Where health system IT teams are headed: 10 observations

CIOs are taking on larger roles within health systems as technology is growing to support all departments and the system's central mission.

"The CIO's role has evolved into a true business leader and clinical partner. IT teams will spend time influencing and being laser-focused on their stakeholder communications skills," said Zafar Chaudry, MD, senior vice president and chief digital and information officer at Seattle Children's. "Also, they'll spend more time in the trenches with stakeholders on the front line and navigating the politics within a healthcare system."

Ten observations from conversations with six healthcare CIOs:

1. CIOs are becoming more strategic leaders and business partners to support the health system's mission in all departments. To that end, many CIOs today are keenly focused on technologies and applications that improve the patient experience as an important priority and key investment area for the health system, even as systems face tighter budgets than in the past.

2. With the elevated focus on digital transformation, some CIOs are becoming chief digital officers or chief digital and information officers to reflect their elevated status as organizational leaders. They aren't solely managing the IT infrastructure but also developing and deploying data-driven initiatives and digital strategies systemwide.

3. There is a paradigm shift to seeing analytics as a service for the health system to ideally reach the point where data contributes to predictive analytics, versus being primarily retrospective today.

4. The workforce shortage is front of mind for CIOs. Health systems are turning to robotic process automation to streamline more functions and depending on IT leaders to quickly connect new employees with their system's technology applications and platforms.

5. Healthcare IT teams are encountering unprecedented attrition as competition from all sectors for tech talent heats up. Hospitals are now competing with companies nationwide for IT employees who have more remote work options. Wage hikes amid inflation and fierce competition also make it challenging for hospitals to retain talent.

6. The most effective CIOs will engender a culture of near-constant change where the concept of a five-year plan, or even a one-year plan, is obsolete. Instead, teams need a lightweight governance driven by business leaders who make changes and employ new strategies quickly.

7. As health systems build data and artificial intelligence capabilities, IT teams need more data scientists, analysts, architects and engineers. Sophisticated data teams can help improve patient care and realize savings for the organization, an important value proposition.

8. There will be more collaboration between clinical and data teams. CIOs are knocking down silos and setting up programs for more clinical leaders to become informaticists, and creating space for IT teams to shadow clinical leaders on-site. This is more important than ever with more IT teams working remotely.

9. Interoperability, price transparency and protecting patient-controlled data remain top of mind for CIOs, especially with more data coming in from wearables and remote-monitoring devices.

10. Diversity, equity and inclusion are top priorities for most healthcare organizations, and CIOs are working with their teams to support these initiatives. It's imperative to create equitable access to virtual care and make sure AI algorithms avoid biases that could hurt patient care.


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