Impact Insights

What’s Keeping Healthcare CIOs up at Night?

DJ Skalsky

We often ask the CIOs of our clients, “What’s keeping you up at night?” For years, the most common responses were usually major implementation, dealing with a merger/acquisition, managing too many projects, budget pressures, CEO pet projects or physician irritation with the EMR. While some of these themes persist, there have been several notable transitions. Recent answers to that same question seem to center on three major categories:

1.Operational issues hindering high performing IT
2.Strategic transformations in the business
3.The changing role of the CIO

Operational issues hindering high performing IT

Many organizations have continued to take advantage of operational improvement opportunities. The goal of these optimization endeavors is to address not having the right team in place, the EMR not delivering the expected promise and leadership questioning the value of IT, asking, “Why is it so expensive?”

Nearly every operational issue seems to boil down to talent or culture. Talent – having the right people deliver exceptional results and culture – because it is the everyday expectations individuals have that drive how they act.

Experience in the field tells us that talent management is critical to overcoming many operational issues. Technology is changing rapidly, and human resource needs must be agile to adapt to keep pace with these changes. Attracting, growing and retaining talent needs to be a core competency of today’s IT leaders.

High-performing organizations are self-reflecting on their culture, continuously examining whether they have developed a culture that breeds success in driving the vision and values of the organization. It is this commitment to culture that will define whether root cause analysis and improvement will occur and whether teams are empowered to make decisions and deliver initiatives. A symbiotic relationship between talent management and culture exists. One generally can exist without the other, but together a high-performing organization will thrive.

Strategic transformations in the business

Some provider IT leaders have noted the amount of strategic transformation occurring in their organization is creating a business imperative to adapt or fail. We’re seeing changes that include a shift to consumerism, managing data as a critical asset, running IT new businesses (i.e. health plans), growth through acquisitions and new forms of partnerships.

In tandem with their everyday job of managing the operational imperatives that are so critical to healthcare delivery, CIOs are often challenged with learning to adapt to multiple shifts within their business. Ill-prepared organizations that have not controlled their project portfolios or have extended themselves beyond their capacity, find it difficult to deliver successfully.

Reinventing the role of the CIO

CIOs are now finding in addition to fulfilling their traditional roles, they are being tasked with managing new expectations such as evolving staff roles and creating an organization’s new vision to meet these new expectations. Often, the new expectations are not always stated or are not clearly understood by the organization, making it difficult to determine the evolutionary path to success.

Implementation to Business Optimization

The wave of massive implementations is waning for EMRs. The next wave of implementation activity is centering on ERP implementation and optimizing technologies, interoperability and workflows. Optimization cannot be done in a void and must consider the needs of not only internal staff but the end user community. The definition of the “end user community” has changed to include patients and allied healthcare organizations, significantly expanding the sphere of influence and impact of IT systems. This expansion of the end user community is not expected to plateau anytime soon.

Keeping the Lights on to Innovator

Some organizations have chief innovation officers, but technology does not bypass those organizations lacking such a role. The CIO must step in to translate technology (and the effective use of that technology) to the organization and participate in the development of this strategy. Artificial intelligence and the heavy use of analytics in management decision-making and every aspect of care delivery is becoming the “next big thing.” An innovator’s hat is needed to keep ahead of the curve.

CIO to Transformational Leader

CIOs are quickly finding that digital health is removing the four walls of the delivery organization. At the same time, this is creating a leadership void that must be filled by themselves or by a chief digital officer. This often leads to lack of clarity in roles and responsibilities and suboptimal execution of the vision that digital health can offer.

There are plenty of concerns keeping CIOs up at night. Each organization has its own circumstances and should determine what its strategic priorities are and focus intently on those priorities. Ask the question: “Are the things we are doing today truly adding value to our organization, our people and the people we serve?”

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