I recently had the chance to attend the 2017 CHIME Fall CIO Forum (CHIME17) for the first time. It was a fantastic experience.
What struck me most about the event was the close-knit feeling. In the hallways and in the sessions, it felt more like a class reunion than a healthcare IT conference. It was common to see groups of attendees engaged in deep conversations and there were frequent shouts of “hello” from across the hall. I can honestly say that I spoke with more CIOs at CHIME17 than the all the other 2017 conferences I have attended combined.
I learned at lot from my CIO conversations. Below are my top five takeaways:
Hospital CIOs are real people
At every other conference, you have to search pretty hard to find a hospital CIO. They tend to hide and run quickly from one pre-arranged meeting to another. They also do not spend a lot of time visiting the exhibit hall except with companies they are doing business with. At CHIME17 CIOs roamed the halls freely and were very approachable, especially at lunch. It was easy to strike up conversations at CHIME17 and it didn’t take long before funny stories of technology gone awry were being told. I came away from CHIME17 with a much stronger appreciation for CIOs – they are funny, caring people under a lot of pressure.
Optimization is the new black
Many of the conversations at CHIME17 were around the best ways to optimize existing IT systems – particularly EHRs. This optimization had two flavors. First, CIOs spoke about optimizing the user interfaces to reduce clinician frustration and to streamline workflows. This form of optimization was seen as a “quick win”. Second, CIOs spoke about optimizing/leveraging the data collected by their various systems. Many were investing in analytics tools and talent in order to unlock the value in the health data within their EHR, imaging and other applications. Optimization was the dominant topic at CHIME. For more details, check out my blog on this topic.
Attracting and retaining talent is a challenge
Another hot topic of discussion, or more accurately, a heated point of frustration at CHIME17 was the difficulty in attracting and retaining IT talent. CIOs at large urban hospital were frustrated at losing talented staff to HealthIT vendors and to “cooler” tech companies in their cities (like Google and Amazon). CIOs at smaller rural hospitals were frustrated at losing talented staff to their urban counterparts and to those same tech companies. With healthcare budgets frozen, CIOs were having to find more creative ways to attract and retain staff – like allowing work-from-home, hiring out-of-state resources and providing time for employees to pursue their own healthcare research projects. This war for HealthIT talent threatens to stymie healthcare innovation and is a challenge worth keeping an eye on.
The role of the Hospital CIO is evolving rapidly
Several sessions at CHIME17 were dedicated to the rapidly changing role of technology in healthcare organizations and to the role of the CIO itself. There was a lot of talk about the new emerging roles of:
- CSO – Chief Security Officer
- CMIO – Chief Medical Information Officer
- CNIO – Chief Nursing Information Officer
- CDO – Chief Data Officer
- CHIO – Chief Health Information Officer
As information technology permeates everyday hospital operations, the CIO role will fracture into hybrid operational+technology roles like the ones listed above. There was heated debate as to whether all these roles should report into the CIO or whether they should be kept separate from. John Lynn wrote a great blog on this topic.
Size doesn’t matter
The challenges being discussed by the CIOs at CHIME were independent of the size of their organizations. Whether it was attracting talent, finding good vendor/partners or dealing with slashed budgets – CIOs from small rural hospitals to large urban systems, were struggling with the same challenges. On one hand it was comforting to know the problems were universal but on the other, it was worrying to see how pervasive these challenges were.
BONUS: Marketing tchotchkes are an invasive species
CHIME is one of the few healthcare conferences that does not have an exhibit hall. Despite this, there was still a lot of tchotchke available to attendees – proving that Marketing Tchotchke should really be labeled as an invasive species at healthcare conferences.
Shout-out to CHIME organizers for putting on such a fantastic event.