New technologies and workflows are rapidly changing the role of the CIO in healthcare. But the shifts that lead to digital transformation require an assertive, forward-thinking leader to drive them. Buy-in from executive teams is critical too.
Without those elements, efforts can stall or even collapse, said Judy Kirby, CEO of the executive search firm Kirby Partners, at the CHIME19 Fall CIO Forum in Phoenix on Tuesday.
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Kirby recalled a client organization that had shuffled through five CIOs in seven years. She was asked to find a candidate who is “innovative, transformative … someone to totally change or disrupt us.” But the organization also needed a “strictly operational” leader to deal with outages.
“We knew they were unsure of what they needed,” said Kirby. “Organizations are getting on the digital transformation bandwagon but they’re really confused on how they’re going to get there.”
Regardless of industry, attracting and retaining IT talent is a challenge: Unemployment in the field reached a 20-year low in May, federal data shows.
Kirby spoke about best practices with John Kravitz, CIO at Geisinger Health:
Excel in Your Existing IT Practices
Transformation isn’t possible if the nuts and bolts of an IT operation aren’t running smoothly. Likewise, the department’s reputation must already be stellar. Kirby gave the examples of Disney theme parks and FedEx, brands that “excel at execution” and “deliver the whole package.”
Identifying and fixing any weaknesses must come before innovation. “Keeping the trains on track is a given,” said Kravitz. “To drive our business forward, we need to be in lockstep with leadership.” IT excellence, he added, should be driven from within, not by other departments.
READ MORE: Discover the three steps to a successful healthcare IoT implementation.
Find Leaders Dedicated to Customer Service
Getting employees to participate in digital transformation efforts not only requires comfort and familiarity with new technology but with the individuals implementing it. This is why IT leadership must embrace a culture of transparency to be seen as accessible, authoritative and effective.
“One successful CIO insists on ‘rounding,’” Kirby said. “They go out with a technician and a cart full of goodies so when there’s an issue [on the floor], they try to fix it right there.” Such personal service offers the leader valuable face time and a chance to gather feedback from users.
Educate and Engage All Team Members
Keeping employees happy and involved is key to continuity during a transformation — and conserving resources that go into recruiting and training. “Seventeen percent of hires leave within the first three months,” Kirby says. “It’s expensive — and think of morale.”
Kirby cited a CIO who posted staff photos and words of congratulations on LinkedIn after an EHR rollout. “You have to celebrate success,” she said. Not only does that keep staff engaged, it inspires them to want to do better. This also can help cultivate a talent pipeline for promotions.
Keep the Lines of Communication Open
As leaders, CIOs must be able to make a clear, concise case for transformation to multiple stakeholders on a healthcare team. “Don’t just say, ‘I want to expand our footprint,’” said Kravitz. Develop a detailed roadmap and measurable performance objectives.
To ensure continued buy-in and goodwill, always be telling your story. After all, it’s easy for IT staff to be overlooked. “You certainly have to communicate when there’s a problem,” Kirby said. “But you also need to tell a positive message and really let everyone know what you’re doing.”
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