The changing role of CIOs in healthcare

The balance of power within healthcare leadership teams is shifting toward IT. With that power comes responsibility to be both visionary and change agent.

Many of us can remember when technology was a much less-celebrated aspect of healthcare.

Just a decade ago, health IT teams might have been found in a back office or basement of a hospital, on the periphery of the patient-care loop and decision-making hierarchy.

But things changed – slowly at first, and then very quickly. By 2011, 57% of physicians were using electronic health record (EHR) systems. Healthcare executives had to scramble for talent to establish high-performing IT teams with leaders able to meet the 2014 Meaningful Use implementation deadline set by the Obama administration.

We know what happened next: EHRs and big data transformed healthcare.

Today CIOs, as well as CMIOs, are well-represented at the leadership table. Technology in healthcare is driving everything – including patient care.

As CIO advisor Marc Wilczek wrote in The changing role of the CIO – from operating IT to orchestrating IT in this month’s, the professional growth shows no sign of stopping.

The “cloudification of everything” is further changing the CIOs role from where it was just a year or two ago, Wilczek said.

A whole new range of tasks is being put onto the CIO’s shoulders, “requiring additional capabilities and demanding much greater emphasis on areas such as innovation or crafting and orchestrating digital ecosystems,” he wrote.

The balance of power within healthcare leadership teams is shifting toward IT. With that power comes responsibility to be both a visionary and a change agent.

CIOs and CMIOs are now called upon to create tools for clinicians to care for patients both remotely, and within health care settings – with particular emphasis on value-based care, population health and ambulatory care.

Some IT leaders say they also need to serve as ‘physician whisperers’ – guiding previous generations of physicians through technological change, while still satisfying newly trained physicians who are impatient because technology isn’t moving quickly enough.

“I’m interested in creating a seamless connection between the person and the technology they’re using…. The CMIO does need to be a translator-interpreter between the groups, so you come up with a solution that helps the end-user clinician to deliver the best care,” UPMC CMIO Robert Bart MD told Healthcare Informatics.

At Nuance our goal is also to help advance these “seamless connections” for providers, whenever and wherever we can. To do so, we must listen to the challenges faced by IT leaders, and continually ask how can better help them.  I am really looking forward to connecting with the nation’s health IT leaders at the upcoming CHIME 2017 CIO Forum in San Antonio next week.  It is the stories and experiences they share so generously that help us find our inspiration to innovate.

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