAH has been the introduction of a wide range of new technologies. From electronic bedside devices, to the pneumatic tube system, and even driverless robots, the hospital has aimed to be at the forefront of health ICT innovation, earning the title of the ‘most advanced digital hospital’ in the country. Bill says these advances in technology are critical for improving the lives of both staff and patients.
“The technologies in this hospital support a completely different way of working, where we are transitioning into radically new models of clinical delivery. It is truly a digital hospital of the future.”
Bill says these innovations are important not just for the future of health in South Australia, but vital for improving health on a global level.
“The population we have is living longer and with more chronic health conditions. It is unsustainable to continue providing services using the service delivery models of old, and hence constant innovation is required.”
Since becoming the CIO of SA Health, Bill has frequently appeared in the media on all things concerning health information technology. When initially taking on the role, Bill says he did not expect the level of exposure and media attention he has received, though in hindsight it should have been expected.
“I knew the role encompassed driving transformational change, but I did not anticipate that the attention this generates would play out in media or require me to speak publicly on it.
“With 20/20 hindsight, it is completely understandable because the technology function within our business has, over the same period, transitioned from being a support function to being integral to the delivery of clinical services to patients.”
Despite the newfound exposure, Bill maintains that it does not impact the way he works or does business. For Bill, the work he does is too critical to let outside influences change his perspective.
“It’s certainly at the forefront of my mind that outside SA Health the average punter forms their impression of what we are doing based on media stories, but it doesn’t affect the way I do business. The key is to just keep doing the right things and the rest will take care of itself.
“What we do is incredibly important for the entire community and this a constant source of motivation.”
Before studying at UniSA, Bill had spent 15 years progressing through the ranks working various tech roles. It wasn’t until his interests started to shift more into working with people, that he realised he could combine his knowledge with a new set of skills.
“I began to enjoy business and people leadership functions more than the technology piece. And while I was achieving a level of success in leadership I felt that the formal grounding and leadership frameworks inherent in an MBA program would help boost my workplace performance.”
Bill says both health and ICT are linked as growing industries, with both providing ample opportunities for recent graduates, particularly where the two intersect.
“There are many paths to the same destination and many of the jobs of the future in both these areas do not exist yet. There are people working in the health ICT who trained as doctors, nurses, allied health professionals, IT technologists and more.
“My advice for recent graduates who want to get into the industry, is to immerse yourself in it as much as you can. Read about industry trends, challenges and projects. Network with people already in the industry and don’t wait for the perfect opportunity. Once you are in the industry there is plenty of scope to move around.”