CIOs seek greater strategic role as workload balloons

Healthcare CIOs' workload has ballooned in scope and complexity over the past five years, according to a whitepaper from executive search firm SSI-Search, entitled "Why the CIO is Healthcare's Million Dollar Man."

That's not necessarily referring to the CIO's salary--and 82 percent were male in this survey of nearly 200 healthcare CIOs. The average annual CIO compensation was $286,000, and raises for most have been 10 percent or less over the past four years.

But thanks to the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (the HITECH Act) and Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, they're overseeing massive budgets, teams and high-profile deployments valued at hundreds of millions of dollars. Most say their workload has increased by 50 percent.

Compensation wasn't their greatest concern--most said their salaries were in line with their expectations. Their greatest worry was getting the job done and securing the resources to do so. Second was their desire for greater involvement with key executives on strategic initiatives. They want to be brought into projects early in order to be more effective.

They cite people skills and team management as their greatest strength. They see their strategy skills as underutilized.

Looking ahead, they say the complexity of the job will increase significantly.

As a strong operational leader, the CIO is primarily focused on how to build better teams. They see the future being more about information rather than just information technology. To further develop their teams, they need to improve the clinical skill sets of their teams and focus more on analytics.

Eight-figure salaries may soon be the "new normal" for senior healthcare executives, Crain's New York Business reported recently, a factor that might not sit well with labor unions faced with cuts to jobs and employee compensation in to control costs. An excellent "digital IQ" among healthcare senior executives, however, can only be a plus for tech leaders seeking "active champions" in the use of information technology to achieve their strategy.

The stakes are high: John Halamka, CIO at Boston's Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, has said CIOs' priority for 2014 must be "institutional survival."

To learn more:
- find the white paper (.pdf)

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