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The top six priorities of a new healthcare CIO

Assessing performance strengths and identifying any gaps should be part of a healthcare CIO's plan of attack when joining a new organization.

Settling into an unfamiliar office is just the beginning of the changes a healthcare CIO will experience when joining a new organization. CIOs will be challenged by the personal and organizational adjustments they will oversee. They will lean on their experience within healthcare IT, leadership and change management to guide themselves and their department. When an IT executive, such as a CIO, enters a new IT department to either rescue it or incorporate it into an existing one, there are several crucial areas they should focus on to ensure a successful transition.

For most people, entering a new IT shop can be overwhelming. Maintaining business as usual while simultaneously improving the department's performance ranks high on everyone's priority list. But for most successful and confident IT executives, there is a methodology that guides their takeover of a technology group. After working closely with a CIO for more than a month, I identified the following key takeaways on how to ensure a successful transition, while minimizing interruptions and culture shock.

There are six areas on which healthcare CIOs focus when they evaluate an IT department. Carefully monitor performance in the following places to create a constructive impact on an organization and reflect positively on the IT department.

Cultural adjustment: Fitting in and adjusting to office dynamics is a major part of any move into a different organization. To ensure a smooth transition and alignment with executives and the IT department, new CIOs should focus on getting to know the culture of the organization and its mission statement. In addition, they should learn the organization's history -- specifically, what worked and what didn't in the past.

Resolution of immediate issues: There are several reasons organizations seek new IT leadership for a hospital. An unforeseen termination, retirement, catastrophic failure of IT management or a misalignment of business values are prime examples of why a hospital might choose to replace all or part of its IT management team. A new healthcare CIO must immediately bring changes to the IT department to improve its reputation if the change in management was due to substandard departmental performance. One way to stabilize the group's performance is to resolve all existing issues.

Strategic assessment and gap analysis: New healthcare CIOs usually take inventory of all current team members when joining a company. By gaining a good understanding of the fabric of their IT team, an IT executive can gauge the capabilities and limitations of the team to ensure that any performance gaps are addressed. An IT executive should also carry out the following three core components of a gap analysis to identify any organizational weaknesses:

  • Define strategic goals by evaluating existing technology and interviewing key employees within the different organizational units.
  • Determine the state of the organization by evaluating the current standing of technology initiatives and how each relates to IT goals.
  • Create an action plan based on findings from the previous two core components to help IT achieve the overall strategic goals for itself and the organization.

Change management: Convincing an organization to adjust to alternate ways of doing things is one of the most challenging aspects of a new CIO's job. Newly appointed IT executives must rally team members and reenergize them to gain support for upcoming plans. These changes might extend to other business units outside of the hospital. Incoming healthcare CIOs should share previous successes they've achieved in other organizations to convince new co-workers of the validity of their plans.

Stability of the environment: Organizational stability should be maintained during times of significant change. This starts with gaining employees' trust and foreseeing any issues that may sprout under a new leadership's direction.

Optimization: During this stage, the new IT leadership lays out changes that need to be made to boost the performance of technology used by the hospital's IT department. By applying subtle changes based on observation and previous successes, small improvements can be seen without significant disruption to existing workflows.

Managing the expectations for the IT department to improve the performance of other departments is at the top of many IT executives' agendas. For many new CIOs and technology executives, coming into a hospital and getting acclimated to the culture can be challenging and intimidating. Still, many have successfully made the transition and changed their organizations for the better. Due to budget and reimbursement cuts, today's IT departments have to get creative to provide the tools and support their organizations need to be successful.

About the author:
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
 [email protected] or contact @SearchHealthIT on Twitter.

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