Reaching Higher Together

CIO Deanna Wise credits her triumph as one of the most powerful women in technology to the support and ambition of her team

In recent years, Banner Health CIO Deanna Wise has been amassing some impressive recognition and awards. Most prominently, she was recently named one of 2019’s 50 Most Powerful Women in Technology and was inducted into ComputerWorld’s CIO Hall of Fame, thanks in large part to her innovative work with predictive analytics. But when discussing those achievements, Wise is quick to reflect that attention onto her talented team—a humble, team-first mentality that certainly accentuates her deep technical talent to great effect. And more to the point, all of that recognition just proves to Wise that she’s been contributing to the best possible care for as many people as possible.

While she didn’t know where her undergraduate program might lead, a counselor pointed out that Wise had been doing well in her programming classes. Once Wise realized that door could be open to her, she followed her heart and chose to specialize in the healthcare technology field. “Healthcare appealed to me because I knew it would be a great place to take my skills and make a real difference,” she says. “I could touch so many lives.” To make that impact, Wise moved from college to a project management certification in order to make an impact on the industry right away.

Deanna Wise, Banner Health Photo by Michael Paulson

That compassion that drove her interest in healthcare as a field has similarly influenced Wise’s leadership style. Early in her career, Wise swore that when she had her leadership opportunity, she would give credit where it was due and help raise people up. “In order to make a difference, I knew I needed to take chances and to bet on myself,” Wise says. “But you can’t step on others as you take those opportunities.” An early business mentor emphasized the need to surround yourself with people who make you your best self, something that Wise took to heart—and for the last twenty-six years, she maintains a special relationship with that mentor. “Funny enough, he’s my husband,” she says.

Wise’s first prominent role came at Indianapolis’s St. Vincent Hospital, where she eventually rose to the position of director of applications. There, she first learned to apply her strong Midwestern work ethic and to lead by example. But at the same time, Wise learned the importance of communication and showcasing her achievements. “Growing up in the Midwest, I always thought that if you work hard, people will just see it—but it’s not true,” she says. “I realized that, to be a good leader, you have to do the marketing and talking about what your team is doing.” Part of becoming an expert in her field, she learned, was that inherently, other people might not even be aware of what you’re capable of. Learning how to tell the story of her work, then, became a way to further influence the health outcomes of the organization.

But in order to tell the story, Wise has to first ensure that the right team is there to build the results. That simply comes down to building relationships and creating circles of the best and brightest people around her, she explains. While some might be intimidated, Wise puts her ego aside. “You can’t be afraid of those people outshining you,” she says. “You have to remove the barriers from them and unite everyone on a common goal.” By doing that, not only can Wise lead toward the common good of the company, she can help each of those individuals reach the heights that their talent deserves. That worldview, in turn, pays dividends when hurdles do arise. “When times are tough, you have to fall back on those relationships and that trust,” Wise says. “Being willing to be honest and have those conversations will improve things now and in the future.”

Jerry Chamberlain, vice president and alignment executive for Cerner Corporation, has admired Wise’s methodology. He says, “I’ve been impressed with Deanna’s approach, including joint on-site visits to our clinics and hospitals, to ensure that the technology and solutions we are deploying together are meeting the needs of the providers and the patients.”

The combination of her deep skill set, voluminous experience, and collaborative leadership style has led Wise to plenty of accolades, including most recently being named one of the 50 Most Powerful Women in Technology by the National Diversity and Leadership Conference. But even in that award, Wise sees an opportunity to highlight her team. “It really is recognition for the people I work with—and people that have worked with me in the past. These awards are amazing, but as a CIO, I can’t do anything on my own,” she says. “It really is about the team, so if I have any gift or talent that goes into this, it’s the ability to recognize talented people and create an environment where they want to work and where they want to thrive.”

In order to make a difference, I knew I needed to take chances and to bet on myself.”

Though she only started at Banner Health at the beginning of 2019, Wise has already made great strides in using that background to create a positive impact for the organization. As the largest private employer in the state of Arizona—comprising twenty-eight acute care and critical access facilities spread across six western states—Banner offers Wise the opportunity to affect outcomes for a vast number of patients. “The opportunity to influence health at a community-based level, including rural areas similar to the one where I grew up, is really important to me,” she says. “As we grow and get more advanced technology, being able to have that consumer-focused care where a patient can decide when and where to go for care, we want to be the place where we can get you results and that next step of referral and care faster than anyone else in the industry.”

Thiru Thangarathinam, founder and CEO of MST Solutions, a close partner of Banner Health, has witnessed the value Wise has brought to Banner since her arrival. “Deanna is one of the most forward-thinking leaders in healthcare today who understands the value of placing the patient and provider stakeholders at the center of Banner’s digital transformation,” he says. In fact, this focus shapes Banner’s entire IT strategy.

Photo by Michael Paulson

At a past career stop, Wise focused on building out a central predictive analytics process—and is now exploring the opportunity to create a business governance system that will ensure that unified approach based on predictive analytics for Banner. As all healthcare organizations need to focus on reducing costs and streamlining efficiencies to make it easier for clinicians, Wise sees her work as key to taking that next step. “The information technology department contributes to so many processes, and it’s really about how we make sure we’re doing the right opportunities for the business—and creating that governance model can make sure that we are focused on the right thing,” she says. “Because we have our own partner on a health plan, we are at a perfect place to really influence and help improve that population health. But to get that done, it comes down to creating a culture where the entire team can make a difference.”

And that difference can be massive. Wise recently met with a team that is making remarkable progress toward finding new treatments to combat devastating diseases. “The organization’s research program is working in consortium internationally to figure out how we can prevent Alzheimer’s. We’re looking at an amazing breakthrough that we will probably all see within the next ten years,” she says. “I’m looking forward to that being the next chapter in my journey—being part of that group that helps prevent Alzheimer’s. Anything I can do to influence that would be life-changing.”

Expertise Spotlight

Organizations have to make massive transformations in the way they approach digital if they are to survive the next era of healthcare. It’s no longer enough to deliver a positive patient-customer experience––that is now considered table stakes. Now, healthcare organizations have to be proactive and intentional not just in engaging patients but in orchestrating their care journeys while also improving health outcomes and driving real business results.

Though much of the focus has been placed solely on the patient experience, the fact of the matter is that experience should be approached holistically across the entire organization, taking into account every stakeholder: providers, prospective and current employees, vendors, and partners. This is one area in which the team at Banner has excelled––putting those stakeholders at the center of every digital initiative to truly transform the experiences they provide.

MST Solutions has been proud to partner with Banner to strategically architect and integrate advanced technology solutions to proactively engage stakeholders, intentionally orchestrate the experience, and automate core processes. This approach has positioned the organization to deliver better outcomes for all and gain a major strategic advantage in the process.