The evolution of hospital IT teams: 6 execs on what they’ll need in the next 12 months

Healthcare CIOs have spent the past several months responding to the pandemic and making adjustments to their teams based on their organization’s acute needs.

Those needs will continue to evolve with remote work, telehealth and data analytics taking precedence in the future. Here, six health system executives outline how they expect their teams to change in the next year.

Bridget Barnes. Vice President and CIO of Oregon Health and Science University (Portland): What used to be our ‘core technology teams’ are retooling to become more focused on customer experience. The move from applications that were formerly hosted on premise to cloud-based solutions, e.g. Microsoft Office 365, has changed the work these teams do. We are more focused on optimizing the customer experience through greater engagement and communication directly with end users than ever before.

Scott Arnold. Executive Vice President, CIO and Chief Innovation Officer at Tampa (Fla.) General Hospital: At Tampa General Hospital, we are focused on developing and hiring IT skill sets attentive to data science, presenting data and developing insights that are easy to understand and actionable. These skills are necessary to support high quality care, greater situational awareness (data > information > action) and our strategic plan.

A firm understanding of clinical and business processes is part of the recipe as well as an edge to cultivate artificial intelligence insights. Having the ability to scale our infrastructure for growth is also important, so we are also developing IT talent skilled with cloud migration and multi-cloud management. This is different than years past where the focus was on managing equipment on premise; we are focused on getting out of the data center business.

In addition, the ongoing development of talent focused on integration remains a steady demand to ensure all of the disparate systems are sharing information and process automation where possible. Finally, mobile and web development talent is in higher demand to provide better consumer experiences, lower friction and fewer contact points (corona virus inspired).

George Carion. Chief Technology Officer and CISO of Cedars-Sinai (Los Angeles): We are a growing health system and our IT team is under pressure to keep scaling, and do so efficiently. Over the last few years, we have solved many of the usual assortment of delivery challenges common to big IT departments through process reengineering and automation. Yet, our environment is still changing at a rapid pace and talent development is more important than ever. Next year, we’ll be increasingly dependent on roles with expertise across technology domains. These hybrid IT roles will help us continue to scale efficiently by reducing steps and hand-offs in a delivery chain.

We will be looking to fill roles for engineers that are both cloud and data center infrastructure experts. We’ll need DBAs who are also integration experts. We’ll need more ‘whole solution’ engineers that can see across our organization and ensure new systems are implemented correctly. The future is bright for people that are adding complimentary skills and functioning outside and around traditional IT silos.

Jeffrey Sturman. Senior Vice President and CIO of Memorial Healthcare System (Hollywood, Fla.): As healthcare IT organizations have matured with EHR implementations the natural evolution is on analytics/business intelligence to get good information out of all of our systems. With population health, telehealth, and consumerism, good data are critical to the success of the organization. We are looking to build out competencies and gain resources with strong business intelligence experience, specifically around value-based care and claims knowledge.

I also see a shift to cloud and the resources and skill sets we need will change to manage cloud resources versus on-premise competencies.

There is a convergence of IT and marketing, so the idea of MarTech is something I believe we will see further investment towards. This is really the idea of a more consumer-centric model with resources to support digital requirements, understanding the voice of the consumer and how that translates into technologies and digital capabilities.

As indicated above, this is also related to our need to find those resources who can help develop and establish mobile platforms, for both the delivery of care for our providers (e.g., virtual) and also to drive consumers to take a more active role in their health/wellness (e.g., patient portals, digital front door).

Keith Perry. Senior Vice President and CIO of Carilion Clinic (Roanoke, Va.): As we continue to migrate services to the cloud, our IT needs are evolving and require engineers that specialize in cloud architecture and security. These resources are crucial to the success of projects utilizing cloud infrastructure. In addition, our focus on the digital front door and digital health is expanding our need for designers, developers and engineers with digital care delivery experience. We went ‘lights out’ in our data centers several years ago given the advanced monitoring and alerting technology that exists today. As we continue the migration toward infrastructure as a service, we will most likely continue to see attrition with roles focused on maintaining infrastructure, data center operations, etc.

Tahir Ali. Vice President and Chief Technology Officer of Froedtert Health (Milwaukee): IT has always been one of those departments that has had very remote work. We do a lot of work after hours and over the weekends, and because of that a lot of the technologists already have the capability to work from home. For us, as the technology staff, the option for permanent remote work was easy. What changes is our support for people working from home. We used to have our team physically go to the brick-and-mortar building and fix the computer or keyboard if there was an issue; now we have to do things differently. If someone has an issue while working from home, IT must provide the same service. Within a year, we are looking to have a more robust delivery system where we can provide extended distance support. For example, if someone needs a new mouse, we want to be able to deliver it overnight and they can send the old one back to us. Logistics is important for us to deliver those services.

Secondly, with more people working from home, we want to make sure our system is robust enough. We upgraded our server and our Wi-Fi to make sure virtual visits are more seamless. Lastly, we need to shift into remote support of our infrastructure. We want to make sure documentation of our infrastructure is exact and all labels in the infrastructure are there. We want to make sure we have a configuration management database in place and labeling in place so any changes, especially physical changes to the infrastructure, are documented properly.

For changing roles, we will hire more people remotely. We can hire team members who live in other states. Our hiring practices are changing so we can open up our market outside of Milwaukee. It’s always good to open up the doors for everyone.

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