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The physics of a healthy business

Tim Mendham | Nov. 12, 2013
Dr Philip Nesci is a nuclear physicist who also happens to be a CIO.

Monash Health CIO Dr Philip Nesci

"I've spent most of my career on leading change initiatives as an integral part of the business, rather than focusing on technology", says Dr Philip Nesci, CIO for Monash Health, Victoria's largest health care provider.

"I'm not interested in the technology per se, but only what it can do to improve business."

Like his view of technology, and as with many other CIOs, Nesci's background doesn't show the IT focus than might be expected of someone who has been global CIO for international chemicals company Orica, and director for IT for Energy Australia.

Instead, he has a doctorate in nuclear physics and authored a book on "Inelastic Proton Scattering as a Test of Nuclear Spectroscopy" in the late 1970s. He is also a graduate of the executive program at the Michigan Business School.

"The most useful courses have been those that have focused on commercial business management and those that develop soft skills such as leadership, collaboration and influencing, people management."

This people-oriented attitude is critical at Monash, a public health service which provides integrated health care to a quarter of metropolitan Melbourne's population.

This includes 193,000 people admitted to its various hospitals in the last year, 180,000 emergency presentations, and more than 9000 babies delivered.

"Being in the public healthcare industry, we are not for profit. Our main drivers are about providing access to healthcare and improving the quality of care for our patients. I spend most of my time working with the business to achieve that rather than the technology initiatives," he says.

Not to say technology and the IT department don't play important parts in the organisation's activities.

Currently, Nesci is working on getting the organisation to embrace an electronic medical record system, something he says will be critical for improving the way it delivers better patient care.

"It will eventually have a major impact on the organisation." Another key technology area is mobile technology. "Gone are the days when you could mandate what devices staff use," he says.

"Many of our staff now have more computing power on their devices and at home than their desktops.

"We have changed our network to be device agnostic, where staff can bring their own devices or use the ones that we provide. Mobile staff use multiple devices that pose a challenge in providing a seamless experience across all devices. Our IT staff have had to skill-up to support a multitude of devices, rather than those which we provide."

But it's still down to business, and he reports direct to the CEO.

"As CIO, you cannot be effective without the support of the CEO. In fact, it is critical to have a trusted relationship with all of the executive team, as change initiatives will require securing their commitment and support at various times. But the most critical relationship is with the CEO."


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