The Healthcare CIO Playbook for 2020

By Hillary Ross and Nick Giannas

Each year presents unprecedented demands and challenges for healthcare executives. This is especially true for CIOs and their senior IT leaders who must navigate an era defined by value-based care and consumerism.

During the 2019 CHIME Fall Forum in Phoenix, a dozen CIOs from leading hospitals and tech companies sat down in a focus group hosted by WittKieffer, where they discussed their priorities for 2020 including: supporting digital innovation and consumerism, expanding data access and analytics capabilities; implementing artificial intelligence; data governance; cloud strategies; and more.

So, what is the playbook for CIOs in 2020? Here are the key takeaways from this focus group session.

Digital Innovation and Consumerism

Healthcare as a product to meet the needs of consumers is a prevailing idea. Consumerism shifts an intentional focus on quality care, requiring development of a specialized strategy and emphasis on the patient experience. The chief digital officer (CDO) role may transform as consumerism comes to the forefront; however, some CIOs believe everyone in the organization is responsible for enabling digital strategies. The role of the CIO has historically been to keep the lights on and we have seen that role evolve into a more strategic business partner with increasingly responsibilities. Therefore, while CIOs are agreeing that it’s important to also have a CDO, the position’s sole purpose should be to focus on innovation and disruption – particularly when it comes to digital strategies. Digital is not an IT function but a business strategic goal that interfaces with many integral stakeholders.

Digital innovation comes in many forms including those touching the patient like self-scheduling appointments, interfacing with marketing to engage new patient populations, and collaborating with physicians to champion those initiatives into their clinical care. It also includes back-end technologies like robotics. Digital enablers require a digital leader to create and own the strategy, implementation and accountability.

Data Access and Analytics Capabilities

CIOs agree that data is an increasingly critical asset in healthcare. Organizations are evolving their data analytics platforms in order to gain strategic insights and help aid in decision making. Topics like Data as a Service will soon become an everyday tool used by healthcare organizations to further enable their analytics strategies; however, these new tools must fit within and integrate with the current technology stack.

Implementing Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence (AI) is becoming increasingly important to fulfill the needs for research and meeting standards of care. The implementation of artificial intelligence will benefit patients and providers. Examples of the use of AI include imaging for complementary diagnosis confirmation, refining procedures for performance review, identifying genetic predispositions, and increasing operational efficiencies like scheduling surgeries. More real world application of AI is required to show validity and usefulness of the products using this technology; however, CIOs agree that AI in healthcare is here to stay.

Data Governance and Cloud Strategies

Leadership must initiate the implementation of data governance strategies to increase efficiency and effectiveness. CIOs agree that for any data governance strategy to be effective it must come from the top down. Chief information officers, chief analytics officers and other executives need to work together to identify the best strategies for data governance.

Increasingly, CIOs are seeing an emergence of the use of cloud in their health systems. Many are deploying Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure cloud technologies and others are moving their electronic medical records to a hosted environment. CIOs feel that this is the future; however, they propose making sure solid service-level agreements and contracts are in place, particularly when it comes to accessing data so that it can be put to use. 

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