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A Digital Rx for Healthcare CIOs


Healthcare CIOs are poised to expand their influence amid regulatory and market forces that require a digital response. Our latest research reveals the new work styles and mindsets CIOs need to adopt in order to play a key role in their organization’s digital transformation.

Second in a four-part series.

In this series, we explore the CIO’s role in the digital transformation of four industry sectors — banking, insurance, life sciences and healthcare — based on our exclusive CIO survey. In this second report in the series, we highlight our findings for the healthcare industry.

Delivering a satisfying experience across all patient and member touchpoints is now an important competitive differentiator for healthcare organizations, making digital transformation not only necessary but also inevitable. As our research finds, this is not an easy task. Respondents listed numerous challenges to digital transformation, including budget constraints, legacy systems complexity, cultural change and a lack of commitment from the top levels of the organization. 

As the industry adopts novel business models and responds to new competitive and market forces, CIOs must adapt as well, by developing a set of powerful new skills, mindsets and work styles that will help both themselves and their organizations embrace a deeper digital sensibility. 

Leadership Is Critical to CIO Success

Respondents widely believe that CIO leadership is crucial to digital success. As such, CIOs can draw on their extensive knowledge of the business challenges and opportunities of the organization, as well as their technical expertise (see Figure 1). 

Figure 1

An important role for CIOs will be acting as the chief integration officer. They are uniquely positioned to understand which of the many systems, applications, databases and processes – from the back office, through the middle and front office – will have a direct impact on customer-facing initiatives. That knowledge can serve as a springboard for the IT organization to develop a variety of critical capabilities that are core to digital success. 

To operate effectively in this role, CIOs should focus on building new capabilities into the IT organization, including the following:  

Integration Services 

Healthcare’s systems of record are often proprietary legacy systems that are rich in data but difficult to integrate. Successful integration requires a portfolio of critical services: 

  • Systems of intelligence. CIOs must position the IT organization to own the process of deploying systems of intelligence to enable clinical data to be accessible to care managers, and provide powerful consumer engagement experiences across the business.

  • Platform strategies. IT organizations must take a lead in evaluating and deploying digital platforms and apps, and ensuring integration with other systems as necessary, enabling a consistent look and feel across all services.

  • Application programming interfaces (API). The CIO has the expertise to lead by opening APIs and selected sets of data to third-party developers to facilitate next-generation digital initiatives and evaluate their outcomes.

  • Post-M&A data/systems integration. CIOs are uniquely positioned to lead these efforts, with their understanding of IT infrastructures, data architectures, systems, supported processes, etc. 

  • Technology contracts and services. IT should be the organization’s “technology broker,” helping non-technical areas source technology, align digital initiatives with the overall business strategy, and integrate systems and services. 

Analytics and Information Management 

CIOs have a unique appreciation for the volume and granularity of healthcare data and must use this knowledge to develop strong data analysis capabilities within the organization. These analytics skills can become a core service that IT provides to other areas of the business and even monetizes as a commercial service for other healthcare organizations. 

Cybersecurity and Privacy 

Data security and privacy are key aspects of delivering a better member experience. IT is well versed in complying with healthcare’s privacy regulations, and is best suited to understand the technological complexities of securing and protecting the health organization’s specific systems. Predictive analytics, increasingly used in security to identify behavior patterns and potential vulnerabilities, requires big data sets, which lands in the CIO’s sweet spot. 

That said, the IT organization may need to acquire its own analytics expertise to better understand security loopholes and patterns of malfeasance. 

Navigating the Way Forward 

Respondents proclaimed themselves ready to take on an array of new responsibilities and skills to meet the demands of digital transformation:

  • Patient/member touchpoints focusing on customer centricity.

  • Strategy and innovation through agility, continuous iterative planning cycles, openness to risk and failure, and institutional innovation.

  • Use of insights powered by a data-driven culture.

  • A culture of employee empowerment, new metrics for success, transparency and trust.

  • Products and services enabling smart, connected design; interoperability with ecosystems and platforms; focus on marketing and monetization. 

  • Systems and processes that enable scalability and automation. 

Individual digital projects are not the same as digital transformation, and the CIO can drive home this point by leading both the IT organization and cross-enterprise stakeholders through this assessment. Just as the healthcare CIOs in our survey detailed the evolution of their roles, healthcare organizations must also undergo a similar process, reimagining business models, organizational structures, talent requirements and more. 

The CIO can model this process for the rest of the organization and, by doing so, create a multifaceted and rewarding role for themselves. Healthcare CIOs can lead their organizations to a point at which “being digital” is synonymous with delivering high-quality, high-value care that anticipates and exceeds member and patient expectations. 

For more details on our research findings, read our whitepaper Prescriptions for Healthcare’s Digital CIO and our overview report, Being Digital: How and Why CIOs Are Reinventing Themselves for a New Digital Era. For more information, please visit our CIO Study page to view our industry specific reports, or visit the healthcare section of our website.

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