The New Healthcare CIO: Emerging Changes in the C-Suite

5 minute read
The New Healthcare CIO: Emerging Changes in the C-Suite

Healthcare provider organizations are increasingly embracing the consumer-first approach perfected by the B2C industry (retail, for example). This is evidenced by the recent buzz around introducing a new senior executive leadership role at provider organizations—the Chief Digital Officer (CDO). The role of a CDO is to help meet consumer expectations in a digital world, where instant gratification and endless options are the status quo.

Hillary Ross, one of the leading executive placement leaders in the healthcare space, provides insight into the emergence of the CDO in an article published by Becker’s Health IT

In the consumer world, there are many choices. We go online to purchase our mortgage, research car choices, do our banking, book our travel, find our hotels, buy our groceries and more.

In part, Uber, Amazon and the smart phone have created an environment where we all expect quick delivery. Consumers now expect instant gratification and we’re seeing patients behave in the same way—influenced by an abundance of choices, they are not bound to get everything from one provider anymore.

How, as consumers, can patients get this expedited engagement in healthcare? Millennials are the next wave of consumers in healthcare and have different expectations when it comes to consumption and service. How is healthcare preparing for this next generation of patients? We are now shifting towards a reimbursement model of fee for value. How does healthcare create a digital strategy to drive value in our evolving healthcare environment? What does the next generation patient service model look like?

We’re seeing this trend play out at most of the top healthcare organizations. Partners Healthcare, Mayo Clinic and Kaiser—to name a few—have recently announced appointments of top-notch CDO’s, most of whom have been plucked from B2C industries. These folks are fundamentally primed to focus on consumerization and digitization. But the CDO isn’t the only executive leadership role on the rise.

Alongside the CDO, we’re seeing a parallel approach at some healthcare provider organizations with a Chief Experience Officer (CXO) role, such as at Henry Ford Health. In a similar capacity, Cleveland Clinic recently added the Chief Clinical Transformation Officer to their roster. The CXO role, for the purposes of this discussion, are generally similarly aligned to a CDO role—the focus being on driving the best, most consistent and unequivocal patient experience.

The CIO & CDO: a new and essential partnership

Ross identifies some of the main qualifications of the CDO including:

  • extensive experience leading transformation within and outside of healthcare
  • understands the opportunities and challenges in deploying digital health
  • raises the level of healthcare service to fully embrace consumerism utilizing vision and innovation

She clarifies how the role of a CDO is distinct from that of a CIO, and she discusses why these roles cannot be combined into one. She quotes Dr. Alistair Erskine, CDO at Partners Healthcare:

“The CIO has expertise in the deeply technical space while the CDO can bridge the technical and clinical/business missions. The organization's needs can best be met with a CIO and CDO working together to support visioning and innovation."

In other words, the best partnership is one where the CIO and CDO collaborate and draw from each other’s strengths to lead the organization into the future.

The role of the CIO has forever been focused on driving excellence in the IT function of operations and keep-the-lights-on (KTLO) activities. So, how does the CIO approach this new responsibility to the CDO without sacrificing the quality of IT services provided to the organization? What does this new healthcare CIO embody? What is their new ethos?

Focus on patient experiences and outcomes

The CDO (or CXO) is going to drive vast and varied innovation for both external and internal constituents. This will encompass new applications, technologies, business models, etc., and requires a strategic and comprehensive platform for flawless execution.

The CDO ought to be unencumbered by minutia and specifics of how these new digital tools and platforms will be consumed by the users. Their primary concern should be that the consumers will have the best, most consistent, empathy-driven experience.

The business, meanwhile, is unrelenting in the expectation of uninterrupted operations. In healthcare, KTLO has significant gravity; without continuously available technology and clinical application access, patient outcomes greatly suffer.

The CIO cannot ignore the specifics of the business of IT.

Applications, both foundational (aka legacy) as well as cloud-based (SaaS, et al.), still need to be made available reliably through the myriad of technology and security layers in a consistent, always-available fashion. These are the basic outcomes—performance, reliability, and availability—that the CIO is expected to provide to the business. And this is the means (the framework) by which the CDO is able to ensure the delivery of a patient-focused experience.

The User Experience Fabric

So, what does this patient-focused, digital healthcare framework look like?

The CIO needs a scalable framework that weaves user experience together with business outcomes, tightened by the needle and thread of security. Focusing on one domain (application delivery, for example) alone cannot provide the support needed in this new healthcare world. Instead, what’s needed is a User Experience Fabric.

A User Experience Fabric will orchestrate:

  1. application & desktop delivery
  2. unified endpoint management
  3. digital identity into a frictionless platform so that the various constituents (users) can have an unparalleled experience regardless of application, device, location, role, etc.

These three pillars are the fibers of that User Experience Fabric.  

In today’s healthcare landscape, the digital environment has taken swift priority. Its value is now fully recognized in keeping organizations ahead of the competitive curve by meeting consumers needs and expectations in today’s digital world.

Tools and strategies such as a User Experience Fabric will be vital in helping emerging CIO and CDO partnerships lead that charge and actualize desired outcomes. In a forthcoming article we’ll further explore each of the core pillars of the User Experience Fabric and discuss what it takes to seamlessly bring all these pieces together.

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