CEO and CIO Priorities for Tech-Enabled Healthcare

June 21, 2018
During the recent 2018 Scottsdale Institute Annual Conference, a group of 22 CIOs from leading health-delivery organizations across the country gathered to discuss their CEOs’ top IT-related priorities. From that discussion, five key themes emerged.

Executive Summary

During the recent 2018 Scottsdale Institute Annual Conference, a group of 22 CIOs from leading health-delivery organizations across the country gathered to discuss their CEOs’ top IT-related priorities. Although a wide range of issues were featured, five key themes emerged. At the top of the list was “digital health and the patient experience,” cited by 17 of the 22 CIOs as a top priority, followed by IT “cost containment and IT value realization” (cited by 13 CIOs), “innovation” (12 CIOs), “support for growth” (12 CIOs), and “cybersecurity” (11 CIOs). Although the top priorities discussed by the panel are not necessarily representative of every provider nationwide, the session provided great insight and important perspective into how a group of leading CIOs from advanced organizations are responding to the rapidly evolving health-delivery landscape.


Mary Alice Annecharico, R.N., senior vice president and CIO (retired), Henry Ford Health System; Bobbie Byrne, M.D., senior vice president and CIO, Advocate Aurora Health; George Conklin, senior vice president and CIO, CHRISTUS Health; Darby Dennis, R.N., vice president, clinical information technology, Houston Methodist; Darren Dworkin, senior vice president, enterprise information services and CIO, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center; Gene Fernandez, vice president and CTO, Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare; Jason Joseph, senior vice president, information services, Spectrum Health; Eric Leader, chief technology and information officer, Verity Health System; Ken Lee, senior vice president and CIO, Centura Health; Brennan Lehman, CIO, Mosaic Life Care; Heather Nelson, vice president and CIO, University of Chicago Medicine; Patrick O’Hare, vice president, facilities and CIO, Spectrum Health; Mark Pasquale, CIO, INTEGRIS Health System; Michael Pfeffer, M.D., CIO, UCLA Health; Andrew Rosenberg, M.D., CIO, Michigan Medicine; Jon Russell, senior vice president  and CIO, John Muir Health; Chuck Scully, senior vice president and CIO, HonorHealth; Marcus Shipley, senior vice president and CIO, Trinity Health; Brent Snyder, CIO,  Adventist Health System; Subra Sripada, executive vice president and CIO, Beaumont Health; Tim Thompson, senior vice president and CIO, BayCare Health System; Jim Veline, vice president and CIO, Avera Health

Moderator: Ralph Wakerly, president, C-Suite Resources

Written by Jason Fortin, Impact Advisors


The topic for the Scottsdale Institute’s 2018 Annual Conference was “Pushing Past the Payment Barrier: From Innovation to Transformation of Healthcare.” During the conference, a CIO roundtable discussion among 22 CIOs from leading health-delivery organizations across the country focused on the issues keeping them up at night. Specifically, each CIO was asked to share their CEO’s top strategic priorities. Some CIOs focused on the top one or two priorities, while others mentioned as many as five or six.

Key Themes

Although a wide range of priorities was discussed by the CIOs, five key themes emerged. In many ways, these five themes reflect not only the rapidly evolving health-delivery landscape, but also key competitive differentiators for provider organizations in the coming years.

Digital Health and the Patient Experience. The most frequently mentioned priority—by far—pertained to patient engagement, cited by more than 80 percent of CIOs. That there is so much attention on digital health and the patient experience right now is telling on a number of fronts. First, it underscores a growing recognition—especially among industry leaders—about the critical need to be able to compete on convenience, access to care and value (as defined by patients). Technology can obviously play a critical role in transforming the consumer experience in healthcare, just as it has in other service industries. “Digital health” tools cited by the CIOs ranged from patient-facing engagement solutions (e.g., wearables, mobile apps, self-service tools) to a number of provider-facing solutions that can help streamline transitions of care and overall patient flow. However, as CIOs on the panel repeatedly pointed out, digital-health technologies—regardless of how promising—cannot succeed without the right level of leadership, governance, clinician engagement and overall organizational commitment.

Examples Of “Digital Health” Solutions

Virtual care apps & tools (mobile-based virtual visits, e-triage, patient-provider communication tools, secure messaging, etc.)

The focus by participating CIOs on digital health, virtual care and the overall patient experience is also notable because health-delivery organizations are no longer just competing with other hospitals, health systems and physician practices. New, non-traditional players have also emerged, such as retail clinics from major pharmacy chains and onsite workplace clinics increasingly being offered by large employers.

IT Cost Containment and IT Value Realization. More than 60 percent of CIOs cited either containing IT costs or improving IT value as a top priority, reflecting how perspectives about IT spending are evolving among leading healthcare organizations. As recently as even five years ago, many hospitals and health systems nationwide were investing significant amounts of money to implement a new enterprise EHR—or upgrade an existing one—to maximize meaningful use incentive payments. In some cases, implementations were rushed or narrowly focused on the capabilities needed for meaningful use. Fast forward to 2018, and financial challenges are forcing CIOs to stretch the technology dollar more than ever. At the same time though, there is also now significant pressure internally to demonstrate tangible value from existing IT investments—particularly the enterprise EHR. Containing IT costs will continue to be important moving forward, but there is also an increasing premium on the ability to actually define value and quantify ROI.

Innovation. Interestingly, almost 60 percent of CIOs cited innovation as a top priority. “Innovation” can obviously take on many shapes and forms. Some CIOs mentioned targeted pilots focused on machine learning and AI, others cited strategic partnerships with large employers or influential tech firms, while some even discussed plans to establish a dedicated “innovation center” at their organization. Although approaches to innovation range widely, one consistent theme in the discussion was the importance of putting more structure and governance behind innovation to ensure efforts are better aligned with the organization’s overall strategic goals. Interestingly, there was little mention of emerging technologies such as blockchain or FHIR (i.e., “Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources,” a draft standard from HL7)—both of which have been surrounded by considerable “buzz” of late in healthcare.

Support for Growth. Not surprisingly, almost 60 percent of CIOs mentioned support for growth as a top priority, underscoring the continued efforts by health-delivery organizations to achieve scale. As competition increases in many regions, hospitals and health systems are trying to grow organically (e.g., expanding existing service lines or building out new ones) as well as through acquisitions and strategic partnerships with a variety of different stakeholders. The CIOs noted the importance of being able to ensure that IT is positioned to be able to support all of that growth.

Cybersecurity. The need to proactively protect against evolving cyber threats was also a key theme, with more than half of CIOs citing cybersecurity as a top priority. Not only are cyber-attacks becoming more sophisticated, there are also now more vulnerabilities to exploit—with connected medical devices representing one of the most pressing concerns. It was clear from the Roundtable discussion that participating CIOs felt strongly about the importance of being proactive; beyond the steep financial consequences of a breach, there can also be irreparable damage to an organization’s reputation and brand. It was telling that multiple CIOs pointed out that cybersecurity—just as with many of the other top priorities mentioned above—is as much about policies, processes, governance and culture as it is about technology.

The Bottom Line

Although the priorities highlighted by CIOs in the roundtable discussion may not be representative of every provider organization nationwide, the discussion underscored how the health-delivery landscape is rapidly evolving—and how many leading hospitals and health systems are preparing for the future. In particular, participating CIOs felt strongly that efforts focused on digital health and transforming the patient experience are likely to be among the biggest competitive differentiators for many providers moving forward.

The Scottsdale Institute (SI) is a not-for-profit membership organization of prominent healthcare systems whose goal is to support our members as they strive to achieve clinical integration and transformation through information technology.

Impact Advisors is a healthcare consulting firm aiming to solve some of the toughest challenges in the industry by delivering strategic advisory, technology implementation and performance improvement services.

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