Health First's William Walders on the changing CIO role

Different hospitals and health systems don't define the CIO role the same. It is an ever-changing position that can have varying responsibilities.

William Walders, CIO and senior vice president at Health First in Rockledge, Fla., stopped by the "Becker's Healthcare Podcast" to discuss the CIO role.

Editor's note: This is an edited excerpt. Listen to the full podcast here.

Question: Can you talk a little bit about what that means as the CIO role grows and develops as a strategic asset to an organization? 

William Walders: In my opinion, there's no better person in the organization that understands the reach of technology in the system than CIO, CIO staff or [chief technology officer]. If senior leaders are in a room, you have the CEO, [human resources] chief, chief lawyer and the [chief experience officer]. Those leaders are looking to do things for your health system that are new, unique and growth driven. It is essential to have the CIO, [chief digital officer] or the [chief information and digital officer] in the room if the discussion is about mergers and acquisitions or entering new markets. I think most systems are recognizing this. You are a true, valued and strategic asset, not just because of your IT acumen or understanding of how these systems work, but moreover on the idea of growth and growing. In our case, just growth in general, as a not-for-profit health system that benefits the community, thinking of things in ways that come from the technology space, the way that payments have changed for financial services, that's no longer an IT thing. 


It's how they do business, right? It's no different in any other industry, hospitality or otherwise, that these have been ubiquitous, strategic elements — these being digital tools and digital capabilities. So it's essential. There are some that aren't of this mindset yet. I think healthcare is one of the lagging industries, and in some of these advancements, it's been well dictated by many of the research firms out there. Some of these systems are very happy to let their CIO run their EHR, [enterprise resource planning] and other pieces of enterprise software and not invite them a seat at the table. I'm not that type of CIO, and I think many aren't. I do see a bit of a bifurcation of who we are, and it's just who that system is; it's who that CIO is. You get the ability to be a force multiplier if you're the former instead of the latter.

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