Four ways career healthcare CIOs are diversifying leadership portfolios

Healthcare CIOs are kings and queens of the data center now, but ACOs and quality programs are changing the game, requiring new data science skills.

Technology innovations in health IT are changing the way users view data, as well as the skill set healthcare CIOs

need to help practitioners harness the power of patient data and effect real gains in patient care quality. To hit pay dirt as a participant in an accountable care organization or quality-based commercial payer incentive plan, chief information officers (CIOs) must consider learning more about data science.

Technology around us, and the way we use it, changes constantly. Your end users consume it differently than in years past. This presents a challenge for IT. Traditionally, CIOs and their teams enforce controls and standardization around devices and systems. Such controls ensure stability, security and standardized support. However, with the consumerization of technology, the rules of engagement are different; IT's role must change and adapt along with it.

The roles of healthcare CIOs

Meaningful use and HIPAA are on CIOs' minds

A CIO shares his plan for testing order entry systems

The provider CIO position could have a new name

In today's hospitals there are several trends that are seen as great opportunities to help improve access to data, exchange of information, communications and to create insightful use of data. What do they all have in common? They involve data science and knowledge of data standards, not just devices and the platforms on which they run.

Understanding how IT infrastructure needs will change as these data needs evolve, however, will require keeping up on "usual IT" technologies such as Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) communications and knowledge of how mobile platform rollouts will affect data security. Are you ready to embrace the following health IT trends, or is it back to school for some skill set diversification?

Better access to data: Providers and other clinical staff must now access health information from multiple devices. Care providers can view medical images and patient charts from smartphones, tablets or mobile carts from anywhere, within or outside the hospital. The significant advantage is quicker access to critical data. This requires IT departments to implement new security measures around mobile devices and put bring your own device policies in place to ensure there are strong safeguards against data breaches while still empowering end users.

Healthcare information exchange (HIE): IT has been tasked to ensure all connections with outside endpoints are secured and are functioning, whether it is a lofty requirement of meaningful use or that of a simple community-based HIE. The fact is, providers can no longer wait for patient charts from other specialists and providers on paper. Faxes and physical delivery waste resources. While in most cases, software vendors typically assist in making the digital connections, it's likely IT will continue to work on all aspects of data exchange within their facilities, as well as ensure tests with outside data recipients are successful.

Communications: Practitioners can see that voice paging, nurse paging, instant messaging and secure texting are more efficient ways of communicating. And those are only today's choices; there will be new innovations on the horizon. VoIP systems now offer full telepresence suites to providers, as well as other specialty healthcare services, such as security to enable HIPAA compliance. Since this becomes a critical piece of the puzzle, many IT departments are rolling out full, comprehensive unified communication systems that go beyond just telephony.

Data analysis: IT departments typically can access enormous amounts of data within their networks. This data can be mined and can provide insights. Big data initiatives have been the subject of conversation for some time. As more analysis tools become available on the market, clinical departments and marketing staffs are looking to leverage the information to gain competitive edges to improve patient outcomes as well as market share.

We continue to see technological innovations and consumers driving change within healthcare. IT departments in many hospitals are recognizing these changes and are adapting to them. Changes can be seen in the types of recruiting being done, as well as the types of projects that IT is involved in. Relationships and vendors are increasingly being managed by IT, giving them hands-on influence as well as exposure to other organizational units. This continues to be the right recipe for success. As long as the only constant is change, IT will continue to evolve and be an enabler.

Reda Chouffani is vice president of development with Biz Technology Solutions Inc., which provides software design, development and deployment services for the healthcare industry. Let us know what you think about the story; email editor@searchhealthit.com or contact @SearchHealthITon Twitter.

This was first published in December 2013

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