Health system leaders split on this new C-suite role

As hospitals and health systems look to harness the power of artificial intelligence, many are looking to add chief AI officer to their executive teams. But is this position necessary?

Richmond, Va.-based VCU Health is one of the health systems looking for a chief data and AI officer. This individual would be in charge of data management and responsible for AI adoption across the health system, ensuring safe and ethical use. 

Ellen Wiegand, senior vice president and CIO of VCU Health, told Becker's this role is important because analytics and AI strategy cannot be an "other duty as assigned" added to another group of leaders' existing jobs. 

"It requires dedicated time and subject matter expertise," she said. "Establishing the new CDAIO role provides leadership, focus and specialized expertise to drive progress across the health system."

Bhavik Patel, MD, chief AI officer of Phoenix-based Mayo Clinic Arizona, echoed Ms. Wiegand's sentiments in a Fox News article. Dr. Patel said that the chief AI officer is more than a "technocrat."

"In essence, the chief AI officer is not just a technocrat but a visionary leader, ensuring that the organization navigates the AI-driven paradigm shift in healthcare with agility, responsibility and a patient-centric approach," he told the news outlet. 

With little framework on how to govern the use of artificial intelligence in healthcare, hospitals and health systems are banking on this new C-suite leader to help them craft policies that will ensure AI is rolled out safely and ethically at their organizations.  

"I think more organizations are realizing the importance of a role like this, as it can help align an enterprise on strategy, governance, adoption road maps, these kinds of things. So I think that's the opportunity," Dennis Chornenky, the first chief artificial intelligence adviser for Sacramento, Calif.-based UC Davis Health, told Becker's. "Generally, AI in healthcare is still a relatively new proposition, especially large language models and generative AI and their potential impact on patient-provider interactions, so there's a lot of need for mutual learning."

But some leaders see AI as a part of the CIO role. 

"In my opinion, if you've hired the right CIO, it's just something they take on," B.J. Moore, CIO of Renton, Wash.-based Providence, told Becker's. "This is the single most important tool that we've had in technology I think ever. And if you're a technology leader and you aren't embracing this and becoming an expert, then you're just missing the boat." 

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