by Sean Ruck
, Contributing Editor | October 18, 2021
From the October 2021 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine
HealthCare Business News spoke with MemorialCare’s chief transformation officer Helen Macfie about her background, the newer version of what the CTO title can mean and about what that role delivers.
Macfie also talked about the ongoing work her organization is doing to improve a number of patient-centered metrics.
HealthCare Business News: How long have you been with MemorialCare?
Since 2005. I actually did an administrative residency in the early ‘80s and returned home to my current position in 2005.
HCB News: What attracted you to pursuing a career in healthcare?
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I was originally an education major. Kind of a side story — my parents moved and said “you have to get a job to stay out in California,” which I badly wanted to do, so I got a job in a regular outpatient pharmacy. I remember one day thinking, “I can do what that guy’s doing,” so I applied and got into a very good clinical program with clinical pharmacy, which was at the forefront back then. It was a great program, and I learned a lot about inpatient hospitalized care. I worked in that, providing all kinds of services in all kinds of nooks and crannies of the hospital. Eventually, I got into system designs to work on safer medication systems and medication protocols, working with doctors who put those together. From there, I ended up getting into management of the pharmacy as director. One day, someone said I’d be really good at working at big system quality, not just for pharmacy. So I looked into that and ultimately moved over to overseeing that particular hospital’s quality programs and I guess the rest is history.
HCB News: What is the role of a Chief Transformation Officer?
Sometimes, the T stands for technology, so this is different from that. It’s a newer role in healthcare. Originally my title here was senior vice president of performance improvement. The way I describe my role now is really in three parts. One is improving the performance of “fill-in-the-blank” opportunities. Certainly quality and safety, it could be Lean experience and operational design — so ways to improve the care that we provide. The next component is overseeing our strategic planning for the health system, so really working with our governance and our executives to move MemorialCare forward and take on our next set of challenges. The third, I think because of my clinical background and all the work I was able to do and all the learning, there is a set of what I call “the gnarly projects.” Those are the projects we want to roll out across the health system that have a clinical focus. An example of that might be four years ago when we wanted to create a clinically integrated network with our doctors co-leading on projects. So we got that together and I’m the executive administrator for that work. Or a more current one, since February of 2020 I’ve been serving as our incident commander for the COVID command center of our pandemic response.