Health system CIOs need a strong team, and the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) role has grown, both in demand and status, as the healthcare enterprise becomes more technically complex. The traditional “CTO” role over operations, network, infrastructure and PC support has expanded to include more areas such as data analytics, IT security, disaster recovery, mobile technology, telehealth, HIE connectivity, and business intelligence.
In larger health systems, the expanded areas will have their own specialized leader. The “super-techy” nerd in the cubicle in the computer room has given way to someone who has executive presence, can manage people, communicate effectively, and can translate complex technical concepts into laymen’s terms.
What are the CTO responsibilities?
The CTO is responsible for managing the technical services and the day-to-day delivery of all infrastructure technical services and operational support. Here are some examples:
- Design and build the strategic IT roadmap in support of clinical, financial and strategic missions.
- Analyze, evaluate, and propose network, security, telecommunications, storage, database and technology architecture: hardware, software, protocols, topology, and strategy.
- Evaluate additional software and hardware for usefulness and compatibility.
- Monitor system utilization and capacity and provide capacity planning for peripherals including servers, storage, devices.
- Provide leadership for tactical and strategic planning for all network related activities, negotiate contracts, and integrate multiple vendors that provide services.
CTO key qualities
The key qualities sought after by a hiring manager for a CTO may include:
- Knowledge of current business practices and computing systems, interfaces, and standard software and hardware requirements.
- Strong understanding of healthcare issues, information systems, management issues, and current trends.
- Experienced as a facilitator, diplomat, and negotiator/mediator; expresses action-oriented and creative approaches to information systems issues and problems.
- Background in project management and planning, process mapping, group presentation, leadership, team building, written and verbal communication, analytical and organizational skills and budget management.
- Broad understanding of complex heterogeneous technologies and the ability to synthesize new technical information into existing structures.
- Ability to listen effectively, respond to sensitive inquiries or complaints, cope with an ambiguous or changing environment and have an unfailing sense of humor
- Strong planning, organization, critical thinking, decision-making and communication (verbal and written) skills.
- High degree of confidentiality, maturity, tactfulness and business ethics.
Healthcare candidates need only apply?
The hiring manager ideally wants someone with 5-plus years of applicable experience from a similar health organization. But because the technology talent demand in healthcare is so huge, this has allowed IT professionals from other industries to bridge into healthcare CTO roles. Someone who has been trained in large complex military or government IT roles would be a good contender.
A good CTO candidate can come from a healthcare IT vendor or consulting firm. Luckily, the CTO training and skills from other industries are transferable to healthcare and can provide fresh insight and useful knowledge to a health system. A CTO from outside of healthcare will face challenges such as learning to work with clinicians and clinical terminology, needing to be mission-driven and not profit-driven in most cases, and be willing to take perhaps less compensation. Be sure to check out SFIA – Skills Framework for the Information Age. It is a good resource that breaks down technology skills into six categories and 96 skills.