The role of today's healthcare chief information officer (CIO) is multifaceted, proactive, and extends far beyond the walls of IT. CIOs are tasked with transforming organizations, and to do that, they must deeply understand the business and know how to apply technology to achieve strategic goals.
“CIOs must do more than just implement core technology," says David Chou, CIO and CDO at Children's Mercy Hospital Kansas City. “They need to think about how to create new business models and processes that will improve performance, strengthen their company's market position, and deliver value to the organization."
Chou says that healthcare companies should be more than “cautious adopters" who roll out solutions and technologies only after their competitors have done so. This is how companies find themselves disrupted and out of business. Research shows that since 2000, 52% of Fortune 500 companies have either gone bankrupt, been acquired or ceased to exist.1
To become thriving market leaders, Chou says that companies must create IT strategies that are backed by data and roll up to the company's overall strategy.
Chou believes a CIO must determine what goals the company should focus on and align IT to them.
In the lab, for example, the cloud is a core technology that can improve agility—a boon for CIOs who are focusing on lowering expenses and making their organizations more efficient. If a company is defending its market share, a CIO might want to consider how IT can be used to create a better experience for customers.
CIOs need to think of IT as something that affects the entire organization. Using the example of cybersecurity, Chou says that companies should view it as something that isn't just confined to IT—it's an organizational risk.
“If there is a breach on a lab system or device, it really affects the entire company. It's not just IT's responsibility. A CIO needs to make sure everyone knows the risk and how to respond."
While there's more data available today than ever before, information is often disorganized or scattered across different silos throughout a healthcare organization. However, it is in the best interest of a CIO to put the data to work, whether that means using it to measure quality, drive innovation, or improve the customer experience. Lab leaders should also do their part to convey how data can help a company reach its business goals.
“Every healthcare organization is trying to figure out how to utilize data better," says Chou, whose team made data and analytics capabilities a top priority at Children's Mercy Hospital Kansas City.
The lab, for instance, produces data that is vital to an organization. It can be used to make smarter business decisions and to take better care of patients. Even something as simple as using lab data to predict how bad a flu season might be can have a positive impact on an organization.
While most CIOs today would like to focus on innovation, Chou notes that many of them end up paying more attention to cost reductions.
“The problem is that CIOs are not taking what they save and reinvesting it back into the organization. They're taking the savings and putting it back on the bottom line."
Chou says that CIOs should take at least 5-8% of their savings and invest it into their innovation efforts. “If you've saved $18 million and are able to put $1 million into innovation, that's significant."
When it comes to innovation, labs are often stretched thin and would do well to pocket savings. Lab leaders should always advocate for the lab and think about how to spearhead conversations with CIOs to stay on their radar. Doing so can go a long way in making sure that savings are invested back into the lab to drive innovation and boost competitiveness.
CIOs, in turn, also play an important role in generating revenue for their organizations and turning them into market leaders. They should always be thinking about how to align technology and the lab to the larger strategic goals of the overall organization.
“The CIO today can't control everything but can be a powerful influence in guiding a healthcare organization on a strategic path," says Chou.
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