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Meet the Leadership - Ben Zaniello banner

Life @ PointClickCare: Ben Zaniello

Introducing our Chief Medical Officer, Ben Zaniello! As a practicing physician, Ben supports PointClickCare in aligning the mission and vision of the organization with the needs of the patient and the provider. He is also a passionate advocate for value-based care and a public health expert, making him an invaluable member of the PointClickCare team.

What is a Chief Medical Officer?

A Chief Medical Officer (CMO) is usually the leader of medical services who typically advises the organization on matters of public health. For Ben, and PointClickCare, this is a special role that helps us to ensure our solutions meet the needs of the users and those they care for. As Ben says, “first and foremost, my job is to be the voice of the patients, and then second to that is being the voice of our customers that care for those patients. With the rest of the clinicians at PointClickCare, I work alongside product and marketing to optimize our strategy for the best possible clinical outcomes.” In this position, Ben still maintains his medical license and sees patients regularly, which he tells us both keeps him up-to-date on medical practice and keeps him mission aligned.

Intro to Computer Science

Before becoming the Chief Medical Officer at PointClickCare, as well as an infectious disease specialist, Ben studied architecture, German, and computer science at Stanford. When we asked him about his decision to choose a career in medicine, he jokingly told us, “I had no doctors around to tell me it was a terrible idea.” He clarifies by saying that while he loves being a physician and finds patient care inspiring, he saw early in his career the impact technology can have at scale and wanted to unite the two.

Studying a variety of things was actually what led Ben to choose medicine, as he felt it would unite his different passions. “I went to Stanford, and as the son of two English professors, I assumed that’s what my path was, as well. When I spoke with my freshman advisor, they told me if I was sure I would be an English major, to get my distribution credits out of the way the first year and see what happens. I am happy I did because one of those classes was computer science and I absolutely loved it. What was so striking about it was essentially the problem-solving approach to programming. The idea of chunking things into blocks and approaching problems in sections, it was a new experience for me, really unlike anything I had learned before, and I’ve carried that mindset through to medicine.”

International Bug Specialist

Ben says when deciding what type of doctor he wanted to be, he found that he aligned most with international medicine and programs like Doctors Without Borders. “While I was able to do medical missions and international work in the field, unfortunately I did not end up working with Doctors Without Borders, as I had a family and other responsibilities later in life that I didn’t want to be away from. But I continue to have the utmost respect and admiration for the work they do, and it is because of that initial alignment I chose to specialize in infectious disease.”

Ben mentions that as a good Kentucky boy, another reason he was drawn toward infectious disease is his lifelong fascination with bugs. “The little Kentucky boy in me grew up digging in the dirt and playing in the creek and was fascinated by worms and parasites and I was never grossed out by anything.” He also tells us that there is a social good aspect of infectious disease that was appealing to him. “With the exception of COVID-19, for the most part infectious diseases are diseases of inequity, like tuberculous, HIV, or chagas disease, which are very common in other parts of the world, but not as much here in the United States and I wanted focus on these at-risk populations.”

Healthcare Technology

Ben was at Stanford near Silicon Valley during the height of the technology boom and made a lot of connections in the technology industry. After leaving technology for medical school, he was often asked to weigh in on projects and ideas. “Since former colleagues knew I had a medical background I would be asked to advise on their companies or their products to provide them with that user experience.”

He says the switch to being on the technology side of healthcare was a gradual change that evolved over many years for a number of reasons. “For one thing, my entry into medicine corresponded with the rollout of EPIC (a cloud based EHR built for hospitals) across every facility where I worked, so I was able to have first-hand experience with the technology side of healthcare as a user. I found I enjoyed doing healthcare technology because it merged my interests.”

Ben also told us that the career change was a result of burnout. “Frankly speaking, I was getting burnt out in the medical field, so when I had the opportunity to do the technology stuff, I was drawn to it. But I didn’t want to give up seeing patients and having that connection with them, so I decided to spend 20% of my time with my patients and then the rest of the time would be fully invested into the technology side of medicine.”

Passion for People

For Ben, the best part of being a physician are the relationships he forms with the people he cares for. “You’re the person people trust, they come to you and tell their stories, and you have the opportunity to learn about people through these stories. These deeps truths they reveal to you, and only you, behind closed doors, is really kind of magical and wonderful, as you get a unique opportunity to (try!) to help them.”

Because Ben is passionate about people, he is also an advocate for better care transitions and it is no surprise that, as a physician, this passion stems from firsthand experience. He says that over time, many cases of misinformation have fed this appetite to do more. “I’ve witnessed firsthand the real cost of what we call information asymmetry in medicine, which means that the information you need about your patient exists, somewhere, but you have no access to it. That aspect of healthcare has really driven my personal passion to reduce information asymmetry and to put appropriate clinical context in the hands of the provider.”

He also said creating the proper care transitions is about refocusing medicine around a medical necessity and not a medical uncertainty. “So much of medicine, particularly in emergency situations, is done out of uncertainty because we don’t have all the answers at that moment. If we have better access to the information we need, we can provide better care and reduce care costs for the patient and the facility.”

Joining PointClickCare

For Ben, PointClickCare’s vision is what sets it apart and makes it an industry leader. “Since it started, PointClickCare helps its LTPAC customers take advantage of innovative technology to better serve their patients, and now we’re doing the same in the acute and payer markets.” Ben also says that, in his experience, most people who work in healthcare are not in it for the money, and he feels that aligns with the mission at PointClickCare. “People who work in healthcare do it because of the social good. Everyone has been affected by healthcare at some point in their lives, family or friends, or personal experience, so being able to work for an organization that is making healthcare better gives a stronger purpose to all of our day-to-day jobs.”

Thanks for sharing, Ben!

March 11, 2022