Becker’s Hospital Review organized Nov. 4, 2014, its annual CIO Strategy Roundtable conference in Chicago. Industry leaders spoke on various topics, and several themes arose. Below were some that migrated to the top of my list as highlights of the challenges CIOs face, as well as their priorities.

Today’s CIO (Chief Information Officer) is evolving into a transformational leader.

  • Today’s CIOs are seeing their role morph into one that requires them to be change agents; that is, transformational executives who drive change through technology and data. 
  • While the most recent generation of CIOs (many in place today) focus on technology, the newer generation CIOs (along with other clinical leaders) develop their organizations’ data and information strategy. 
  • Post the transformation leader will be an executive who looks for new ways to leverage technology to help the organization achieve its goals and improve patient care. This CIO will play the part of a “Chief Innovation Officer,” whose role will be less tactical and more visionary.  

CIOs' biggest challenge is bringing value.

  • While CIOs for many years were seen as heads of technology, they only recently began sitting at the C-suite table. More pressure is being forced upon CIOs to drive bottom-line value from investments made in EMR and IT solutions. 
  • To understand what stakeholders and physician leaders are trying to accomplish, CIOs increasingly must collaborate with these parties to ensure technology aids their efforts and helps meet their goals.
  • CIOs today are fixated on determining which solutions are a strategic match for their organization’s goals. IT no longer is seen as a proxy for “nice-to-have” vendor solutions, but as a key player in determining which solutions improve patient care and realize strategies.

CIOs feel most of their time is spent listening to and guiding their department. 

  • CIOs have adjusted their focus to become more mentors and developers of teams. As a result, they spend much more time helping their team leaders achieve goals and grow professionally. They realize that additional time must be spent hiring the right members into their IT team and ensuring they are able to remove obstacles and achieve goals.
  • There has been a major shift in leadership where CIOs have empowered their teams to make decisions. Because of this, CIOs pay attention to their team’s challenges and guide them in operational aspects of IT.

A top priority for CIOs today is improving clinicians’ productivity with IT, namely the electronic medical record.

  • With emphasis on population health and accountable care, clinicians’ roles in reducing risk have been gaining in importance. With more health systems integrating physicians, the use of EMR systems has become front and center. In order to attract physicians, and improve quality metrics and workflow, many CIOs take the necessary time to work with their Chief Medical Information Officer (CMIO) and key clinicians to resolve system issues, review workflow improvements and implement EMR systems.
  • Improving EMR and other IT systems has caught the attention of healthcare CEOs and COOs. It’s no wonder a sizeable number of CIOs’ performance metrics are based on physician/clinician satisfaction with EMRs. Not surprisingly, CIOs spend more and more time with their IT team and CMIO to improve and enhance the EMR. Additionally, collaboration with key IT vendors is mandatory to implement new tools and solutions that directly improve the use of the system, while driving better quality measures.