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Healthcare CIO Series: The Evolving Role of the CIO

David Chou, Healthcare CIO

David Chou, Healthcare CIOHealthcare CIO Series: Interviews with David Chou, CIO
I am teaming up with CIO David Chou (@dchou1107), an executive with more than 13 years of experience in the healthcare industry to bring you a series of blog posts that provide a unique perspective on some of the healthcare industry’s biggest trends and challenges. David has been named to several “Top Social CIO” and “CIOs to Know” lists. He is a visionary and resourceful leader with expertise in healthcare and digital technology and a proven track record of delivering innovative, state-of-the-art solutions.

In the first post of the blog series we take a look at the evolving role of the healthcare CIO
The healthcare industry is in the midst of a revolution and at the center of the transformation is information technology. As IT adoption accelerates to keep up with the changing organizational, clinical and population health-related demands, the CIO’s role will continue to be in a state of transformation. The days of a CIO being the IT guy are over. Adapting to the pressures, changes and mandates of the healthcare industry requires a CIO that is forward-thinking, innovative and a strategic leader.

KATE: Tell us about yourself and your background

DAVID: I have been in healthcare for over 13 years in various types of healthcare organizations ranging from for-profit, non-profit, and most recently in the academic medical center space. I started my career with various for-profit health systems working a lot with mergers and acquisitions, which was a lot of fun. Then I ventured off working in the non-profit side with the Cleveland Clinic internationally in Abu Dhabi. That was a green-field project with a joint venture between the government of Abu Dhabi and Cleveland Clinic (Ohio). I had a great experience living internationally and I was very involved with healthcare globally, not only in the Middle East, but also in Asia. I ventured back into the United States over 2 years ago and became the CIO for an academic medical center. In this role I had technology responsibility over the three verticals of healthcare, education, and research.CIO Perspective: The Evolving Role of Healthcare CIOs: David Chou

KATE: What are some of the major initiatives you have been working on since you have been CIO?

DAVID: I walked into an organization that went live with Epic one year before I got there. It was a big-bang implementation and my initial focus was working on optimizing the revenue cycle to make sure that the institution was taking advantage of the system automation. That was about an eight-month process and the institution saw some great gains on the financial side. After the revenue cycle optimization we started focusing on the clinical areas and the goal was for the organization to try and achieve stage 7 of HIMSS Analytics in Q4. I still hope that is on track. Those were primarily the internal initiatives. Externally, my focus shifted towards how can the institution capitalize and generate revenue from the technology investments it had made. My goal was to maximize and utilize technology as a method of growing the organization’s outreach.

KATE: What strategic initiatives will healthcare organization be focusing on over the next couple of years?

DAVID: Most organizations are putting together growth strategies. Healthcare is consolidating as we speak so a $2B organization will have to grow and become $4B in order to be relevant in the future. The CIO must put together the technology to allow the organization to grow. CIOs must run the department like a business. The challenge is healthcare entities must grow and expand but at the same time face a decline in reimbursement from the payers. It is critical for organizations to efficiently grow their market share.

KATE: What are the two most significant trends impacting the healthcare industry?

DAVID: I hate using buzz words but population health is affecting everyone. The future of healthcare management is figuring out how to keep the patients out of the hospitals and focus on preventive and personalized care. The challenge is the majority of healthcare institutions still operate under a fee-for-service model so the balancing act of focusing on population health without having any negative financial impact is the number one struggle currently.

The second major trend is the consumerism in healthcare. Healthcare consumers have different and quite frankly higher expectations now than ever before. Consumers/patients prefer convenience over being loyal to their healthcare service provider. We are seeing the shift where the retail sectors (Walmart, CVS, Walgreens, etc) all want a piece of the 18% healthcare GDP.

KATE: How has your role as CIO evolved and how would you define the “future CIO”?

DAVID: The CIO needs to transition from being transactional to more strategic. There should be a new “I” in CIO for future CIOs

  • Chief “Innovation” Officer — we must innovate new ideas utilizing the latest technology to bring efficiency and return for the organization. The innovation factor may or may not be 100 percent a technology solution, but technology will be involved in some way. We need to come up with new ways of solving problems and disrupting the healthcare technology landscape.
  • Chief “Influence” Officer — our main role is to influence the organization and provide the best technological solution available to solve a problem. We need to get more involved with the marketing aspect of the business to sell our ideas and solutions. CIOs must start to think like a CEO of the department and work to ensure that our solutions are recognized highly within the organization.

If we do not define the new “I” and instead revert back to being a Chief “Information” Officer or Chief “Infrastructure” Officer (CTO), I am afraid that we will lose our edge, which is why we are seeing the rise of a Chief Digital Officer. CIOs must be poised to take on the digital role and be a leader of digital transformation within their organization. If CIOs do not take on the digital role and make the effort to educate themselves and the institution in order to keep up, they will be the real CIO (Career Is Over).

KATE: Overall, how has the CIO role changed since you have been in the healthcare industry?

DAVID: I recall when the CIO role was non-existent in the industry. Remember when the CIO ran a department called “data processing” and the staff were working on data entry in the system while the CIO/Director were primarily responsible for the help desk, infrastructure, telecom, and anything technology related. Now the CIO needs to be strategic and more business focused versus technology focused. The days of managing infrastructure, data centers and telecom as core job functions are over. The next generation of healthcare CIOs must recognize that.

This is the first in a series of blog posts featuring Healthcare CIO David Chou. Look for additional interviews where we take a look at some of trends and challenges in the healthcare industry.

Have additional questions you would like to hear from David on? Comment on this post or tweet them to me @katedtuttle.

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Kate Tuttle

Kate Tuttle is a senior marketing professional with more than 13 years of marketing experience in both B2B and B2C environments. She has more than 7 years of healthcare industry experience and is passionate about technology and its impact on consumer experience.

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