6 biggest challenges CIOs are currently facing

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The responsibilities of a hospital CIO fall across an array of categories, including, but not limited to, information systems management, infrastructure upgrades, health data security and patient engagement. Along with the plethora of responsibilities comes a multitude of challenges.

Here are some of the key challenges CIOs currently face. Responses have been gathered from Becker's Hospital Review's "Life of a Healthcare CIO" series.

To recommend a CIO to be featured in this series, please contact Akanksha Jayanthi (ajayanthi@beckershealthcare.com).

Aaron Miri, CIO of Walnut Hill Medical Center in Dallas: In addition to growing a hospital, which is exploding at the seams with volume and our customer satisfaction scores, it's the regulatory landscape that's changing around us. Now you have proposed modifications to meaningful use stage 2, meaningful use stage 3 rules are out there and you've got ICD-10 that is happening Oct. 1. We are starting a new business that is incredibly successful and introducing a lot of change to clinicians who are already going through a lot of change because they're in a new environment and learning new technology. Here's one more thing on their plate. How do you keep clinicians who are already busy and successful from getting overwhelmed? Again, that rate of change becomes important. How do you do it in a way that doesn't have resistance so it is not a dictatorship? We have to be partners to the clinicians around the table, otherwise they'll never look to us for guidance.

Joy Grosser, vice president and CIO of West Des Moines, Iowa-based Unity Point Health: You just can't move quickly enough. UnityPoint Health has a significant presence in the accountable care organization market requiring patient-level communication from both employed and independent providers. The biggest challenge is the lack of interoperability caused by an industry that does not have data standards. We are trying to get data faster so that we can both make it more actionable on the front end, as well as using it for predictive modeling for the population. You can't mandate that all healthcare organizations utilize the same systems, yet our patients need clinical information to flow from provider to provider. As an industry, we need to work together to regulate data standards.

Matthew Chambers, CIO of Baylor Scott & White Health in Dallas: In healthcare IT, we're not currently agile enough to support the pace of changes we're seeing in our business model and industry. You see consumerization and the retail model emerging rapidly in healthcare. Meanwhile, we're still in the tail-end of very large operations systems implementations with our EHRs, and we're not yet nimble enough to meet the need of our business right away. We're therefore trying to retool on the fly. The challenge is to make these rapid changes to meet market demand, though system changes can take years and a lot of capital. Operators or administrators want better, faster, cheaper. Unfortunately you can't usually get all three at the same time. What we've seen in our desire to move aggressively and be responsive is that you can do interfaces and aggregation, but you don't always end up with what we look for in patient safety and accuracy. That's the challenge. How do you balance the speed of what our patients and our providers want along with the No. 1 important factor, which is patient safety?

Shafiq Rab, MD, vice president and CIO at Hackensack (N.J.) University Medical Center: Security is a big challenge for us and for anybody in this industry, especially with so much identity theft. And I'm working through shadow IT and shadow software. As a CIO, you have to think of the use case of IT and think outside of the box. We have to open up our minds and get outside of our comfort zones and pick uses we thought were not possible. I'm challenging myself everyday to stay relevant and give the gift that technology has provided to decrease costs and improve healthcare delivery, outcomes and patient experience.

They're all here. We have all the tools at our disposal. It's up to us how we use IT to make communication and connectivity better.

Robert Napoli, CIO of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands: From the technology perspective, my challenge, which is a common one, is being able to deliver the systems and services to our end users given a limited budget and an extremely lean bench of support staff. It doesn't take much to throw us off schedule. For example, our recent merger with the Hawaii affiliate* is something that happened extremely quickly. We first heard about it in February, and by March it was a done deal. Things like that really have a big impact on us. I need to be extremely nimble and resourceful given what has been a very unpredictable roadmap.

Organizationally, we're in a hyper-competitive market. While we have an extremely strong brand and provide high-quality services, our patients have a myriad of healthcare options, and we are constantly looking at ways to improve the patient experience so that we can retain our patients and attract new ones. Technology plays a big role in this.

*Editor's note: Earlier this year, Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest took ownership of Planned Parenthood of Hawaii to become what is now Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands.

Deanna Wise, executive vice president and CIO of Dignity Health (San Francisco): There are many CIOs retiring right now, which is surprising to me because I am super energized. This is a great time to be a CIO in healthcare. There's a lot to balance, because a CIO's job isn't just about deploying technology anymore; it's engaging with the business. Our core business is providing quality healthcare and putting the patient at the center of care while focusing on safety, but as we do this we're deploying technology and partnering with the business and the patient experience. So it's about looking for creative and innovative ways to do that. It is challenging to do so while also dealing with meaningful use, ICD-10 and the other big-headline topics.

More articles on CIOs:

50 benchmarks, stats and data points for CIOs to know
6 standout CIOs | Part 3
3 thoughts from La Rabida Children's CIO Vincent Vitali on determining IT value

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