What can interim CIOs do for an organization? A lot.

Having a meaningful impact can help with the day-to-day operational issues of IT.
daily operational issues of healthcare IT

I had the opportunity to participate in the CIO panel at the New England HIMSS Chapter Spring Conference on May 12. The questions for the panelists covered a range of issues that currently challenge healthcare CIOs.

Some were:

  • How mergers and acquisitions impact IT;
  • How to improve patient engagement given the move to accountable care models;
  • How to provide growth opportunities for our teams and;
  • How to find time and resources to drive innovation.

I have been a CIO in a few different healthcare organizations recently, so I could describe multiple experiences with these challenges. While we have similar internal drivers, and face similar external constraints, no two organizations are the same.

These questions connected well with some of my focus areas during this current interim CIO engagement at Stony Brook Medicine. After about a month in the role, I summarized what I thought to be my focus areas and shared them with the executives. The feedback was that it was ambitious, but on target.

Here’s that list. It’s generalized so you can consider it a good sampling of what interim CIOs can do for an organization, and what other CIOs may be focusing on:

  • Assist with the successful CIO search – It’s critical unless you want to be a long-term interim.
  • Improve core vendor relationship. I was able to do this at my last interim, even in a short timeframe.
  • Ensure IT support of new buildings stays on schedule – I told my team at previous organizations, “IT and Biomed will not be the reason a new building opens late, if it does.” New building schedules can run into delays but IT should not be one of them.
  • Ensure IT support for acquisitions and clinical affiliations – In a growing healthcare network, IT is a core component supporting all these relationships.
  • Assess staffing and organization structure – It is not unusual for an interim leader to look critically at this, make minor changes, and recommend more significant changes for the permanent CIO to consider.
  • Fully implement IT Governance that started several months ago – Most organizations have an opportunity here. With a good framework to build on, it’s a matter of executing and getting everyone on the same page.
  • Ensure tight project management and improve business alignment – Except for infrastructure work, our projects need to be true partnerships between IT and the user community. Projects need clear executive sponsors and business owners to be successful.
  • Work with the University CIO –  Make sure that recent changes in IT support for the needs of the health sciences schools do not have gaps in service.
  • Make incremental improvements on how IT is run – There are opportunities for improvement in any organization. I’m working closely with my leadership team as we identify those opportunities while ensuring we “don’t fix things that aren’t broken”.

Ambitious? Yes. But needed. With the support and engagement of the executives and my IT leadership team, I’m confident that we will make good progress on all fronts in the coming months. And at the same time, the day-to-day operational issues of IT will get the attention needed.

This post was first published on Sue Schade's Health IT Connect blog.

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