In health care we're seeing a high level of CIO turnover. It's unprecedented. In the last 18 months, almost half of the health systems west of the Mississippi have new IT leadership. What's behind this trend? A lot of it has to do with the changing role of the CIO.
Historically, CIOs were limited to operating back-office applications. CIOs are now asked to operate 24/7 mission-critical solutions. This is because technology downtime puts the organization's reputation, financial performance, and ability to effectively and efficiently deliver care at risk. But being a good tech operator is not enough.
Betting the farm on tech
Especially in health care, the CIO role has transformed from IT adopter and operator to being IT architect, strategist and champion. The CIO must now understand the impact of digital technology in every aspect of their organization.
The role of technology is changing as well. IT is no longer just providing information at the point of care, but is now becoming a care delivery vehicle. For providers, IT investment rose from 2-3% of revenue (in the pre-Meaningful Use era) to over 5% now.1 A few health systems are even "betting the farm" on an IT-enabled strategy and are consistently investing over 7% of their revenue in IT.2
The transformative role of tech in health care has executives asking their CIOs, "Why aren't we doing this?" And CIOs are expected to have the answer.
What the new executive team makes possible
The old IT culture was "You ask and I'll deliver," where the CIO went to each member of the C-suite and asked what they needed. For the new executive team, the chief medical officer and the chief revenue cycle officer have to be at least as tech-savvy as the CIO. And the new CIO needs to have an entrepreneurial and innovative approach to understanding what's possible in terms of available technology and trends and what those mean for:
- Care coordination
- Patient and physician engagement
- Revenue cycle management
- Care delivery
Some executives are distracted by the latest "shiny object." The typical story is that a CMO or other leaders go to a conference, see new technology and come back wanting to apply it to their own organization. The amount of new technologies and innovation has drastically increased. But instead of just buying the latest fad, the entire team needs to engage with the technology, work together and share responsibilities.
CIO as TIO: Technology innovation officer
There will always be someone who will come in and say they have something better (and shinier). An incredible amount of new vendors, big and small, are entering the market and creating competition and confusion. This is especially true with population health, care management, digital health and analytics solutions.
So what does that mean for today's CIO who is looking to survive and thrive? It means reviewing the expectations of CEOs and other stakeholders, and continually evaluating, monitoring, and managing the latest solutions as the "tech innovation officer."
IT as health care delivery
CIOs need to be able to champion new technologies and advise the executive team on what technologies could benefit the organization. And they need to lead the transition to an environment where IT is health care delivery. This includes:
- Care coordination and optimization tools
- Doctors being able to prescribe using apps
- Real-time monitoring via wearables and other IOT devices
And in the process, the CIO must be able to assemble a complex set of solutions and technologies and make them work together.
The executive team's focus should be on strategic capabilities such as population health, patient engagement, physician satisfaction and cost efficiency. For the CIO, that means taking the time to discuss your strategies with the team and form partnerships that help you enable IT programs.
Expectations and performance metrics should evolve as well. Metrics should include the quality of partnership and the CIO's value as advisor, as well as implementation and operational excellence.
Prioritize time, talents and partnerships
Finally, CIOs need to find the right partners to help them stay on top of what's happening in the industry in terms of new technologies and disruptive business models. That's becoming almost impossible to do in parallel with the CIO's day job. In the elevated role of the IT organization, CIOs need to review their priorities, how they spend their time and the talents of their team.
For CIOs, expectations are higher than ever before. While the CIO role is going through an evolution, those serving as technology innovation officers are vital to the future of their organization.
Visit our site at for more health IT insights for CIOs and IT leaders.
© 2019 Optum, Inc. All rights reserved.