Managing the largest integrated healthcare network in the state of New York—and one of the largest in the nation—takes a detailed understanding of patients and the ability to use information technology to address their needs. At Northwell Health, senior vice president and chief information officer John Bosco takes this responsibility extremely seriously. Throughout his nearly forty-year career in healthcare IT, he has worked to facilitate effective, high-quality service delivery at every organization he has worked, and Northwell is no exception. As the organization continues to refine its use of digital apps to drive consumer engagement, Bosco takes an active role in streamlining care for increasingly specific patient needs.
“Studies show that many people want their healthcare needs met digitally,” Bosco says. At Northwell, a significant part of that is the creation of comprehensive digital solutions, including a mobile app that offers patients easy access to everything they need to manage their care. Beginning its launch in 2018 and continuing into this year, the app’s goal is to allow each patient to create a detailed profile of themselves and their preferences, view their records, including previous visits, medical information, and educational materials on potential issues they might be having. In addition, the app allows patients to schedule appointments, check in and out of Northwell facilities, organize follow-up care, and pay bills online. In the future, the platform will also allow patients to connect to digital services for at-home care and have in-room features for patients during a hospital stay.
This project is a particular point of pride for Bosco, who strives to make the process as intuitive as possible for patients. “There’s no reason to go anywhere outside of Northwell if we do our job right,” he says, emphasizing the need for accessibility and easy navigation to build patient loyalty. For instance, Northwell delivered nearly thirty thousand babies in New York State alone this year. With the app, profiles will be built out for both mother and baby, providing a single, convenient place to manage care for the whole family. Bosco and other teams including marketing and the digital office will also use the app to make their patients feel they know them and their preferences intimately, which keeps them coming back.
“Few organizations are as strategic and forward-thinking as Northwell Health,” says Don Woodlock, head of the HealthShare business at InterSystems. “Under the leadership of John and his colleagues, and powered by our HealthShare suite of connected health solutions, they have agility, innovation, and a passion for advancing patient care through IT.”
In addition to the mobile app, another key mission has been to create a connected, integrated health network at Northwell. Using their internal health information exchange (HIE), healthcare professionals at Northwell can connect data from various EHRs and insurance claims, allowing clinicians and care managers to have a centralized hub for viewing patient information. The HIE “connects every corner of our health system,” says Bosco, linking everything from hospitals to imaging centers to the same data. This becomes especially helpful as Northwell continues acquiring new practices, surgery centers, and more, as well as its connection to the New York State health network. “It’s our most critical IT asset,” Bosco says. “We’re really proud.”
As new generations of patients grow up with technology as an important part of their lives, systems like these will become important to healthcare organizations. “Millennials expect a different experience; in the future, they’re likely to only use a place that makes the experience convenient and mobile,” he says. Organizations across the industry are pouring many investment dollars into these processes, Bosco notes, so it is critical that Northwell stays ahead of the curve to survive. In its quest to improve care delivery for patients, Bosco and Northwell look to some of its trusted vendors for support.
“We view the patient’s home and office as an extension of our health system.”
“Allscripts delivers healthcare organizations IT solutions for smarter care delivery and healthier patients across their communities,” says Paul M. Black, CEO of Allscripts. “As a trusted partner to Northwell Health, we keep the focus on strengthening clients’ clinical and financial foundations for unparalleled patient outcomes.”
Consequently, Bosco is currently working on areas for future projects, in addition to refining Northwell’s mobile app and HIE. The organization is working on a number of other consumer engagement initiatives, including a partnership with healthcare company Conversa Health to allow Northwell to interact with patients after they have left. The goal is to provide further information about follow-up appointments, checking in on their understanding of new prescriptions and medications, and more. Bosco believes these reminders are crucial for providing the best possible care for their patients. “Too many patients don’t make follow-up appointments or don’t take medications as directed,” he says. “Eventually, they end up back in the ER or the doctor’s office.” Furthermore, Northwell runs a clinical call center staffed with nurses, which patients can call to ask questions whenever they need.
These initiatives and more are designed to bring the healthcare expertise of Northwell’s staff outside the doctor’s office and into patients’ everyday lives. “We view the patient’s home and office as an extension of our health system,” Bosco says.
This passion to cultivate the best possible care for his patients extends to Bosco’s passionate, motivational leadership style. “I want employees to feel motivated and inspired every day they come to work,” Bosco says. Foremost among his priorities is to help his staff understand their impact not only on Northwell but also directly with patients. “I don’t want them coming in every day as IT people, only caring about taking care of the network or some app,” Bosco says. “If just one of our 1,800 people indirectly make a positive impact for our patients, whether by giving them a digital app or making sure clinicians have the tools they need, it’s worth it.”
To do this, Bosco cultivates a sense of familiarity and positivity within his department, hosting regular meetings to check in on staff and to make them feel valued. “I’m supposed to be the person with the vision; my teams make the vision happen,” he says. “It’s my job to motivate and inspire them every day when they come to work.”
Whether through strong, transformational leadership, or the IT department’s work building consumer engagement, Bosco works hard to fulfill Northwell’s mission of providing the best possible care for their patients. Luckily, his passion is standard practice for the company at large. “I can’t emphasize enough how great a feeling it is to work at Northwell,” Bosco says. “At every departmental meeting, the discussion always goes back to what’s best for the patient.”
Fine-tuning a Career Path
Before pursuing a career in healthcare, John Bosco was almost a professional musician. “Growing up, I was only focused on being a classical pianist,” he says, taking lessons and going to music schools throughout his youth. He auditioned at several music schools, such as Carnegie Mellon, and was even accepted into a few, before changing his mind at the last minute to pursue business school. “I kept playing after that, but I guess I never truly thought I could be one of the best,” Bosco says. He hasn’t played much in the ensuing decades—nowadays, he spends his free time in the outdoors as an avid downhill snow skier and hiker.