Imagine the following scenarios: negotiating reimbursement rates with payers where you have the upper hand; calculating risk and gain share for accountable care with inspiring facts; predicting clinical quality and outcomes with real levers you could pull to make operational adjustments before treatment begins; treatment protocols moving from generic “evidence-based rule sets” to what really works with your medical staff and specific patient profiles; leveraging data from inside and outside the walls of your hospital—you will founder without this ability.
The fact is, you will not achieve a 20% reduction in costs to meet Medicare rates with traditional P&L cuts. Imagine enabling physician engagement through sharing utilization, cost and quality information that leads to changed behaviors. Imagine seamlessly aligning you pluralistic medical staff models. The role the CIO plays as an integrator of your enterprise is paramount.
A few years ago, there was a trend where CIOs reported to CEOs. It failed. CIOs did not fit in. They were not the same caliber business people as others sitting around the table. The profile for what it takes to be a CIO today has changed. To close the gap and earn a seat at the table, we must first understand the expectations for the CIO and CEO.
CEOs should expect CIOs to:
- Focus on business outcomes, not technology
- Translate technology capabilities into business language
- Build continuous and credible business knowledge
- Increase technology contribution to business growth and innovation
- Increase the velocity of business and customer engagement
- Formally and informally develop the next generation of leaders
- Lead their divisions effectively, running IT like a business
- Commit to operational excellence
- Contribute ideas and solutions, as would any other C-suite peer
- Continuously educate themselves and grasp leading practices
- Recommend both technology and non-technology solutions to problems
- Achieve fluency in the language of business
- Possess business experience outside of technology
- Excel in collaboration and communication
- Think like a CEO and know his or her agenda
- Recognize their integral role in culture change management
- Drive innovation, fuel growth, enable change and create competitive advantage
- Spend more time outside of the business learning
- Understand the need to change the expense profile of IT
- Keep technology one step ahead of the organization to ensure business continuity and agility
- Synthesize the changing healthcare industry landscape into a strategic direction/plan that is underpinned by technology
- Engage other business leaders
- Dress contemporary
- Spend an inordinate amount of time doing hospital rounds listening
CIOs should expect their CEOs to:
- Understand technology’s impact on workflow and process
- Engage CIOs early in strategic discussions
- Continuously support required technology investments
- Appreciate that technology touches every aspect of an organization
- Empathize with the challenge of managing complex technology systems
- Articulate the value of technology to the board and senior leaders
- Support governance processes to ensure appropriate investments
- Appoint at least one board member who runs a technology company
- Ensure ample exposure with the C-suite to learn the business challenges and formulate trust
- Regularly coach on executive strategy and politics
- Provide visible support and highlight the role of technology in business success
- Reframe organizational expectations and culture and allow entrepreneurial approaches that translate directly into revenue
- Leverage CIOs’ cross-functional expertise and insights into the entire business
- Position the role as they would with any other C-level officer
- Provide “air cover” as warranted during challenging and complex transformative initiatives
- View the role as a key collaborator, not an order taker
- Appreciate the volume of risk being managed
- Fund capital and operating requirements
- Allow ample opportunity to contribute beyond pure technology
CEOs have high expectations of the CIO, and rightly so. I encourage my peers to quickly close the gaps they might have in meeting CEO requirements. Review this list and be intellectually honest in your self-analysis. If you don’t, you will be left behind and unable to catch up. Leverage professional organizations, such as Gartner and CHIME, to remain relevant.
Hear me on this. The CIO has what no other CxO has: a view across the entire business lifecycle and the ability to identify how technology can be used to realize value. Do not squander your opportunity to enable your organization to attain its vision. You can meaningfully transform healthcare.
CEOs are not off the hook. Some of you have gaps as well. Some of you are uncomfortable with IT. You know you need IT, but you have yet to fully embrace. If you want IT to transform your operations, your CIO needs to be in your inner circle. Desiring IT to be strategic but burying it under layers of management does not work. It gets lost and assigned as a cost center to be managed.
IT may well be your biggest single capital and operating expense. The foundation for all your strategic initiatives today triggers IT events. IT sits at the intersection of innovation and transformation. In fact, it may be the foundation. Find the right CIO and engage.
This is a tough message. No time for kid gloves. CEOs and CIOs need to have some candid conversations, perhaps even going through these leading practices together. Time is ticking, and the world will not pause for healthcare to get its act together.
These leading practices were culled from numerous interviews with Fortune 50 CEO and CIOs as well as leaders from several hospitals and health systems. Additional research was culled from studies compiled by Gartner and several magazines including Forbes, HBR and Fortune.
Chief information officer Texas Health Resources Arlington, Texas