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The Road Ahead…CIOs Look Out Over the Next Five Years

December 10, 2013
by Pamela Dixon
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Higher complexity in the CIO role and a need for strategic engagement are cited in survey
The role of the CIO has dramatically increased, including budgets, reports, and the massive multi-million dollar—sometimes billion dollar—deployments they lead. Given that, the CIO may be healthcare’s new million dollar man.
This is the subject of a recent whitepaper that included a survey of 178 chief information officers. (Part 1 of the white paper has been published; part 2 will be published after the beginning of the new year.) The survey looks back how the  Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act has quantifiably impacted the role since it was passed five years ago—and then asked CIOs what is ahead over the next five years. The research helps put the picture of healthcare’s “million dollar man” into focus.
Who is healthcare’s million dollar man? Based on the data, “he” (82 percent are male) is highly educated, has served in the role for 10 years, and earns, on average, $286,000. His responsibilities have increased, in terms of both scope and complexity, by 25 percent to 50 percent since the passage of HITECH; however, CIO compensation has increased less than 10 percent. It is the massive budgets and deployments that have earned the CIOs title of Million Dollar Man.
What concerns CIOs the most today? CIOs continue to be, first and foremost, focused on hard-to-find resources (29 percent). Closely following the concerns around team building, at 24 percent, is the lack of strategic involvement on key initiatives. Given the increase in work load, we were further surprised to hear from CIOs that they felt underutilized. The most under-utilized skill? Strategic ability. Specific examples of underutilized skills include “strategic planning,” “visioning for the future,” “work with executive leadership,” and “Enterprise Planning,”
What will be the challenges over the next five years? An overwhelming number (91 percent) of CIOs expect the complexity of the role to continue to increase over the next five years. Over half said, “significantly.”
Looking forward, the expected workload seems to explode.
Rick Schooler, vice president and CIO, Orlando Health: “CIOs will be expected to lead and deliver on the strategies and objectives of the enterprise, expected to innovate and contribute as strategic leaders much more so than in the past.”
Praveen Chopra, vice president, CIO, chief supply chain officer, Children's Healthcare of Atlanta: “The future will require a different type of leadership from CIOs, who will become catalysts for business change and transformation well beyond just leading the alignment of business objectives with technology investments.” 
Deanna Wise, executive vice president and CIO, Dignity Health: “If I were to forecast the future…there are three main components that will be key: operational effectiveness; partnerships; and creating a culture of innovation.”
Mary Alice Annecharico, R.N., senior vice president and CIO at Henry Ford Health System: “The industry is seeing profound compression and a shift away from traditional healthcare management toward health and wellness management in a more mobile economy. I believe that the consumer will be increasingly more influential in the design of secure health services and how we will deliver value to them.”
More specifically, CIOs repeatedly focused on population health management with clinical and business intelligence and analytics to effectively operate in a value-based care model.
Jeff Ferranti, M.D., CIO and vice president, medical informatics, Duke Medicine: "We are at a critical crossroad in modern health care. Our ability to gather and store reams of raw clinical data has outpaced our ability to analyze and aggregate that data into actionable information.  An active investment in health intelligence and advanced analytics will be a strategic differentiator for health systems of the future."
Kumar Chatani, CIO, Mount Sinai Health System: “Healthcare reform is going to encourage the providers to make investments in population management systems, care coordination tools, data analytics and risk-based insurance systems. This will drive the agenda for the CIO.”
The combination of answers points to increasing responsibilities, challenges, and a career that looks far past the first hurdle of meaningful use. We expect to hear more from CIOs in the future, as voiced by Daniel Nigrin, CIO of Boston Children’s Hospital, who said, “An organization without a CIO at the strategic table, and putting in place strategic IT-based initiatives, simply won't be around for very much longer. IT is an absolutely critical enabler of virtually every aspect of healthcare delivery moving forward."
We agree. The greatest skill needed over the next five years may be the CIO’s most underutilized skill today: strategic engagement.
Pamela Dixon is managing partner of SSi-SEARCH.