How CIOs can win the battle for talent systemwide

Brad Reimer, CIO of Sanford Health in Sioux Falls, S.D., has staffing issues for the entire system top of mind as he keeps an eye on strategic planning.

Staffing costs and labor shortages are a pervasive challenge for health systems across the U.S., but the right partnerships and automation capabilities could ease the pain for systems. During an interview on the "Becker's Healthcare Digital Health + Health IT Podcast," Mr. Reimer outlined how Sanford is tackling talent and cybersecurity issues.

Note: This response has been edited for clarity.

Question: What are the biggest challenges you're facing today?

Brad Reimer: Cybersecurity is always going to be top of mind, especially with the recent healthcare ransomware attacks over the last couple of years. It's more than just protecting information, which is obviously important, but now it's also about system integrity and availability of your systems. It's one thing to lose some data; it's another to really impact direct patient care. That will continue to be top of mind and keep me up at night.

One of the other issues that is just emerging, but emerging very rapidly, is this battle for talent across the nation. What differentiates you as an employer of choice is changing right in front of us, and it's a space that's going to need a lot of focus with how fast it's changing and how volatile it is. My leadership team and I are spending a good chunk of time thinking about how the workforce impacts the talent pool we have, and what technology can do to help address that talent and staffing shortages within the healthcare and operations parts of our business. It does make us nervous because if you look at some of the trends, the number of people graduating with different degrees, we've got to think differently and plan differently.

One of the things we've done recently is form a strategic cyber health alliance with Dakota State University. It's a university in our backyard and kind of a hidden gem of an institution that's known nationally for cyber education. The partnership will allow Sanford to address both the area of talent and pipeline as well as cybersecurity and the advancement of technology in healthcare. We're really pushing into that partnership with results being improved education, improved research, a focus on data and artificial intelligence, and quite a few other things.

The partnership provided us a really unique combination with the university to do some academic work and some experimenting, but we've got a footprint in the health system right here to operationalize some of the innovative tech into things our caregivers are doing on a daily basis.

We're also building facilities right next to each other on the same campus in a cyber hub in Sioux Falls. We'll do some shared lab space and incubator space, and some different conference center and education space, that will help us really come together in a true partnership and work side-by-side with each other every day. We're hoping that this eventually becomes a place where other health systems, other third parties, come and learn and want to partner with us and whether it's cybersecurity and talent today, maybe two, three, five years from now, it's a completely different topic, but the intersection of operational healthcare and academics is going to be really important to continue to partner with as we go forward.

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