CIOs ramp up strategic focus

January 6, 2015 in Medical Technology

Retained executive search firm SSi-SEARCH reveals new findings based on its annual CIO survey results, designed to capture insights on how the CIO role is evolving.

The 2015 CIO report follows last year’s report on the role, titled, Healthcare’s Million Dollar Man, which focused on the massive change this role has taken on since HITECH and emphasis on big budgets. While CIOs have assumed greater responsibility, teams and budgets, last year’s report revealed that CIOs overwhelmingly reported that their strategic capabilities were under utilized. This year’s report focuses on greater strategic alignment for the role.

Results from the annual survey show that there is every reason to be optimistic about the future, SSi-SEARCH finds.

First, we see an increase in CIOs acquiring the expertise they need through advanced degrees and other forms of education. (See Article 1 in this series, Healthcare CIOs hit with big change.)  Second, CIOs are very aware of the necessity to keep pace with change, both in terms of aligning their time with the strategic goals of the organization and in terms of exploring key partnerships to accomplish more. (See Article 2 in this Series, Can CIOs keep up with pace of change?) In this third article, we look more closely at how greater strategic alignment might be achieved and also on what drives the CIO.

[See slideshow: CIO workload to expand big time.]

In response to the question “What do you believe would facilitate greater strategic involvement?” Fifty percent answered “executive exposure.”  As follow-up to that, we asked: “Are you actively engaged in discussions with the key executives to determine what technologies can be used to help the organization achieve its strategic priorities?” Fifty-one percent responded: “Yes, highly engaged,” and 38 percent responded “routinely engaged.”

We also specifically asked whether there were strategic initiatives in which CIOs believed they should be involved, but were not. The top three answers were:

  • Population health 39 percent
  • Analytics initiatives 29 percent
  • Consumer projects 15 percent

In terms of what drives the CIO, survey results confirmed that CIOs are steadfastly focused on the greater mission of the health system. What they would most like to be recognized for is improving patient safety. They also see themselves as facilitators of improved collaboration between departments to achieve a common goal. It is a natural role for an effective CIO to use his/her reach to shorten the distance between departments or initiatives that previously had been operating very separately, whether by necessity or choice. CIOs feel strongly there is a clear bridge-builder component to well-planned and implemented technology.

When asked, “What accomplishment would you most like to be recognized?” Forty-five of CIOs named patient safety as their top choice and 44 percent named Innovation. Thirty-seven percent responded “bringing departments together.”

Further, 69 percent of CIOs in this year’s survey indicated they felt that their accomplishments have been “critically important” to the strategic mission of the organization, with another 29 percent saying it was “very important.”  As concerns acknowledgment for these results, 39 percent reported that they had been recognized, 23 percent reported they had not been recognized and 38 percent reported “we’ll see.”

The SSi-SEARCH survey asked specifically about CIOs level of satisfaction with the following areas: compensation, career path, resources and strategic involvement.

Results showed the greatest area of satisfaction was career path, followed by strategic involvement and compensation in shared second place. The greatest dissatisfaction was around resources: Forty-eight percent stated this needed to change over the coming year. We see this play out almost on a daily basis, specifically as data breaches and new cyber threats come to light. There is a high sense of urgency in bringing more resources to strategic technology infrastructure.

Finally, when asked if they were to consider a different role, chief transformation officer was by far the preferred option; pointing to the transformative power CIOs believe properly leveraged technology can have in healthcare.  CEO, COO and chief strategy officer were other preferred options. But the overall optimistic tone reported by CIOs is evidenced by the fact that the majority of CIOs report that they like their work and want to continue in their role as CIOs.
This is the third in a series of four reports from SSi-SEARCH on the changing role of the healthcare CIO.  The data is based on 2014 SSi-SEARCH survey data of 169 CIO-titled respondents.

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