The IT roles health systems added in 2020 and the focus for next year

The IT departments at hospitals and health systems are evolving, especially as institutions shuffled strategic priorities during the pandemic.

Some organizations have reduced their IT workforce in the past year. Notably, St. Louis-based Ascension eliminated a few hundred IT jobs after shifting some technology functions to third-party partners in August. Others cut IT positions among larger layoffs due to the pandemic.

However, other systems have added to their IT teams and created leadership roles to execute major strategic projects. For example, Stanford (Calif.) Health created the new role of vice president and chief enterprise architect to focus on developing a contemporary architecture to enable initiatives for the health system and school of medicine.

"This person is also developing advanced strategies for data and system interoperability to enable us to connect and trade with any organizations we would like to collaborate with," said Stanford Health Care CIO Eric Yablonka. "We also added an executive director of our program management office. She is centralizing and developing a new PMO for us that will drive value through the organization in the execution of our strategic initiatives and the alignment through best practices in IT governance."

Scripps Health in San Diego also focused on implementing a technical leadership position across key verticals including enterprise architecture, analytics, ambulatory and acute care, access and revenue cycle.

"The principal architect position partners with senior IS leadership to incorporate clinical and business strategies and initiatives into multiyear technology roadmaps intended to support the role of IS as a partner to operations," said Shane Thielman, corporate senior vice president and CIO of Scripps. "They also play a key role ensuring Scripps Health is unlocking the full potential of existing assets and tools across the various portfolios and coordinate as a collective unit to ensure efforts are complementary and feasible."

New roles in digital health and telehealth have been crucial to many health systems during the pandemic and will likely become permanent fixtures across health systems. Senior Vice President and CIO of Yale New Haven Health and Yale School of Medicine Lisa Stump created a telehealth adoption team to offer direct patient-facing support for video visit participation. Yale also hired a director of telehealth and communication and collaboration director to bring together formerly distinct teams in email, web collaboration platforms and mobility.

UChicago Medicine added a director of support services, a program director of digital health and a program manager of digital health. Over the next year, Senior Vice President and CIO Heather Nelson said the health system plans to add a director of infrastructure services, a program director of IT strategic projects and business system analysts for clinical ancillary systems.

Evanston, Ill.-based NorthShore University HealthSystem is also focused on expanding digital health. The system recently formed a digital innovation and consumer experience team within its health information technology department. The team is seeking a lead technical architect to help define strategy for digital patient engagement, telehealth, remote monitoring and personalized navigation.

In California, despite competing with big tech companies for IT talent, Los Angeles-based Cedars-Sinai has bolstered its data analytics, cybersecurity and clinical systems / EHR analyst teams, bringing on individuals with backgrounds implementing and optimizing complex tools for care delivery as the enterprise continues to digitize.

"We will continue to invest in many areas as we continue to depend on technology as an enabler to our mission," said Darren Dworkin, senior vice president of enterprise information services and CIO of Cedars-Sinai. "We will see growth in data analytics, bioinformatics and in particular roles that will deepen our expertise in the visualization of complex information. Cyber will continue to be an area of growth as we expand our efforts in the face of growing threats. And last but not least, we will see growth in our investment in digital consumer talent as we move faster to expand our patient facing offerings."

Peter Merrill, CIO of Lebanon, N.H.-based Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, was also focused on cybersecurity this past year. His team added two senior security engineer positions and one risk analyst. However, he does not have any plans to add additional positions in the coming year.

Although many health systems faced steep financial losses in 2020, there is continued investment in IT to develop more efficient and patient-centric organizations. Some of that investment will be in personnel. Mr. Yablonka said Stanford plans to add data scientists, architects and others to address the health system's top priorities.

Yale aims to bring on more expertise in the cloud and artificial intelligence. Scripps also will likely focus on digital healthcare solutions and executing on the multiyear roadmaps to deliver those solutions. As a result, the information services department at Scripps will be a technical guide and solution advisor to foster the system's transformation.

"Helping our team deepen their knowledge and comprehension of challenges in the clinical environment will enable them to operate as an information and insight resource and support operations in understanding how software and data science can be leveraged to deliver meaningful improvements," said Mr. Thielman.

More articles on health IT:
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