By Vivian Nguyen
Northwest Asian Weekly
If there’s one concept Florence Chang understands well, it’s the need to help others.
“I have always had a passion for taking care of people and positively changing lives,” said Chang. Chang is the senior vice president and CIO of MultiCare, a nonprofit, integrated health organization based in Tacoma. “Healthcare was an area where I thought I could make the most direct impact.”
Born in Taichung, Taiwan, Chang came to the United States when she was 15 years old and settled in Culver City, Calif. She enrolled at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), where she developed an interest in medical technology when she worked as a laboratory assistant. Her duties included research and running tests that help UCLA physicians make correct diagnoses for their patients.
“It was a very rewarding experience that helped pave my way and interest in medical technology,” said Chang of her college job. “Just getting that kind of exposure in a healthcare setting, I saw myself there and learned how I could really make a difference [for people].”
Because UCLA did not offer the degree that Chang wanted, she transferred to California State University, Dominguez Hills to pursue medical technology. She started a medical technology internship at the Kaiser Permanente Southern California (KPSC) regional laboratory.
Over the next decade, Chang worked in several areas at KPSC, but eventually she took on a division-level role in their information technology (IT) department, where she enforced technical efficiency for the organization.
“IT is an enabler to transform the [healthcare] industry,” said Chang about the relationship between IT and healthcare.
“To be cost-efficient and provide the highest quality care, [healthcare clinics] need to modify [their] processes and technology in order to reach that goal … automation will prevent human error and push physicians to look at their process differently.”
This was a belief that Chang held as she implemented the IT system at KPSC. She left KPSC in 2002 and went into consulting for the next few years — yet another means for her to guide others into more efficient healthcare practices.
Chang’s career at MultiCare
Chang’s consulting work led her to MultiCare, where she was initially hired to help with electronic record implementation and their IT services department. She left consulting to assume her current title at MultiCare, where she also oversees the organization’s labs and its pharmacy, imaging, and clinical engineering departments while continuing to streamline the nonprofit’s operations.
“She has an exceptional ability to implement innovative processes and systems that place MultiCare on the cutting edge of healthcare delivery,” said Dr. Christopher Kodama, the medical vice president for pediatrics at Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital in Tacoma. Dr. Kodama has known Chang for three years and nominated her as a Pioneer in Health.
“Florence oversees many aspects of MultiCare, and Mary Bridge [Children’s Hospital] is just one of the beneficiaries of the organization,” said Dr. Kodama, explaining his working relationship with Chang. “We represent the pediatric arm of the services available at MultiCare.”
MultiCare is a health organization that benefits four hospitals in the greater Tacoma area including Allenmore Hospital, Good Samaritan Hospital, Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital, and Tacoma General Hospital. They also benefit numerous primary and urgent care clinics, home health services, and hospice services. It aims to respond to the needs of the community so that local patients can remain close to home with access to leading healthcare services.
Within MultiCare, Florence has also helped revolutionize how the clinic operates.
The organization was recently given the ‘Most Wired’ award from Health IT magazine for leading the healthcare industry in IT implementation. It is now one of the most wired health systems in the country.
“Florence really helped chart that path and guide us along that journey,” said Jo Ellen Vanatta of the award. Vanatta is the chief nurse executive at MultiCare where she works closely with Chang in informatics and support services.
“She is a strong leader with a vision … she really came to MultiCare with a purpose and a passion for information and helping others.”
Giving to others
Chang is keen to not only help people in healthcare but also those from different sectors.
She recently completed a Master’s of Business Administration at Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif. She was part of a unique MBA program that focused on educating small classes of senior executives across all industries. Chang was able to walk away from her studies having learned from different businesses, and she implemented those principles into healthcare.
“For example, the construction business … they focus on safety of employees no differently from how we view safety of our patients under care in our facilities,” said Chang on learning from other industries.
“I learned about how they focus on zero defects and realized that I can directly apply that to [the healthcare] industry … it’s the same idea of taking care of our people.”
In the future, Chang sees herself continuing to use innovative and modern technology to change healthcare services.
“I’d like to see myself as that instrument or that leadership to make transformation and change in the healthcare environment … I just want to continue making a difference and change the way we view and deliver healthcare.” ♦
For more information, visit www.multicare.org.
Vivian Nguyen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.