Opportunities for a new breed of CIOs

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ORLANDO—Despite volatile times, opportunities abound and doors are opening for new players to move into CIO positions for the first time, according to an e-session presentation by Linda Hodges, vice president, IT practice, Witt/Keiffer in Oak Brook, Ill., at the 2008 HIMSS conference.

The healthcare IT industry has weathered many changes in the last decade, said Hodges, that has affected IT executive leadership—changes that include Y2K and outsourcing. “IT turnover is at a level never before seen in the industry,” she said. “Never before has IT played a more prominent role or budgetary responsibility.

Hodges discussed findings from a September 2007 survey of CIOs, CEOs, and CFOs, 202 respondents, representing 150 to 1,000+ beds in acute-care systems. Some 50 percent of respondents report to CEOs; 25 percent to CFOs; and 12 percent report to COOs.

Hospitals and health systems also are spending millions on advanced clinical systems, according to Hodges, driven by the need for EHRs and CPOE.

Respondents cited nine reasons for CIOs losing their jobs, retiring or retiring early:

1. Problems implementing clinical systems
2. Loss of confidence
3. New CEO
4. Poor physician relationships
5. Poor internal relationships
6. Too commanding and controlling
7. Board involved
8. Burn out/give up
9. Unrealistic expectations/inability to manage

Hodges added that CEOs and CFOs are looking for specific characteristics in a CIO. Specifically, they look for the ability to affectively lead and manage the IT enterprise to support the overall organization strategy, as well as have a long-term vision for the company. The ability to match resources to that vision as well as communicate effectively with key stakeholders are key factors that CEOs and CFOs look for, she said.

There are a few things that CIOs can do to avoid unexpected change in leadership events, Hodges added, such as building a strong relationship with the executive team, physicians and board of directors. CIOs should involve users in all major initiatives—don’t just let it be an IT project, she said. “Have a strong team and develop them.”

Making sure all major projects are on track is critical given the complexity, scope and cost of today’s projects. This is done by not underestimating major project needs. “Don’t start without the right people and money,” Hodges said.

Hodges concluded that new leaders are definitely emerging for CIO positions. “Doors are opening for new players to move into CIO positions for the first time,” she said. Long-time CIOs are not necessarily the choice moving forward as CEOs and CFOs are looking for new talent, new backgrounds to bring new ideas to the company.