Key steps for CIOs seeking to achieve digital transformation
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As the healthcare industry continues to evolve in response to market pressures, it’s clear that IT will play an increasingly prominent role in strategy development and execution. That requires a deeper integration between IT, strategy, and clinical and business operations. That both creates additional opportunity and puts more pressure on CIOs to help enable and drive transformation. As a result, there needs to be a stronger partnership between CIOs and other top executives.

A new white paper from The Chartis Group, entitled, “Bridging the Digital Divide in the Healthcare C-suite,” discusses some of the new challenges facing IT leaders, the need to drive transformative change and six practical considerations for bridging the digital divide.
CIOs are no longer just IT ‘operators’
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For years, CIOs have been asked to build and maintain a rock-solid IT architecture that can operate around the clock and meet other operational goals. For these and other reasons, “CIOs have often not been at the table for strategic decisions (many of which include technology implications or are centered on technology itself) nor fully leveraged as the change agents they are,” The Chartis Group white paper says.

But that’s changing, as digital industrialization takes hold in healthcare, there’s increasing dependence on informatics and technology, and as a result, CIOs find themselves participating in work on strategic initiatives that historically have extended beyond their typical domain . That’s created more pressure on CIOs, who still have to keep the lights on and drive IT aspects of the large strategic projects. This leaves “minimal time for the CIO and his/her direct reports to work on advancing their health system into a digital, consumer-centric model.”
A new role—driving digital change
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Healthcare organizations seek to embrace digital approaches that will transform all aspects of their business—from care models to business operations to consumer engagement. This transformation “requires a clear vision around the role IT will play to inform and advance strategic imperatives,” the white paper contends. CIOs can help identify and define solutions that bring strategy, operations and IT together.
Characteristics of a strategic CIO
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To encourage the use of IT to support this transition, CIOs need to change the way they work.

Strategic CIOs:
• Allocate only a small portion of their days to resolving internal or project-related IT issues.
• Carve out time for rounding within various units in the hospital.
• Hold recurring work sessions with the CSO and COO to understand challenges or use cases.
• Partner with other IT staff to research industry trends or conduct options analysis to satisfy business-related use cases.
Practical considerations for bridging digital divide
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CIOs need a delegated staffing model if they are to play a role in bridging the digital divide with their peers on the executive team. The traditional IT structure is functional, with direct reports of the CIO overseeing a specific IT department. “This model constrains the CIO’s time, limiting his or her ability to engage with other business leaders or stay apprised of novel developments in the industry.” Here are six tactics CIOs should consider in reframing their IT model.
1. Define new roles and recruit new capabilities
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Consider establishing new roles such as Chief Digital Officer or Chief Innovation Officer. Organizations have adopted different models as it relates to these new roles. Strong linkages must exist across functional areas to ensure effective implementation of new solutions to realize ROI. Other new capabilities that leading provider organizations have begun to recruit include digital health industry research; technology evaluation and business case development; data science and machine learning; and human-centered design.
2. Assign an associate CIO to be responsible for all IT operations
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Having an associate CIO in place frees up the CIO to focus more on strategy and less on operations. “The key point is establishing the right team to complement the legacy operating strengths that exist, while building the capabilities and requisite skills necessary to support digital change,” The Chartis Group white paper suggests.
3. Form stronger relationships with key executives
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Working more closely with the CSO, COO, patient engagement officer and other executives is essential. “This can be achieved through focused partnership models with key business stakeholders or deliberate and recurring IT strategic planning with an emphasis on what the future looks like,” The Chartis Group suggests.
4. Outsource non-strategic aspects of IT
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Offload areas such as infrastructure and network, or increase user self-sufficiency through training and automation to reduce IT operator time. By doing this, the CIO and the IT staff will be able to focus more on the consumer and business-facing aspects of digital transformation vs. the traditional, internal-facing norm.
5. Shift the organizational structure to align competencies
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The CIO should make this change to align competencies between operational (traditional delivery) and emerging strategies (innovation and architecture). “This will balance capacity across IT with more of an emphasis on relationships and advisory services. This will help IT more thoughtfully manage a portfolio of traditional and digital technologies that will ultimately transform how health is managed, wellness is sustained, and care is accessed, delivered and received.” This positions the CIO to partner with other executives, and it instills innovative and relationship-focused behavior across IT.
6. Develop an integrated governance model around innovation
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This new model should deploy technology as a differentiator rather than an enabler. “Fulfilling the digital needs of the business, patients, consumers and families requires rapid decision making and delivery that traditional governance models lack,” the white paper contends. Putting innovation into a separate portfolio with dedicated resources will promote faster decision-making cycles and reduce battles that pit innovation against operational needs.
For more information
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The Chartis Group white paper was written by Parrish Aharam, principal, informatics and technology; Ryan Bertram, principal, Chartis Digital; and Shawna Schueller, I&T practice manager. The full text can be accessed here.