Doing Things in a Whole New Way

By Shane Miller, CIO, HSHS Division-Eastern Wisconsin

Shane Miller, CIO, HSHS Division-Eastern Wisconsin

The Role of a CIO Today

I don’t feel the role of a CIO has changed a lot on the surface in comparison to the last five (or so) years. Yes, the specific items we talk about in the technology field have evolved, and there are things we may not have dreamt of five years ago. However, I feel our overarching goal is still the same—identify the strategies that will move your organization forward and then empower your colleagues with the technology and knowledge to get it done. As a CIO you are invited to the table to help define the strategic goals for your organization. The definition of these goals does not necessitate any knowledge of technology. But having the technological knowledge in those meetings will allow you to better fine tune the strategies and then help identify the right people and technology to make it happen.

I also think the CIO should be the role model for learning and innovation. If the CIO keeps learning and looking for opportunities to innovate, it’ll hopefully inspire other colleagues to do the same. If nothing else, it certainly demonstrates that they have permission to look for innovative solutions to today’s problems.

"As we move towards a more connected world, more and more Application Program Interfaces (API) are available every day"

Looking at IT from a Different Angle

I don’t think IT suffers from not being seen as important like it may have years earlier. Today it seems like everything we do, and every interaction we have, is facilitated by the technology that IT departments support. Being seen as “important” isn’t where we struggle today. However, being seen as “important in different ways” or “capable” may be a different way of putting it. Almost every day I hear about a department that’s struggling with one thing or another and I quickly offer something up as a solution or assistance that we can provide. But if I didn’t overhear the challenge they were facing, would IT been brought in to brainstorm solutions? Oftentimes the issue is that we don’t know what a colleague needs to do their job better and the colleagues don’t know what we can do to make their job better— so we are never consulted. We need people to see IT as a resource to solve problems—any problems. We need to hear about the issues that are easily recognizable as technology based problems and also issues that aren’t. At the same time we need to work with colleagues outside of the IT department to better communicate the things we are doing for others, to help them see our capabilities, and allow them to think of different ways we could implement solutions for them.

Latest Trends that are Gripping your Mind?

Healthcare has been fairly slow at adopting new technologies. However, that’s been changing as the link between improved patient care and technology has become more evident. Due to the slow start, we are often caught focusing on implementing technologies that other industries have already adopted. One of those areas is Business Intelligence and utilizing the large amount of data to improve patient care and/or lower costs.

As more and more technology is adopted, the capabilities to treat patients successfully increases and becomes more normalized for all providers. In order to differentiate an organization from their competitor, the patient experience becomes the next important focus area. Providing convenience via telemedicine, monitoring patient data via patient wearables, and ensuring the patient always has access to the information they need is one of the things we are focused on now.

Future Technology Innovation that has Value

Machine Learning is an exciting field and is really starting to demonstrate its usefulness in healthcare. Whether it’s Watson from IBM or Google’s Deep Learning cloud platform, the ability to bring this kind of technology in-house and train it for specific activities for your organization is really exciting. As this progresses and it becomes easier to train and utilize the training from other organizations, it’s going to be really exciting to see where it leads.

Overcoming the Challenges

I started my career as a developer back in the days before true Integrated Development Environments (IDEs) existed, so I remember building my own button graphics, using pointers for linked lists and worrying about freeing memory. I recognize the benefits that the advancement of technology has had on development of all kinds and for the most part it’s been very positive. As we move towards a more connected world, more and more Application Program Interfaces (API) are available every day. This allows developers of all kinds to quickly build upon the work of others and add functionality into their applications that would have taken months prior. If you need to add social aspects into your applications, go look at the Twitter APIs, Facebook Developers page, or most other major social tools. The ability to easily add functionality into your applications today is a great advantage to all types of development. As the Internet of Things (IoT) continues to ramp up, the APIs that’ll allow applications to pull data and monitor devices will be breathtaking.

Changes in the IT Operating Model

In the past few years we’ve become a much more organized IT department, focused on the implementation and support of our Electronic Health Records (EHR). This is partly due to the emphasis around the need for EHRs to improve patient safety and reduce costs, along with the related meaningful use of dollars that were attainable if implemented correctly. Now we need to go from “supporting” to “creating”, and that requires readjustment of a mindset and staff allocations. This transition has been occurring for the last year or so and will continue for the next few years at a minimum. Innovation is the key to moving forward and making progress with today’s problems. Difficult problems aren’t going to be solved by doing things the same way we’ve done them years ago. We need to look at doing things in a whole new way and be open to drastically changing those around us and ourselves.

Advice for the Budding CIOs

I think it’s critically important to stay in touch with what’s happening in your industry, what’s new in technology, and what’s happening with the colleagues you work with. Losing contact with any one of those can put you at a disadvantage. The more you know and can demonstrate to your colleagues, the more they will respect you and the decisions you will make. The more you get involved in leadership, the less you can do on your own. So making sure your colleagues are engaged, feel they can be open with you, and are willing to think differently, the better you all will perform.

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