This Week Health

Today: What Makes a Good Healthcare CIO?

Not as easy a question as it might seem.


Today in health, it we're going to take a look at what defines. A good CIO in healthcare. My name is Phil Russell. I'm a former CIO for a 16 hospital system and creator this week health instead of channels and events dedicated to transform healthcare. One connection at a time. We want to thank our show sponsors who are investing in developing the next generation of health leaders.

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Education. They can subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts. As you can tell I'm a little freeform. This morning. I'm finally feeling better. And I have had the opportunity to host 60 healthcare leaders over the last couple of weeks. A lot of great discussions, a lot of great. Conversations about the state of things and the challenges that y'all are facing. And it was it was interesting. It was, oh, it's always interesting.

The the topics you would think we talk about AI a lot and we talked about AI a little. We talked about the challenge of leadership a lot. What does it take to be a good CIO? And I wanted to give you a couple of insights based on those discussions and my thoughts as I walked away from those meetings. The A good CIO.

Can't be measured as a general thing. You can't just say a good CIO provides sound leadership, establishes good. Fill in the blank, whatever it is. It really depends on the needs of the organization. It depends on where the organization's coming from. Depends on the leadership of the organization. You can have a leadership team that doesn't appreciate technology.

Doesn't appreciate innovation. In which case the mark of a good CIO will be someone who can do cultural change within that organization and help that leadership team to understand. The necessity, the criticality of technology. But you could have another organization where that's just a foregone conclusion.

The leadership team gets it. And they are full steam ahead and away. We go. And then the mark of a good healthcare CIO might be to establish governance to, to identify the most critical. Objectives and projects and to weed out the rest of it. And to help the organizations see those things. And still again, it could be a very small organization. In which case. The role of the CIO might be to identify the best partners. Who we're going to partner with.

Is there a big health system we're going to partner with or their innovation? Think tanks we're going to partner with. Are there services that we're going to align ourselves with? The obvious and the classes and whatever to identify the best innovations so that we don't waste our money and waste our efforts. And yet again, there, there's a host of things that are just core to the job, that any leader doesn't even matter if it's a CIO and any leader has to do and do well.

And that's to build a culture. Within their organization. And we're going to talk about building culture. I've been spending a lot of time in this space, thinking about what it takes to build an effective culture. Because we're trying to build an effective culture around the 2 29 projects. So that's not even within my staff, we're trying to build a culture.

And so doing a lot of studying, doing a lot of reading, doing a lot of having a lot of discussions with people, what's the best culture. You've been a part of what has made that culture effective. What has made that culture? Something you want to be a part of something that you have learned from. And so we've been looking at that, but any leader period is going to be a good people leader. That is to to appreciate the team, to to provide the right guidance to the team direction. Encouragement to the team. To to get the right funding for the team that is to make the case for the resources. Two. Enable that team to do the things that they need to do.

There's an aspect of effectiveness, creating a structure for effectiveness. Some. Leaders at the CEO level have decided that lean six Sigma is something they want to drive throughout the entire organization to drive effectiveness. Other leaders have yet decided that agile is the way to go.

And we've now talked to a couple of CEOs who are implementing agile. They implemented it within it, and now they're taking it throughout the entire organization. Which makes sense coming out of the pandemic that would be taking off it, it does not surprise me at all. And so there's certain aspects of just being a leader, being a communicator, being able to communicate effectively to people. I would say there's an aspect of vision. That is a. That is also part of it. And this is this the way I like to lead, which is to to speak in pictures, just to give people an idea of what the future of healthcare might look like.

What does it look like to step outside the four walls of our health system? What does it look like? To engage in the community. And if we go back to 2012, our initial presentation to the board, it's. It was interesting because one of my direct reports was in one of the 2 29. Project meetings this past. A weekend. And we were reminiscing about some of those things and he. He said, He goes, I went to my first class and there's a little bit of a brag here, but it's just really interesting. He said, I went to my first MBA class. And I sat down, they gave me a book.

I started reading the book and sure enough. Your diagrams from your presentation to the board. We're in. My MBA book on, on communicating vision and marketing vision to. To the port. And it's that level it's can you tell the picture. And it's not hard.

It's just a matter of essentially people are like, oh, visionary, you have to be visionary. Being visionary is just essentially asking yourself a series of questions and writing down the answers and then potentially having somebody create images around those. Around those answers and then communicating them effectively,

clearly, effectively. Communicating them. And the questions are pretty obvious at this point. What does healthcare look like in five years? Does generative AI? What does healthcare look like with gender VI? What is the physician. Clinician experience looked like with generative AI. What does AI in general look like? Five years from now, how many of our interactions with the health system will be through natural language? And will the patient's experience be through natural language?

You just asked these questions. You answered these questions. You create a picture of what that might look like and you're a visionary. You'll be seen as a visionary leader when in fact all you're doing is putting pictures and words to answers to some questions that we're all asking right now. All right.

So that's how you become a visionary leader. It was interesting. I was sitting with two very good leaders. And I asked them what their super power was. And yeah. And when I ask that question, essentially, what I'm saying is everybody has a gift. Everybody has something that they are so strong at, and I believe we should lean into our strengths.

Everybody has something they are so strong at. That I call it their superpower. If we think about solving this problem, we find that person because their super power is, making that happen and it comes to them naturally. And they are effective at it. And one of the leaders said that their super power was listening. And I thought that's an interesting superpower. It's the ability to keep your mouth shut. Which is a super power for four.

Sorry still a little congested, but it's a superpower for some, for sure to keep their mouth shut.

But it's another thing to have it as a gift, to be able to ask questions, to be able to listen effectively to be able to listen effectively, especially in the face of people telling you're doing a poor job or or that, your department stinks and that kind of stuff, but being able to ask those questions and get to the answer of why are you saying that? What, how are you experiencing our it department?

How are you experiencing the technology? And. Being able to remain level, headed into a, take that in. And and act on it. Another. The leaders that that I really respect. Said relationships. And it's true for this person. Absolutely true. Like when they set it, I'm like, yeah. That's yeah, I see it. And when you think about it, relationships are so key to the role of the CIO the relationships with the executive team relationships, with the clinicians relationships with. The staff relationships with the with your peers. To learn from and to support and to help. That was an interesting superpower as well.

And it's interesting because I believe there's a core set of things. That the organization will tell us, we'll make an effective CIO and we have to ask those questions. What are your expectations of the CIO? As one of those things that, Hey give up, just give me the expectations. What do you expect from the CIO while the systems will always run? We expect you to provide leadership to that department.

We expect you to keep an eye on the horizon and bring in the technologies. They'll tell you what the expectations are. So some of the things will come from the organization itself. Some of the things will be a sense of just basic blocking and tackling of the CIO role. You have to be a leader of people.

You have to be a good communicator. You have to establish governance period. That's what it is. And it's some of it will be you leaning into your superpower. Either you being one of the best listeners amongst the leadership team to gather ideas, gather thoughts, and to organize them or relationships you brokering. Conversations between departments that are struggling to talk. Trying to figure out how to consolidate applications like a CRM, where you have six of them or call center applications, where you have five of them or imaging where you have 30, two of them.

And you're the broker of relationships and you make those things happen. What is your superpower? How do you make those things happen? Anyway, what is the measure of a good CIO? At the end of the day is someone who can lead that organization effectively. And I will tell you this. You look at the large organizations and you think, oh, that person could lead any it organization and that's not true. 'cause some of the smaller organizations. The CIO is have their hand on the keyboard. And they're actually coding things.

They are actually. Doing things with the technology at a deep level. Not that they couldn't do it, but they're not skilled to do it. So there's different skills. And th this is why I think the conferences are a little messed up. We put those people up on the stage and we listened to them and we say, oh, I want to be more like that problem is your organization.

Doesn't need that. Your organization needs you. Doing the things that you do and doing them effectively. And so sometimes we have to we have to take all that stuff with a grain of salt. Okay. I'm rambling. It's my first episode back after being sick after two. CIO round tables, a CMIO round table, a Cisco round table.

I'm just loaded with information. We'll get back to the news tomorrow though. And look forward to that.

All right. That's all for today. Don't forget. Share this podcast with a friend or colleague. You said it's a foundation to keep the conversation going. We want to thank our channel sponsors who are investing in our mission to develop the next generation of health leaders. Short test artist site, enterprise health parlance, certified health. Notable and 📍 service.

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