Communication, business acumen key to healthcare CIO success

Hospital CIOs increasingly are wearing many hats as the healthcare industry continues to evolve. In addition to ensuring that clinicians are equipped with technology to help provide adequate care for patients, they also need to be aware of how such systems impact business and administrative operations.

"There's a 'C' in front of the title, so they're in the executive suite," Rich Miller, vice president of talent strategies & information technology at healthcare executive search firm B.E. Smith told at the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society's annual conference earlier this month. "They have to know the business side, inside and out, and they also have to know the technology side."

Miller also called communication and collaboration skills a must for CIOs, particularly with non-IT professionals. "Yes, it's important for them to communicate with the IT team that's there, but they've got to be outside of that immediately," he said. "They've got to understand where the issues are and how to attack that."

Russell Branzell, CEO of Fort Collins, Colo.-based Colorado Health Medical Group and CEO of the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives, echoed those sentiments in a recent interview with FierceHealthIT. He told FierceHealthIT that CIOs are "involved in the business, whether that is revenue cycle, logistics of supply chain, or the clinical side--quality and safety and process improvement."

However, he also said, being able to provide a "vision and … strategy" that can spur team building.

"The number one skill is relationship management," Branzell said. "It is amazing to me how people don't understand all the inner workings of the ecosystem in the health environment and how physicians interact with nurses who interact with other caregivers who interact with supply chain and how people think."

A white paper published last month by consulting firm Deloitte identified five challenges for hospital CIOs as key to tackling future endeavors, including:

  • Securing adequate financial resources
  • Finding sustainable technologies
  • Improving organizational understanding to shore up support
  • Hiring the right people
  • Determining scalability

To learn more:
- here's the piece