The chief executive officer sets the tone for any organization. Does he or she do little more than announce a cause and then let others carry the burden of success or failure? Or does he or she truly believe in the cause and then lead the way regardless of success or failure?
When it comes to acquiring, implementing and using information technology, it seems CEOs in healthcare are more the former than the latter. That's according to a survey of 235 C-suite executives working in acute-care hospitals conducted by HIMSS Analytics, a subsidiary of the Chicago-based Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society. HIMSS Analytics released its survey on healthcare IT management and governance in late April. The results appeared exclusively in the May issue of Health IT Strategist (p. 1) and the April 25 issue of Modern Healthcare (p. 8).
What the survey found was an over-reliance on the CIO to carry out a healthcare organization's IT mission.
Only 26% of the CEOs who participated in the survey said one of their roles was to drive hospitals' IT vision. By comparison, more than two-thirds of the CEOs said one of their roles was supporting or promoting critical IT projects, and 60% said one of their roles was budget approval.
When it comes to the CEO's job, the gap between IT vision and IT money and support should give healthcare organizations pause as they try to implement that latest financial and clinical IT system to improve their bottom lines and patient outcomes. Money and support are great, but unless CEOs are true believers, there will be more IT failures than successes in the healthcare industry. Only a true believer will carry an organization through an IT installation, weathering the rough spots and leading others to the finish line. Their vision lights the way. Lesser CEOs will start pointing fingers at underlings during the rough spots and push others out the door as they attempt to insulate themselves from responsibility.
The survey's findings regarding governing boards are even scarier. Some 56% of those surveyed said their board's role with respect to IT decisionmaking was limited to budget approval. Only 6% said their boards are involved with major IT initiatives.
While CIOs may bemoan the lack of CEO and board leadership, they can lay some of the blame on themselves. Who doesn't know a CIO that believes he or she knows everything and everyone else knows nothing when it comes to information technology?
Some 71% of the CIOs surveyed said they are responsible for driving the value of IT-enabled business and clinical initiatives. In other words, CIOs not only think they're responsible for the initiatives themselves but also the results of the initiatives. That's an admirable quality, but one that sets CIOs up to become scapegoats for CEOs and boards after IT failures.
It's a cliche, but leadership starts at the top, and hospitals are no different when it comes to information technology. The cord leads back to the CEO's office.