The Modern CIO: 2 Prominent CIOs Share Observations, Advice

In a May 21 CIO Senior Leadership Series webinar hosted by Becker's Hospital Review, Lee Carmen, CIO of University of Iowa Hospitals in Iowa City and David Chou, CIO of University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, provided insight and guidance on being a CIO in today's healthcare environment.

The role of CIO has evolved over the last five years, said Mr. Carmen. In the past, CIOs often had limited interaction with other hospital executives. Now, "I'm involved in virtually every senior leadership meeting," said Mr. Carmen. CIOs are increasingly more involved with major business decisions as healthcare organizations are recognizing most problems they're interested in solving have a pretty significant IT component, he said.

Mr. Chou has had a similar experience — he said he is at the table for almost every executive discussion because technology plays such a crucial role in his organization's system.

 Another change the CIOs noted is how hiring members of an IT team is different today than it was just a few years ago. In the past, Mr. Carmen looked for outstanding technologists to be a part of his team, and today he looks for people who also have a sense of business and communication skills. "The bar is much higher today than it used to be" because members of the IT team have to be able to effectively communicate with other employees, vendors and sometimes patients, he said. He has also added more clinicians to his IT team recently who he said offer great insight.

The two CIOs also offered advice to others in their position. Mr. Chou said it is important for CIOs to "be engaged with the business strategy and understand where technology fits in to bring value to their organizations." CIOs need to be on the forefront of strategy and innovation, he added.

Mr. Carmen said it is vitally important CIOs develop effective working relationships with business leaders and the employees using the solutions implemented at healthcare organizations. "I'm constantly amazed when I interact with frontline staff, and they share with me what their world is like and how the solutions I'm providing help or don't help their jobs," said Mr. Carmen.

Although Mr. Carmen and Mr. Chou both work at facilities with significant IT budgets, they advised CIOs of smaller organizations to focus their more limited resources on a handful of high-performing tools. In smaller systems, there has to be less focus on customized solutions and more focus on implementing standardized solutions that work, said Mr. Chou.

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