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Leveraging scale and agility to bring innovation to the healthcare industry


By Brian Rice, EVP, CIO and Customer Support Services at Cardinal Health

As the world prepared for the COVID-19 vaccine rollout last winter, we identified a gap that could limit the ability of pharmacies to get shots into the arms of their customers: the absence of an online scheduling tool. We quickly mobilized our resources to design, launch and onboard pharmacies to enable them to provide online scheduling with integrated reporting to the CDC.

I don’t bring up that example to illustrate the depth of our technical expertise. Compared to other technology solutions we are bringing to market, this project was relatively straightforward. But it does illustrate two important points I want to make.

The opportunity to innovate

First, virtually every aspect of healthcare has become technology enabled. Imagine vaccine distribution without the ability to do online scheduling or real-time tracking of doses as they move through distribution. As technology plays a larger role in healthcare, there is a real opportunity to remove inefficiencies and close gaps that prevent better patient outcomes.

But there are challenges inherent in bringing life- and cost-saving technology to healthcare. The healthcare ecosystem is diverse, fragmented and incredibly complex. Payers, manufacturers, providers and patients each play a critical role; yet each is limited in their ability to use technology to drive change across the industry.

Cardinal Health sits at the center of the healthcare supply chain, connecting manufacturers, payers, providers and increasingly, patients. That gives us the perspective to not only identify opportunities that others don’t see, but also the connections to execute on those opportunities.

What we can accomplish goes beyond enabling vaccinations, as important as that work is. Our Outcomes platform, for example, integrates data from multiple sources to enable pharmacists to proactively address issues that prevent their customers from adhering to their medication plans. When Outcomes helps patients take their medications as prescribed, their health risks – and risks of hospitalizations – are reduced.

We’re currently expanding the value of this platform by using predictive analytics and machine learning to identify opportunities for intervention even earlier in the process. We have dozens of other similar innovations in our pipeline that are working their way to the market.

Nurturing entrepreneurship in a Fortune 20 organization

The other point the online scheduling example illustrates is how quickly a large enterprise can act when it is focused, thinks strategically and establishes processes that cultivate innovation. There is a perception that large equals slow, but that doesn’t have to be true.

We are one of the world’s largest organizations serving the healthcare industry, but by enabling entrepreneurship within our technology organization, we are turning our size into an asset that allows us to bring a robust pipeline of innovative solutions to market with impressive speed.

The foundation for this success is FUSE, our world-class growth engine. FUSE leverages a stage-gate process that startups use. It provides the opportunity for every employee within our organization to transform their ideas into a commercial project by developing a business plan, acquiring the financial and cross-disciplinary support required, piloting their solution and, if successful, bringing their project to market. Each project is assigned an innovation guide whose role is to help the innovator navigate each phase of the process, ensuring our “entrepreneurs” have the support they need.

This process has enabled technology specialists across our organization to harness their creativity and skills to grow their careers and deliver value to our business — and the healthcare industry. One of our fastest growing businesses, OptiFreight® Logistics, uses advanced analytics that arose out of our technology organization to drive major savings in healthcare transportation costs.

Those successes and others enabled by FUSE have fostered a build-first, entrepreneurial culture within our organization that drives innovation and risk-taking at all levels. And we are continuing to nurture that culture through programs such as our digital university, hackathons, studying best practices from organizations that have achieved sustained success through innovation, and a guest speaker series to tap into the knowledge and experience of innovative leaders in other industries.

Big vision, big rewards

The processes as well as the culture are in place for Cardinal Health to use our position in the industry to bring transformative technology to the healthcare industry. Our vision is ambitious but realistic: reduce healthcare costs and improve providers’ ability to care for their patients.

To realize that vision, we need to continue to bring talent into our organization. Not only people with skills such as software engineering, data analytics and ethnographic research, but people who are looking to put those skills to work bringing innovation to a complex industry sorely in need of transformation. If you want to make a real difference in your career and drive change in an industry that touches virtually everyone, I encourage you to check out the opportunities we have available

Brian Rice is executive vice president, chief information officer and Customer Support Services at Cardinal Health, leading the global enterprise-wide information technology strategy and the Customer Support Services teams. He manages the Enterprise IT teams to deliver innovative, reliable and secure technology capabilities that enable Cardinal Health customers to thrive in a dynamic healthcare environment. He is also responsible for the Customer Support Services team that serves healthcare customers so they can focus on their patients.

Before joining Cardinal Health, Rice served as senior vice president, chief information officer and global business services for Kellogg Company. While at Kellogg Company, Rice’s role as CIO was expanded to include global business services managing more than two thousand professionals across six global and regional service centers. During a previous engagement with Kellogg in the 1990’s, he led an information technology team in Sydney, Australia as the regional CIO.

Rice worked at General Motors in Detroit where he was both global process information officer and then global services information officer. Previously, he led Mars, Inc’s Asia Pacific Information Services from Singapore.


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Cardinal Health is a distributor of pharmaceuticals, a global manufacturer and distributor of medical and laboratory products, and a provider of performance and data solutions for healthcare facilities. Subscribe to our News Alerts to get all of our latest news.