May 15

The CIO Dilemma

CIO (1 of 1)

Will we see the CIO role sail off into the sunset or will 2016 be the year when the CIO resolves their dilemma. The role of the CIO, Chief Information Officer, is under crisis in all industries and health is no exception. The CIO is far too often just seen as the person in charge of the people who get or fix the computers, phones and pagers (Yes, people still have pagers).  Yet organizations see the need for more and so we have seen the addition of new roles, the Chief Digital Officer, Chief Innovation Officer, the Chief Medical Information Officer etc, rather than a change in the CIO role.



3 major things that a CIO can achieve for eHealth at an organization

  • Intelligence – provide the right data to the right people on the right devices.
  • Innovation – identify disruptive technologies and implement them into your business in an innovative manner rather than just replacing old systems and keeping pace with the organizations around you.
  • Inventory – anticipate business needs and provide a seamless environment where users can select the services and the level of support they require (similar to the Microsoft app store).

3 major lessons we have learned about CIO’s and eHealth

  • CIO’s sit on the biggest resource in Healthcare …. data, they need to find a way to change this data into knowledge. This isn’t easy and includes setting standards, generating quality data, data mining, big data, social media and analysis.  They need to make this knowledge with appropriate skills available across the business.
  • The smartphone and social media era need to be embraced. They say that today’s cell phones have more computing power than NASA used to go to the moon in the 1960s. As we now have convenient, agile and affordable technology which can connect us with the world, friends and family at our finger tips. This has created an often unrealistic user expectation that current eHealth platforms can provide similar. eHealth platforms have to be able to be able to keep pace with this new era.
  • Strategic as well as tactical. To be effective the CIO needs to be part of the business Strategy team to be able to optimize technology to meet current and future needs while delivering operational excellence.

The tension between the business and IT has been around forever, but instead of getting better, it has gotten worse in the last couple of years. The reason is that technology is a normal part of everyday life and almost everyone now feels at ease with technology, which has seen the perceived value of the IT department drop.  Additionally, the visible benefit of eHealth solutions are not keeping pace with the benefits of the user’s personal computing power (smart phones, tablets and PC).

This can be resolved by businesses and CIOs who are ready for the challenge.

We need to ask for more from our eHealth vendors. For too long they have held the power of what is included and what is not available. The days of a healthcare organization having only one software system and vendor are long gone.  You have to be able to support multiple applications either by the traditional integration or by having an application platform. The SMART Health IT Project has been working on providing one for a number of years now, it is run out of the Boston Children’s Hospital Computational Health Informatics Program and the Harvard Medical School Department for Biomedical Informatics. Similarly you need to be able to deliver workspace mobility, a way of doing this is using a virtual desktops such as  VMWARE would be a great start.

The final challenge will be inside the organization. The CIO will need the right skills inside his department and these are likely to be different to what they have on board today such as: social networking skills, Big Data analytics experience, digital communications knowledge, application development, virtualization management and conversation management etc. The CIO needs a strong business credibility to be able to shake off their departments past history of extremely painful   ‘’IT projects”, rebrand and market themselves as the business expert they already are and embrace the future.  The future may look more like the Microsoft application shop with the CIO leading through influence and persuasion rather than authority.


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