Across all industries, the role of the executive in charge of information technology has changed drastically. The chief information officer is now viewed as a key contributor to a healthcare organization’s overall strategy, who also ensures that infrastructure, applications and analytics function in a way that supports the entire organization. This cross-functional position requires more substantial expertise and abilities than ever before. Today’s CIO’s must be leaders that can develop and manage teams, exercise strong communication skills, establish credibility and trust among employees, be ready to adapt to change and above all, have a deep understanding of both the health organization’s business and the IT industry.
Healthcare is a tumultuous market that is always changing, so there is little doubt that the role of the CIO will continue to evolve and become dramatically different in a just a few years. In such an uncertain, volatile, complex and oftentimes ambiguous role, not just any executive can be successful as a CIO. By 2020, the role will look different than it does today, but many wonder how it will change. In this article, we’ll take a look at some predictions made by leading publications and healthcare leaders about the future of the role of CIO and how it is likely to change in the next few years.
A More Strategic, Relationship Oriented CIO
In a recent panel discussion, healthcare executives from across the country shared their optimism and excitement about the CIO’s increasingly important role in the industry along with their belief that, above all, the most successful CIO’s of the future will maintain strong, collaborative relationships with other executives across their systems.
While technological qualifications and domain knowledge are key, CIOs of 2020 will be most successful if they are “sociological masters” that possess strong interpersonal skills in addition to technical knowledge. CIO’s are beginning to take on more strategic and collaborative roles that establish a stronger presence in the C-suite. According to the panelists, when CIO’s are interviewed, they will be evaluated for their ability to collaborate and be a good team member in conjunction with accessing their level of technological knowledge.
According to one panelist M. Michelle Hood, President and CEO of Brewer-based Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems, interpersonal skills should even be written into CIOs job descriptions when seeking CIO candidates. She said that when her health system recently hired a CIO, they put a lot of emphasis on both internal and external team and partnership development skills. While she agreed that the CIO needed to be able to recognize technical requirements, she noted that her system also needed someone who “could work in a high-level strategy team and be able to translate that into both tactics and capabilities.”
The Importance of Adaptability
Another prominent panelist, Zan Calhoun, CIO of Denver, CO-based DaVita HealthCare Partners, said that he likes to think of the role of CIO as a three circle Venn diagram consisting of project management, social concerns and business support. These circles are constantly shifting and changing shape, which is why CIO’s of the future must be sensitive to a constantly changing environment and have the ability to determine the right priorities on a daily or weekly basis. Both the immediate and long-term responsibilities of the job are bound to change on a routine basis. The key is to strike a balance between being receptive and adaptive when you’re faced with shifting organizational, industry and consumer demands. CIO’s must be ready to recast themselves, because IT-oriented senior leadership functions are constantly evolving.
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Building Maintaining Positive Executive Relationships as a Path to Success
Along with interpersonal relationships with employees, staff and clients, CIOs must also maintain positive relationships with other executives, as leadership teams are becoming increasingly intertwined in their functionality. This means developing rapport with CFOs, CEOs, CMOs and CTO’s in order to achieve success. The relationship between the CIO and the CMIO is particularly important due to the fact that the “CIO may not understand everything that goes on in the hospital,” said Paul Kleeburg, MD, chair of the board of directors of HIMSS and CMIO of Bloomington, MN-based Stratis Health in a recent Becker Hospital Review article. “The CMIO is intimately aware of everything and can translate this information to the CIO and improve collaboration.”
While patients used to be regarded as “customers”, those days have come and gone. Today, they are seen more as collaborators who expect providers to create care plans to best suit their individual needs. This is why it is critical that CIO’s develop and provide paths and opportunities for patient engagement and feedback through technology. At the same time, they must also offer solutions to patients’ technology issues. This is where a CMIO can come into play again, as a CIO may not have the advanced clinical perspective or “patient-facing” experience necessary to design effective engagement systems alone.
Identifying and Hiring Your Next CIO
Finding the ideal CIO candidate isn’t easy. The CIO position has evolved well beyond the simple management of software. The CIO of the future will need to wear numerous hats and be part techie, part businessperson, part politician, part consultant and part coach. Your next CIO will wield the power to transform the nature of your organization and the industry at large, which is why it is vital that healthcare systems recruit an information chief who will succeed and stay the course to become a driving force for the fulfillment of the organization’s goals. In an industry where life-and-death situations are commonplace and now depend deeply on complex information infrastructures, the choice of CIO can ultimately lead to the success or failure of a healthcare system.
To find the ideal candidate, the best tool is a professional executive recruiter who can assess and understand your organization’s IT management needs, culture, budgets, and IT infrastructure. At Healthcare Recruiters International we have the network to provide expert search consultants who can identify problems or changes related to filling the CIO position, evaluate and understand the skills required of an ideal candidate, find and identify the best candidate for the position and ensure a smooth transition for the new CIO.
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