Hospital CIOs rarely make leap to CEO

When it comes to moving up the ranks, hospital chief information officers rarely become CEOs, according to an article at Becker's Health IT and CIO Review.

Only one CIO was promoted to a CEO role in 2014 of the 384 hospital executive personnel changes this year, according to a recent Billian's HealthDATA study. While others are making the jump, such as chief financial officers and chief nursing officers, CIOs are not, Laura Musfeldt, vice president of senior executive search at healthcare-focused executive recruitment firm B. E. Smith, told Becker's.

One reason, Musfeldt said, could be that CIOs often start out as technology executives first and healthcare execs second.

 "Providers are looking for CEO candidates with experience across all categories," she said. "Right now, there's such an abundance of candidates who know the clinical side of the business, it puts CIOs at a disadvantage."

For Yousuf Ahmad, DrPH, moving into a CEO position from his role as CIO at Group Health Associates and Mercy Health, both in Cincinnati, required further education, according to Becker's. Ahmad received a doctorate in public health and was soon promoted to market president and CEO of Mercy Health in June 2013.

"I wanted to understand population health at its core, so when the time came I could talk about and implement accountable care organizations and other issues [facing healthcare]," Ahmad told Becker's.

CIOs are used to adapting to new things. They continue to have to tackle many different issues as technology permeates more of the healthcare system. To that end, healthcare organizations struggling with information technology must "adapt or die," FierceHealthIT previously reported.

CIOs also aren't coveting the hospital's corner office, Russell Branzell president and CEO of the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives, told Becker's.

He said they often enjoy their current role, especially as the position becomes more crucial for hospitals. He added that as CIOs take on more responsibility, it will give them more chances to "spread their wings" and they may have more opportunities to move into a CEO role.

CIO workloads have ballooned in scope and complexity over the past five years, according to a whitepaper from executive search firm SSI-Search.

In addition, the role is continuing to evolve as technology's role in healthcare grows. Many CIOs said they already are seeing changes in the position--including balancing their facilities' needs with an increasing number of federal requirements and playing an increasing role in every facet of the hospital system.

To learn more:
- read the Becker's article