5 questions hospital CIOs need answered & why

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Hospital and health system CIOs face unique challenges introduced by the COVID-19 pandemic as they navigate the rapid digitalization of healthcare, maintaining telehealth on a large scale and more. 

To gain insight into executives' top concerns, Becker's asked CIOs to provide one question they need to be answered right now and share why the question is important. 

Here are their responses in alphabetical order.

Editor's note: Responses have been edited lightly for clarity and style.

Lisa Dykstra. Senior Vice President and CIO of Lurie Children's Hospital (Chicago).

Question: As the role of the CIO continues to expand and grow in complexity, how are you preparing your teams and organizations for the future of healthcare?

Why this question is important: We have seen an even greater shift in the role and responsibilities of the CIO over the past five years than ever before and it's very exciting. In addition to having all the historical responsibilities, CIOs have also taken on new strategic responsibilities and demonstrated the necessary business acumen to enable transformation and growth across all aspects of the business. Persistent emerging business needs, new business ventures and necessary data-driven decision-making are requiring modern approaches to governance focused on value, growth and advancement, not just managing operations. 

Additionally, there is a significant increase in the need for organizational digital literacy, helping them become more fluent in leveraging technology and analytics to create efficiencies and value in all aspects of the healthcare ecosystem. Lastly, we can't do any of this without strong partnerships across the organization and the need to support the continued advancement of the skills and credentials of our talented technology and application teams who are also seeing greater evolution of team roles and responsibilities.

B.J. Moore. Executive Vice President and CIO of Providence (Renton, Wash.).

Question: How do we continue accelerating the adoption of advanced technologies (such as machine learning, artificial intelligence, big data or Internet of Things) for patient outcomes and caregiver productivity and build upon modern hybrid workplace momentum in a way that supports organizational resilience, innovation and a strong culture?

Why this question is important: The past year and a half has had an accelerating effect on the adoption of technology and the modernization of our workplace tools and practices. We must build upon that momentum and accelerated progress in a way that takes into consideration our caregivers' experience and well-being, our need to nurture and grow a great culture of innovation and focus on practices that mitigate unnecessary fatigue and burnout.

Manu Tandon. CIO of Beth Israel Lahey Health (Cambridge, Mass.).

Question: Is it time to expedite the adoption of the public cloud for healthcare providers?

Why this question is important: Several non-healthcare industries are well ahead of the curve in adopting the public cloud. When will we, as healthcare, get there? Can we be more secure in the cloud? Can we financially benefit from the public clouds pay-only-when-you-use model? As imaging technologies advance, can we see a future of cloud-based diagnostic-quality images? Can interoperability get a shot in the arm with assets held in a hybrid cloud model? Is capital better utilized in services more core to health systems than running brick-and-mortar data centers? 

Surprisingly, with a well-strategized, determined plan, the answer to all of the above can be a resounding yes. In a call for action, if enough of the health systems join this direction and bring our dollars to this space, our combined leverage will accelerate healthcare innovation by public cloud vendors — who are actually waiting for us to do so — to support their future growth. A classic win-win.

Ryan Smith. CIO of Intermountain Healthcare (Salt Lake City).

Question: How will we provide an equitable experience to all employees in a new, hybrid work environment?

Why this question is important: Prior to the pandemic, most employees of healthcare organizations were expected to work in the office for the majority of their work. That rapidly changed during the early stages of the pandemic when most non-front-line caregivers transitioned to remote working arrangements. That was a defining moment for our industry. Organizations learned that remote access technologies work well enough, especially when all team members are working remotely, or joining from individual spaces, even if in the office. 

Organizations have recently begun — or soon will be — entering a hybrid environment where a portion of many teams will once again be physically gathering in meeting spaces while others on the team will be joining remotely. As equity — including experience equity — increases in importance, we need to ensure that we provide a seamless experience supporting all employees, irrespective of location. 

Ellen Pollack, MSN, RN. Interim CIO and Chief Nursing Informatics Officer of UCLA Health (Los Angeles).

Question: How can IT best support a COVID-19-fatigued workforce?

Why this question is important: High-performing IT teams understand the challenges and struggles our busy clinicians face every day. COVID-19 has created new challenges, and clinicians have less time and energy for disruptions to workflow brought on by technology. IT can best support this fatigued workforce by being present and round in the clinical areas often. Meeting with end users where they work can make an impactful connection between them and the technology team. Partnering with operations when they are meeting to improve processes, asking probing questions and listening to the answers can benefit the entire system. The primary focus must be on improving efficiencies by automating wherever possible and streamlining workflows. It is also important to ensure workflows are intuitive by eliminating steps wherever possible.

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