How health system CIOs monitor health tech trends

As the healthcare landscape continues to shift with a focus on digital and strategic transformation, health system CIOs and tech leaders need to stay ahead of the curve for various upcoming IT innovations to see how digital transformation can enhance business operations. 

Becker's asked nine healthcare tech leaders: How do you stay current on innovations and trends within the health tech space?

Sophy Lu. CIO of Northwell Health (New Hyde Park, N.Y.): A lot of learning, a lot of conversations and a lot of networking. Not only with big tech companies, but with small tech, emerging companies, peers, universities, research and with different venture portfolios. Always be curious and a constant student.

I think it's also important to cross collaborate with various industries and to look across the globe. As healthcare and technology evolves, we need to look outside of the norms and reimagine the possibilities while staying true to balance the immediate goals and to glide and pivot towards the future.

Maia Hightower, MD. Chief Digital and Technology Officer of University of Chicago Medicine: I have a ton of different lists or things that come in my inbox. But definitely it's been really interesting being part of the startup community, where you really have some cutting-edge, interesting colleagues. I'm an advisor for a venture capital company, so you get insight into early-stage companies and what they're doing, and it just is such a wonderful augmentation to what our faculty are doing.

And also networking at conferences, academic conferences — AMIA [the American Medical Informatics Association], being one. Harvard has one called SAIL [the Symposium on Artificial Intelligence]. Stanford has an AI conference. Those are all great and at the cutting edge of research.

Matt MacVey. Executive Vice President and CIO of Children's National Hospital (District of Columbia): Lots of different sources — industry things like CHIME and HIMSS — have all been key to that. But more than anything just the interaction with peers. I would shout out the Children's Hospital Association CIO forum. Children's hospitals as a community have a really strong CIO forum. There's always somebody there to answer the call or share and collaborate. 

More recently, I've spent more time getting to know CIOs in other industries in the region through a group called Inspire CIO and some others. It's very interesting to branch out of healthcare and say, "OK, at some level, we're actually dealing with a lot of the same things." Whether you're a huge government contractor building airplanes or a provider, there are some common challenges. Now the solutions and technologies might be different, but I've learned a lot from that local cross-functional group as well.

Nigam Shah, PhD. Chief Data Scientist of Stanford (Calif.) Health Care: It's a mixture of newsletters, social media and talking to colleagues. There's no one good place to stay current. The bleeding-edge technology developments happen in the research community. The risky bets around applying them happen in the venture community. And then the success or failures get talked about in what we traditionally call the health IT community. So you've got to watch three sectors, which is not easy.

Ellen Pollack, MSN, RN. CIO of UCLA Health (Los Angeles): It's really important to have a peer group that you learn from. So attending conferences and joining CIO peer groups — whether it's in the academic space, whether it's in the Epic space — and really learning from others and being open to learning from others is the primary way.

Bobbie Byrne, MD. CIO of Advocate Aurora Health (Downers Grove, Ill.): I am an insanely curious person, so whenever I fear something that I don't know about, I jot it down and I go look it up.

I also spend a lot of time talking to my team — the technician experts who have the appropriate certifications about anything I am unfamiliar with.

There is also a very tight knit collaborative network of CIOs of healthcare systems, and we really help each other out. 

I also tend to read up on a lot of things including general leadership principles. My general leadership is probably even more important than my technical expertise, so I'm constantly looking at how I can make myself a better leader.

Philip Payne, PhD. Chief Data Scientist and Director of the Institute for Informatics at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis: Well, I'm going be honest with you, it's extremely hard. Much like in the clinical domain, where we say it's impossible for providers to even read a small percentage of the relevant literature that's produced in their given field to stay abreast of it, the same is now happening in healthcare IT, with the number of journals and news outlets and other vehicles.

I have a select group of writers who I'm particularly interested in, who I think cover the field well, from what I would consider to be trustworthy outlets. I follow those writers on Twitter, but I also have my own Google searches. So I tend to start with the writers who I believe really provide excellent coverage of the field and then work backwards from that rather than starting with an individual publication.

I also have a couple of key groups of informatics leaders who I regularly interact with. We actually have a group that meets on Fridays for a virtual lunchtime chat of institute directors and department chairs and others who simply meet just to exchange notes on what they have learned in the past week or two weeks in terms of developments in the field. And that is in large part a reaction to something we've lost due to the pandemic, which was the in-person interaction we used to do on the edges of conferences and workshops and other events where we would see each other in three dimensions.

Albert Duntugan. Chief Data Officer of UCLA Health (Los Angeles): Definitely keeping in touch with my colleagues, talking to my counterparts at other organizations and hearing directly from them is very important, whether that's one on one where I have regular updates with them, or if it's via conferences, that's invaluable. And reading up on the journals. Becker's as a news feed is very important. It's nice to get these quick flashes of knowledge bits that are happening across the industry. But also doing those deep dives with New England Journal of Medicine, the typical journals, is important as well.

Denise Zabawski. CIO of Nationwide Children's Hospital (Columbus, Ohio): A lot of reading, networking and conferences.

Charles Worthington. Chief Technology Officer of U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs: I do a lot of reading and listening to podcasts, not just on health tech, but tech in general. We also get a fair amount of opportunities to meet with our peers in the health industry. I find that is really valuable. Most health tech professionals that are on the provider side seem to be just super open about sharing what's worked for them. Every time I have a conversation with a peer and another provider I learn a ton, and they learn a little from us.

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