Mount Sinai Health System CIO Kumar Chatani: How CIOs can effectively work within the hospital C-suite

The hospital C-suite is becoming crowded. The traditional roles of CEO, CFO and COO are joined by chief experience officers, chief development officers, chief medical officers, chief nursing officers, chief technology officers and more. Chief information officers play an important role in leadership, but their voices can get lost among their peers standing at the helm of a hospital or health system.

Kumar Chatani, MBA, CIO and Executive Vice President of New York-based Mount Sinai Health System, shares his approach to CIO leadership and how to carve out an indispensable place in the C-suite.

1. Think of yourself as a service provider. Information technology touches and supports nearly every role in a healthcare organization from the C-suite to clinicians to patients. CIOs are at the forefront of IT: determining what systems are in place, how these systems are implemented and how IT works with and supports the organization. A key responsibility for any CIO is to listen to his or her fellow leaders. "You can't sit in the back office and just lend support, or they will think of you as a back office geek," says Mr. Chatani. "As you get to know the C-suite, you have to know their direct reports.  You have to know their goals, challenges and success factors. You have to be their partner in that journey."

2. Know how to communicate. CIOs are experts in the IT world, but other C-suite leaders are not likely to understand the intricacies of health IT. "Avoid IT jargon: speak directly and simply," he says. "Get to know them and build trust.  I have been doing this for more than 20 years and these ideas are simple, but powerful."

3. Play an active role in on-boarding new leaders. Hospital leadership is subject to turnover and the C-suite will constantly have new members.  When someone new joins the organization, extend a helping hand. "Play a role in the onboarding process and actively introduce them to your team and explain the functions carried out by your department," says Mr. Chatani. "Build those relationships early on and demonstrate value as a partner in the C-suite."

4. Be prepared for your role to evolve. For the past decade, IT has migrated from a back office function to deeply impacting how healthcare is delivered. This trend will continue in healthcare, affecting how CIOs operate. "The role will blur and spread deeper into business operations," says Mr. Chatani. "We are at an excellent point in the evolution of the healthcare CIO. The opportunities for CIOs to make a difference in healthcare and technology are endless."

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