Sutter Health's CTO Focuses Attention on Big Data

Wes Wright, CTO of Sutter Health, a not-for-profit health system, is focused on deploying big data analytics, cloud, VDI and Hadoop, and strengthening security.

Big data

CIO Insight: Can you describe some of the innovative ways you are levering technology at Sutter?

Wright: As we're increasingly exploring different big data initiatives, we're actually moving much more heavily into the cloud. The cloud offers us a level of elasticity that we could never achieve in our own data centers, and that, in turn, gives us the freedom to do things like spin up and spin down Hadoop clusters as demand dictates.

Healthcare IT as an industry has historically been very reticent about cloud—and very slow to adopt it—because of the responsibility of protecting our patients' health information, but the upside is huge. Over the next two years, we're going to tackle major initiatives like interfacing genomic data with clinical records, and that is going to exponentially expand our need for compute and storage.

The cloud can offer that to us, and it can grow as we grow. By giving us the freedom to take on projects like that, we are helping to advance the state of the art of medicine by giving clinicians richer, more contextual data that can help them improve patient care and outcomes.

CIO Insight: What approach have you taken to ensure that your technology and data are secure?

Wright: There are really three key elements to ensure IT and data security: centralize, protect, monitor. The more places that data and IT resources reside, the harder it is to monitor and protect those locations and the data they contain. The VDI deployment is the first step, and that takes care of centralization.

From there, it's going to be a lot easier to protect data with tools like Lancope and some of Microsoft's security offerings to monitor user and device behavior patterns. With those technologies, we can actually see which devices are talking to each other and what they are communicating, as well as how users are communicating with each other and network-connected devices. That allows us to establish baselines and set up alerts on anomalies.

We also use solutions like FireEye and monitoring solutions like ExtraHop to spot anomalous behavior, investigate breaches and take a more proactive stance on security.

CIO Insight: As you look to the future, what technology trends particularly excite you?

Wright: This is really geeky, but the Intel 3D XPoint is going to be transformational. Being able to use all the dimensions on a chip is going to revolutionize the compute world. Things are going to be faster, cheaper, smarter. As much as anything, it's a game changer for the industry.

For healthcare, the cloud is really just starting to gain acceptance. But once the industry really figures out how to leverage the advantages it offers, there is major upside. It's going to allow healthcare IT to experiment with more innovative, cutting-edge projects like big data because scale in the cloud is so elastic.

OpenStack and open-source applications and operating systems are also going to become much more prevalent in healthcare over the next year as those offerings mature.

And perhaps most importantly, I'm excited to see what can be done in healthcare as these technologies gain a meaningful foothold. I feel like we're on the cusp of something great—of a Rosetta Stone, if you will—that is going to completely revolutionize healthcare for our patients.

It will be better, smarter, more proactive, more cost-effective. And lives will be saved. At the end of the day, that's what really matters.


This article was originally published on 04-14-2017
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