Looking for someone to lead digital transformation? Prioritize emotional intelligence, not technical skills

Though IT expertise is certainly necessary when deploying a new tech initiative, emotional intelligence is key to carrying that implementation through to the end, according to Maia Hightower, MD, CMIO of University of Utah Health.

Dr. Hightower, who is also an assistant clinical professor in the Salt Lake City-based health system's department of internal medicine, explained why she makes a point of seeking out team members with a high EQ during a keynote interview at the Becker's Hospital Review Health IT + RCM conference in Chicago on Oct. 9.

For the last decade, EHR implementations have been perceived to be a mandate stemming from the IT department, but in fact, that digital transformation does not end with the technical implementation: "It really is a change management process," Dr. Hightower said. "And change, especially for our providers, has been really difficult."

Change is emotional, she continued. "It requires connecting on that emotional level and being able to be that champion, that shepherd that helps people along a path toward adopting and recognizing the value that our digital tools have." Because of that, and because technical skills can be taught, Dr. Hightower explained that University of Utah Health takes steps to recruit employees that are inherently able to connect, encourage and mentor others.

That kind of emotional intelligence, she said, is "the missing piece when it comes to change management and really getting the full value out of our IT systems."

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