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CIO50 2020 #20 David Hackshall, Cochlear

  • Name David Hackshall
  • Title Global chief information officer
  • Company Cochlear
  • Commenced role July 2015
  • Reporting Line Chief executive officer
  • Member of the Executive Team Yes
  • Technology Function 280 full time staff, 11 direct reports
  • Prior to COVID-19, Australian medical device company, Cochlear, was implementing a digital workplace program by extending its Office 365 tenancy beyond desktop applications and delivery of MS Teams and OneDrive. It also included on-premise investments in meeting room technology that natively supports technology such as the Microsoft Surface Hub. 

    This put Cochlear in a good position as the pandemic hit. Over three weeks, the entire global organisation was ported over to Teams. During quiet times in the office, Cochlear’s tech team – led by global chief information officer, David Hackshall – deployed MS Surface hubs and high-end Crestron devices that enabled a hybrid meeting model for return to work. 

    “The rollout included OneDrive and some telephony capability, which allowed us to retire legacy meeting tools and conference call facilities,” says Hackshall. 

    “They key objectives of this program have been met and the organisation now collaborates more effectively internally and with partners, regardless of geography. We have also yielded material savings through the removal of legacy tools.” 

    Patient onboarding and connected care 

    A key element of Cochlear’s success is continued product innovation, says Hackshall. 

    “The ecosystem in which we operate is a complex one. As a medical device manufacturer, we do not directly own the relationship with the patient. We also have a business challenge around registration of our devices with the registration process being predominately paper-based and dependent on a combination of clinic and patient,” says Hackshall. 

    Through the deployment of custom technology built on AWS, the organisation has digitised the registration process and the customer can onboard before surgery, says Hackshall. 

    This brings forward the data capture. When a patient’s hearing device is switched on, the remaining device data is electronically matched and appended to the patient record.

    “One of our key objectives is to give time back to the clinic and this process aids this,” says Hackshall. “We can now play a vital role in connecting a patient with a professional and vice versa.” 

    Hackshall and his team also created a ‘Connected Care’ platform that integrates the company’s physical product offering, enabling professionals and patients to engage with each other in a continuum of care. “Without the need for the patient to travel to the clinic for follow-ups and check-ins,” he says. 

    “This process takes data off the device, prompts patients with some questions, allows patients to take photos of the surgical area and this is presented back to the clinician in real time. The clinician now has a set of data to determine if the patient is required to attend a clinic or not.” 

    A key element of patient engagement is the insurance hurdle and co-payment process. This is a challenge in the US market where a very complex insurance process referred to as “letters of medical necessity”. 

    “Again, the objective is to give more time back to the clinic,” he says. 

    Cochlear partnered with DocuSign and digitised a large part of the insurance approval process between Cochlear, patient, and clinics. This removed the burden and paperwork, making this process frictionless, he says. 

    “As a result, Cochlear gave back time to the clinic and moved market share as we became easy to do business with,” he says. 

    Seat at the table 

    At Cochlear, Hackshall sits as a peer with the wider executive team. Hackshall says to be effective, he has needed to build solid relationships that are founded in trust. 

    As a CIO, you will be faced with testing times and without the foundation, the role’s effectiveness can be compromised. To accomplish this, I listen with both ears and speak with one voice,” he says. “I engage and embed myself on the front line to experience the operations and processes myself. 

    This is the key to being able to talk to the organisation from a solid foundation of knowledge that influences the direction of the firm.

    “When I speak I am clear, and I base my opinions from supporting data as well as personal experience.” 

    Within the IT organisation, Hackshall says he share the tech vision and contextualise this into actionable and tangible roadmaps for delivery. 

    “I do this using two mediums. Every two months, we do global town halls, I go to every site around the world at least twice per year (pre-COVID-19), I hold morning teas, ‘lunch and learn’ sessions, and have an internal blog. 

    “I share our objectives with our team, but more importantly, I share how we are progressing against these.”

    Byron Connolly

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