Will Your Health System Hire a Chief AI Officer in 2023?

Dec. 22, 2022
With AI becoming more prominent, prognosticators say more health systems will follow HHS in creating this position

New C-Suite titles — such as chief patient experience officer and chief digital officer — pop up from time to time in healthcare. Now some industry insiders are saying that health systems naming chief artificial intelligence officers will be the trend in 2023.

I got this idea from reading some 2023 predictions from Punit Soni, CEO of a company called Suki, which builds voice AI interfaces. The company’s Suki Assistant is used in more than 100 health systems and clinics across three dozen specialties. One of his predictions for 2023 is that “Chief AI officer will become a position in health systems differentiated from CIO and data/digital executives.”

Until I read that, I hadn’t heard of any health systems creating that title yet, but a quick search turned up several. For instance, the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the CIO has a Chief AI Officer named Greg Singleton. HHS originally established an AI Office, appointing its first Chief AI Officer, Oki Mek, in March 2021.

The primary functions of the office are to:

  • Drive implementation of the HHS AI strategy
  • Stand up the HHS AI governance structure,
  • Coordinate the HHS response to AI-related federal mandates, and
  • Foster collaboration across HHS agencies and offices. 

Among other achievements, the office launched a Community of Practice comprised of AI practitioners across HHS, including data scientists, machine learning experts, mathematicians, system developers, computer programmers, solution architects, health scientists, and program leaders.

Anthony Chang, M.D., M.B.A., M.P.H, M.S., is chief intelligence and innovation officer at the Sharon Disney Lund Medical Intelligence and Innovation Institute (MI3) at Children’s Hospital of Orange County, in Orange, Calif. In a September blog post, he noted that at the monthly Alliance of Centers of AI in Medicine (ACAIM) meetings, which includes 60 centers, few, if any, have the title of chief artificial intelligence officer (CAIO), “but this position is more important than ever before with the burgeoning field of AI in medicine.”

Chang went on to say that “the position of CAIO can be filled by someone who has expertise and interest in the domain of AI in healthcare but also with special passion for teaching and mentoring in this area. This person can be a clinician, a data scientist, or both but should have some foundational knowledge in biomedical data science (a field that converges healthcare domain, math and statistics, and computer science with biomedical informatics). Perhaps a variant of this position in the future can be chief intelligence and information officer (CIIO) for someone with a background in biomedical informatics and technology as well as biomedical data science.”

He noted that among the areas of responsibility for this role are clinical and non-clinical applications of AI and an AI educational agenda.

Academic medical centers are starting to develop AI centers of excellence. For instance, housed within the Duke School of Medicine but drawing leadership, resources, and insights from across the entire University, Duke AI Health is led by Duke School of Medicine Vice Dean for Data Science Michael J. Pencina, Ph.D., with co-director Richard Shannon, M.D., the Chief Quality Officer for Duke Health. They are joined by Chief AI Health Scientist Ricardo Henao, Ph.D., an expert in machine learning, and Managing Director Shelley Rusincovitch, MMCi, an informaticist and technical leader.

Some healthcare and life science companies are starting to use this title. Brandon Allgood, Ph.D., is listed as chief AI officer for a drug discovery and development company called Valo Health, where he leads data and modeling research and development. He also is a co-founder of the Alliance for AI in Healthcare and currently serves on the executive leadership.

Benjamin Odry is chief AI officer for Covera Health, which builds radiology programs for large employers and payers. He is responsible for defining and executing the company’s AI strategy as it relates to scaling its Radiology Quality Assessment Framework.

Finally, Luyan Fang, Ph.D., is chief AI and data officer at Prescryptive Health, a company that says it is building the world’s first prescription intelligence platform, eliminating waste and inefficiencies from the prescription drug market. She previously served as chief AI officer at Change Healthcare.

So will 2023 be the year more large health systems see the value in creating such a position? We’ll check back at the end of next year and see if we can find many more examples, and how those execs share responsibilities with CIOs, CMIOs and chief data officers.

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