Healthcare ripe for rise of chief data officers

There are chief information officers and chief information security officers, but there's another health IT position coming into play in the industry--the chief data officer.

Currently, the role is extremely rare, Seattle Children's Hospital CDO Eugene Kolker told Healthcare IT News. However, the position is finding its footing in other industries, he said, which could mean that healthcare may be next.

At Seattle Children's, Kolker said, the hospital is using the role to try to "leverage data as a strategic institutional asset. ... It's about how to transform data into information, how to transform information into better-informed decisions."

Kolker became Seattle's CDO in 2007. In the role today, he and his team examine how data can improve care across subspecialties and inpatient, outpatient, emergency and multiple other services, according to the article.

The hospital's data strategy consists of three parts: collecting the data and data science itself; building an in-house data service so the CDO is acting as an internal consultant; and developing people skills and social skills.

However, the use of analytics to improve care at health organizations remains relatively immature, according to a survey published last spring by HIMSS Analytics. The survey results indicated that big data is "one of the least important competencies" for providers.

Kolker said a key to making sure that the data changes behavior is to treat employees as "collaborators," so they feel they are an integral part of working together toward the same goal.

CDOs also have to work with other stakeholders "to understand what their needs are, to recalibrate to see whether this is where we're going together," he said.

The use of big data could also help U.S. citizens save money, as much as $450 billion in healthcare costs; but fundamental change is necessary to meeting such goals, according to analysis published last year by consulting firm McKinsey & Company.

To learn more:
- read the interview