So why does a CIO decide to attend an ACHE conference?
I have to admit that when I registered for the ACHE Congress earlier this year, I was not sure how I well I would be received. I had attended some smaller local events of ACHE over the years and truthfully found them to be a bit stuffy and academic. Don’t get me wrong — the folks over at ACHE are very friendly and the topics are very relevant to what is going on in healthcare these days. But as a CIO, I felt at times dismissed.
The truth of the matter is that as a CIO, I am in the minority at these events. The title listed on my name badge for this event read, vice president & CIO. A title I never give a second thought to when I show up for CHIME events or conferences. At those events, my title is sort of a rite of passage. However, at ACHE, CEOs, COOs and the like dominate the crowd. I immediately started to compare my experiences at the last CHIME conference to what I was experiencing at ACHE Congress.
One thing that ACHE does very well is make use of college students, both at the undergraduate and graduate level. ACHE involves these young people in the logistics of the event, giving them exposure to some of the brightest minds in healthcare. Perhaps with ACHE this model is effective because they target students whose passion is to be a leader in the healthcare sector, and these students are normally in Health Administration education tracks. I think this is great for many reasons: it allows seasoned leaders to mentor up-and-coming leaders, and it allows for an infusion of generational perspectives.
That got me thinking, what could CHIME do to adopt such a model? How can we get young folks involved, and more importantly, exposed to issues facing healthcare CIOs today? I was running these thoughts by a fellow CIO who asked what educational track would CHIME target — would we be looking for students in Computer Science programs, Master of Information Science, or Master of Business Administration with a minor in Computer Science? It’s interesting to think about where tomorrow’s healthcare CIOs will come from. I would argue that future healthcare CIOs are just as likely to come from outside of healthcare as future hospital CEOs. Those of us in healthcare have a lot to learn from industries that have had to make major shifts in their business model to survive.
Speaking of shifting business models, as CIOs we have to shift the way we think of ourselves and consider attending non-technology focused conferences that can help us do that. Earlier this year I heard Steve Huffman, CIO at Beacon Health System, comment that he will focus his conference dollars this year on events that his CEO would attend. His purpose with this is to find out what is most important to his boss so that he can help lead strategies to solve these problems (even if they do not involve technology).
This is the role of the new CIO; we should look at ourselves as Clinical Transformation agents and not just technologists. As US healthcare changes from a volume-based to a value-based model, we have to be ready to lead our organizations through this change, applying our skills as leaders first and technologists second. I was reminded of that as I listened to leaders such as John Chessare, MD, CEO of GBMC HealthCare System, speak on transforming the community hospital into a community health system. These types of changes require technology to achieve, but first and foremost, they require leaders who are courageous and willing to step out of their comfort zone.
There is always a lot of talk among my peers and there have even been some posts here on healthsystemCIO.com about the CIO “having a seat at the table.” In other words, should the CIO be a member of the senior leadership team? I am very blessed to report that my organization does believe that as CIO, I am an integral member of this team. Involving myself in organizations like ACHE allows me to bring a broader view to the senior management table.
At the same time, as CIOs, our perspective and experience shared with CEOs, COOs and other healthcare administrators will only enrich the solutions that can be put in place to face the challenges of our industry. In the end, we are all marching toward the same goal — improving the patient experience, improving the health of the communities we serve, and reducing healthcare costs.