CFOs taking on IT roles: Is this trend headed for healthcare?

The role of hospital and health system CFO has become a strategic one, with CFOs involved in parts of the business outside of finance, including IT. Just as the CFO position is changing, healthcare CIOs are taking on more responsibility at their organizations, as technology is a vital component to every hospital's day-to-day functions.

Although filling the CFO and CIO positions has traditionally taken two individuals, some companies are beginning to combine them into one. Last week, Purchase, N.Y.-based PepsiCo announced that its CFO, Hugh Johnston, would become a vice chairman and take responsibility for the company's IT systems, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Regarding its decision to combine the CFO and CIO role into one, Pepsi said, "Putting the company's information technology and e-commerce organizations under the oversight of a vice chairman will accelerate new solutions and further strengthen PepsiCo's digital technology capabilities," according to the report.

Just two days prior to PepsiCo's news, Jockey International announced that it hired Dain Bussewitz as its CFO and CIO. Mr. Bussewitz isn't the first person at Jockey to take on both roles. He replaces Frank Schneider who served as the company's CFO and CIO from 2000 until 2014.

Combining the CFO and CIO roles is not common in healthcare, but it does occur. For instance, Sue Anderson serves as executive vice president, CIO and CFO of Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle. She has served in her dual role since 2007.

There are a number of reasons for the traditional separation between finance and technology, including that the CFO and CIO sometimes have competing agendas, as the capital intensive priorities of the CIO can clash with the CFO's desire to reel in spending.

However, Barbara Gomolski, a Gartner analyst, told The Wall Street Journal that the separation of the roles is hurting most companies. She said the merging of finance and technology can benefit organizations by closely aligning IT with business strategy.

Ms. Gomolski did have hesitations about the dual position, as she noted it is challenging for most CFOs and CIOs to do all that is required of one role. That issue will likely prevent the trend from taking off in healthcare, as both executives' roles are continually being expanded due to numerous changes in the industry such as those sparked by the Affordable Care Act.

More articles on healthcare finance:

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CMS proposes changes to Physician Fee Schedule: 15 things to know
45 states earn 'F' grades for healthcare price transparency

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