4 health IT leaders, 5 thoughts: Millennials, phasing out CIOs, sabotage by underinvestment and more

At Becker's Hospital Review's 3rd Annual Health IT + Revenue Cycle Conference in Chicago on Sept. 22, four senior healthcare technology executives gathered to discuss the CIO role, IT security, shifts in population health strategy and the importance of strong leadership to make technology work for people — not vice versa.

Participants in the discussion included: 

- Bruce Metz, PhD, founder and managing partner with Elite Healthcare Advisors and former senior vice president and CIO with Lahey Health
- Mimi Broeker, senior vice president of NorthShore University HealthSystem
- Jonathan Manis, senior vice president and CIO of Sutter Health Information Services
- Kevin Ban, MD, executive director of managed care and population health services with athenahealth
- Conversation moderated by Scott Becker, publisher of Becker's Healthcare

Future of the CIO role
"The CIO role has changed over years," said Mr. Manis. "We all started off as computer people; now we're becoming patient engagement and consumer people. We're quite quickly moving to a point where technology and business can no longer be separated. Instead of being a support function, tech will actually be the function of the operation. I actually don't think the CIO role will exist in three to five years — I think it will be converged with operations and there will be a CTO who keeps the trains on time."

Traits of a system excelling with technology
"It takes superb and excellent leadership," said Dr. Metz. "Without leadership in this environment, organizations are just turnarounds. Second thing: Don't try to be something you're not. There is margin pressure for most of us. Don't overcommit, but figure out what your market is all about, what can differentiate you and how to leverage your strengths to do that. Technology is 20 to 25 percent of what needs to be done. Most of the time I see organizations having a hard time affording and funding technology, then shortchanging the other 70 to 75 percent and questioning their investment."

Balancing the styles of two generations, at the same time
"You have Baby Boomers — they still like high touch," said Ms. Broeker. "They want to see their physicians face-to-face. Then you have a younger, relatively healthy group. They want to be able to do everything from their iPhone. It will shift to all tech, but it's still a few years away. For now, it's important to maintain your workflows and stabilize them, but have an openness toward innovation."

The shift of population health
"Initially organizations in value-based contracts were really focused on those patients — they almost didn't want to talk about patients who weren't in those contracts. They would ask, 'Who are our patients? Are they staying in our system? What are their quality scores?' Now you are seeing two things. No. 1, organizations want to talk about how to care for patients overall, whether they are fee-for-service or in a value-based contract. No. 2, they want to act on the data."

IT security
"There are so many cool things out there — apps, software, medical devices," said Ms. Broeker. "We in IT get bombarded about how some department wants to use something new that will improve outcomes for the patient, but from the security perspective those vendors don't have secure policies in place. There is no encryption, dual authentication. Default passwords are still in place. There is tension between us wanting to improve healthcare and keeping it safe. If something does go wrong, everybody is going to look at IT and ask, 'How did you let that happen?'"

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