From the C-suite: 5 thoughts on the evolving role of CIO

At the Becker's Hospital Review CIO Strategy Roundtable in Chicago on Nov. 4, three C-suiters from the healthcare industry discussed the role of the CIO at the intersection of IT, business and healthcare.

Panelists included David Chou, CIO of the University of Mississippi Medical Center, Linda Reed, RN, CIO and vice president of Atlantic Health System, Russ Branzell, CEO of CHIME. The session was moderated by Scott Becker, JD, CPA, chairman of the McGuireWoods healthcare department and publisher of Becker's Healthcare.

On emerging responsibilities for CIOs

 Ms. Linda Reed: I do think its building bridges. There's so much we have to do and it's not all technology. It's about driving standards of care and helping an organization work seamlessly, and I think that's what important right now.

Mr. Russ Branzell: The biggest role and responsibility of the CIO today is to make sense of all this craziness right now in our industry. It really is not about the technology anymore. It's about trying to help organizations transform in the area of healthcare.

One of the things we've got right now is this model called CIO 2.0. They're transformational leaders. They're the ones truly trying to transform organizations and drive business. They're given many responsibilities outside of the traditional role. We've probably got about 10 percent of CIOs in that model right now. What we'd really like to see is 50 percent progressing toward 2.0.

Mr. David Chou: A CIO needs to be a business driver utilizing technology. Every organization is a software company if you think about it. From a CIO's perspective, you really have to be that business driver, leveraging technology. That has changed dramatically. CIOs cannot just be that technologist, or just known as that break-fix guy anymore. We really have to get out there to transform and provide business outcomes.

The biggest shift is being tasked to drive that digital transformation.


 On security

 RB: One of the things that is emerging is security. It is becoming something that it wasn't before. If we got past a HIPAA audit, we were good. HIPAA is baby play in security moving forward. If we're even spending half of what other industries are spending on technology right now, we can bankrupt most hospitals and medical groups in the country.

We're going to be held to the same standards as banking, higher education, etc., and without the money to do it. We've got to do all of this without ending up on the front page of USA Today with major vulnerability and breaching charges.

DC: It really comes down to how much risk your organization is willing to take. You could spend everything on security and still have a breach. The way I like to look at it is you have to establish a true partnership with third parties.

LR: We work with a third party, an information security company, that does unannounced penetration testing and vulnerability testing. We get reports every month. We also work with a forensics company. Whenever we get an inkling that something might be there, we bring them in and they start going through everything to see if anything was affected. That is all part of our cyber insurance program, which also has breach response built into it.


 On new technology

LR: Video everything is really where we're going; and mobility, and putting those two things together. We're doing three pilots right now with secure Google Glass. One is in home care, where you need to bring someone in locally. We're in public care with new nurses who are just going out in the field and need a mentor on their shoulder. We're doing a third pilot for passenger medicine with pharmacies.

DC: I'd say we're still in the early stages as far as true adoption [of Google Glass] in healthcare. But I think in the education side of the house, there's a lot of value there. If you think about a physician who is performing a surgery, who wants a class to see him perform that surgery, that's where that [Google] Glass could come in handy, during that live surgery. Someone could actually see from the view of a surgeon performing a procedure.


 On the shrinking C-suite

RB: I went from being a CIO to CEO at a large medical group in Colorado. My recommendation to all is don't do it. As hard as being a CIO is, CEOs have no life whatsoever. They're 24/7, not that CIOs aren't, but it's an interesting world and I've learned a lot from that job. I think what we're seeing now is CIOs move and expand to all different kinds of jobs and taking on new areas of responsibilities. We're starting to see that quite a bit — people taking on more responsibilities in the C-suite.

What a lot of progressive CIOS are doing right now is getting out of the IT business. Whether it's the buzzword "the cloud" or just the concept of heavy data, all of the things that have been traditionally managed are now becoming so commodified. The question is why do we need to be in that business? We have nothing anymore. We don't own a server, we don't own an application on the hardware and we don't even own the actual device software anymore. Everything is outsourced now. We've dropped our expense by 95 percent and the complexity by that much. I think we're seeing CIOs focus on care, business innovation and the transition instead.

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