Data has undoubtedly revolutionized healthcare organizations. From electronic health records to data sharing to telemedicine to health apps, data now travels faster than ever. The role of chief information officer (CIO) will continue to play an increasingly vital role in organizational success.The mission of this role is transforming toward revenue generation and innovation, as institutions rely on these executives more for business acumen along with their IT expertise.

The future of the healthcare CIO depends on an understanding of the past and present. Those who fill this role will also need to be able to see where things are headed in the future. In this guide, we explore how the CIO role has changed and how hospitals can best utilize the latest in information technologies.

The evolving eras of the CIO

Over the last 40 years, there have been essentially been 3 waves of the CIO in healthcare. In the beginning, these officers oversaw the installation and maintenance of the healthcare network. They got emails up and running and initiated the shift toward electronic records.

electronic health records

But within a decade or so, companies began embracing the increasing role of data and tech in health care. “We got into having great big budgets and being tasked by the organization to ‘Go make this thing happen,” according to Phoenix Children’s Hospital Chief Information Officer David Higginson. “I think a lot of CIOs today did really well in that project management, system implementation-type field.”

The first two roles were essential for healthcare digitization and accessibility. But they’ve now effectively come to an end, as these tasks have been completed in nearly all settings.

The emergence of the third wave

Make no mistake: the third wave of the CIO is already here. However, its pace is steadily increasing as technology further integrates into the practice of healthcare. Today’s healthcare institutions are advancing their strategies. The money and effort to create data systems have already been invested. CIOs are now tasked with deciding “how to harness all of the data” and how to adapt to value-based care and the ever-evolving industry of healthcare.

They’re no longer solely relied on for technical or project management expertise. Instead, they connect strategies, technologies, and people for better execution of organizational goals.This is the pivotal role of the CIO: to be the leader of digital transformation understanding technology trends and applying the right tools to maximize efficacy for specific organizational needs.

rise of the CIO

Concurrently the CIO must be the go-to officer for vital areas including system security and system data. This role also has a hand in assessing analytics, evaluating everything from patient experience to average monthly web traffic.

What the future holds

Going forward this decade and beyond, CIOs will increasingly shift their focus from technology toward information. As a result, the role of the CIO will evolve into a broader executive responsible for revenue generation and scaling digital businesses while ensuring all staff keeps pace with technological changes.

The new type of executive who builds on the CIO skills of the past while embracing current trends has indeed already emerged. In some cases, this is seen symbolically in a change of title such as chief of innovation, chief data officer, or a combined title like chief information and analytics officer.

The CIO will be a strategic agent armed with business acumen, strong technological skills, and tasked with transformational goals. The role supersedes the traditional IT leaders who were responsible for building and maintaining data systems. Its importance now moves across all sectors of healthcare.

It’s crucial for organizations to embrace these significant shifts in strategy, culture, and competency to understand the value of the CIO beyond IT organization to encompass all hospital functions.

How hospitals should position themselves

Health systems are now in a unique position to embrace technological innovations. Doing so will help them implement institutional goals and recognize new opportunities for long term growth. There are few positions better suited than the CIO to be an agent of change. Empowering these leaders with the resources and flexibility and ensuring multi-department support is essential to their success.

Hospitals should consider how they will keep pace with the rapid changes in technology and with this evolving role. Working with hospital administrators and other executives, CIOs will push the healthcare sector towards changes we could not have predicted just a decade ago.

Now is the time for hospitals to adopt comprehensive and dynamic strategies that will drive future institutional success. This is all begins with the chief information officer.

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