The expectations of CIOs are changing — here are the key trends to stay ahead of the curve from Prime Healthcare's Will Conaway

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The CIO role is changing across hospitals and health systems today as data analytics, innovation and digital technology emerge as important aspects of the role.

 

Ontario, Calf.-based Prime Healthcare CIO and Vice President of Technology Will Conaway discusses how he sees his job changing and the big technology trends to watch.

Question: How do you think your role will change in the next three years? What are you doing today to prepare?

Will Conaway: If you don't expect the obligations of C-level technology roles to change in the next three years, then you're not paying attention. More than merely a change in the defined role of tech-Cs, the most significant shift will be in the expectations executives and boards place on them. Increasingly, I'm noticing executives from strategy, sales, marketing, patient experience and finance reaching out to partner with tech-Cs. I've also had large uptick in other technology leaders contacting me to discuss ideas and thoughts about the future of technology, which lets me know it's on everyone's mind.

I'm undertaking a multitude of actions in preparation for this approaching major shift for tech-Cs, including studying innovations at other healthcare systems. Examples include Providence Health & Services and Microsoft teaming up to build 'the hospital of the future,' and Rush University Medical Center implementing AT&T's 5G to advance their service lines. Another area to watch involves non-healthcare-related companies moving into the healthcare space.

I'm also circling back to 'Porter's Five Forces' to analyze how a healthcare system is affected by its competitive rivals, potential new market entrants, suppliers, customers, and substitute products. The innovations are happening rapidly and tend to revolve around the harnessing of massive quantities of data. Uber is using Apple Health Records for uniting patients and providers. Take Care Health Systems, a division of Walgreens, contracted with BMW to operate an onsite healthcare center in South Carolina. We'll see more of these partnerships between healthcare systems and other organizations to deliver quality, cost-effective healthcare to private industry employees. We will also witness more healthcare organizations merging and launching joint ventures to help with economies of scale and reducing costs. There is a vastly different and new approach to healthcare delivery upon us.

Q: What role does consumerism play in your shifting focus?

WC: Patients are continuing to evolve into discerning consumers seeking more than the traditional provider-patient experience: to address this, look to other industries with different strategies for moving to be customer-centric. Consider Amazon: they've been a trendsetter with building and establishing their brand around their customer. They're prodigious at using big data and predictive analytics to personalize the customer's shopping experience. eBay is another excellent example. If you lose an auction, eBay will send you a friendly note prompting you to review similar items that might interest you.

Here's something that initially gets somewhat of a confused reaction. From an IT marketing perspective, I'm much more interested in having a loyal customer base than a pleased-with-my-last-experience base. Why? Because loyal customers continue to come back, where happy ones often shop around. A fundamental element in healthcare delivery is that customer-centricity is not about treating every customer the same. It's about serving your target customers and ensuring better patient outcomes and experiences.

With all of the readily available information that is increasing each day exponentially, expect to see the trend of consumerism in healthcare grow. Patients will continue to increase their knowledge about their health and wellness.

Q: Are there any headwinds you're watching?

WC: IT leadership must spend more time studying rules and regulations and anticipate the government becoming more involved with healthcare. The best IT leaders will stay current and understand political landscapes. IT leaders should be watching how technology can assist providers' need to adjust to assuming more risk around value-based care, how reforms to drug delivery chain will affect business including transparency requirements for fees, and what 'surprise billing' legislation could mean.

I’ve also been addressing measurements. To stay current with technology and be relevant in three years, I've been placing objectives and key results for my role in driving toward better-defined objectives that have clearly demarcated results. I continually recite my mantra of measuring what makes you better, not what makes you look good. If you aren't continually evolving and improving, your concern in the next three years won't be the changes in your current role; it will be finding a new one.

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