Getting innovation-ready: the digital challenge for health care CIOs

Lisa KhoreyLisa Khorey, Executive Director – Advisory Services at EY talks about how CIOs in health care can use current innovations to perform a successful transformation.

As seen in the health care industry, CIOs can harness digitization and big data to drive innovation in their organizations and sectors. Across the US, Europe and parts of Asia, electronic medical records (EMRs) and electronic health records (EHRs) are gaining ground. This represents a fundamental shift from the era of traditional paper records, which involved expensive and sometimes inefficient manual processes.

Leading the digitization of records presents a fantastic opportunity for CIOs to serve a business hungry for innovation. By harnessing the explosion of big data from digitized records, health care organizations can provide patients with better-quality care at lower cost.

Further, academic researchers in life sciences can use big data to study the genetic or environmental factors behind different diseases and so create more personalized treatments.

To turn this data into intelligence, however, CIOs need to overcome three challenges:

1. Coping with scarce resources
Whether publicly or privately funded, health care CIOs are short on both time and money. This puts the onus on them to articulate the value of data technology investments clearly.

To deal with limited resources, many organizations are moving to a simplified set of IT systems, using cloud-based tools and buying stock solutions rather than developing their own.

However, innovative CIOs recognize that clinicians want new workflows, more intelligent applications and an improved user experience. And they realize that using some of their scarce IT resources to deliver these advances can drive tremendous value.

2. Driving value through effective analytics and business intelligence
CIOs need to establish the data organization and storage, and must make targeted investments in analytics tools. They will also need to map their team’s existing data skills and address any gaps. Roles such as data scientists and data engineers are increasingly important, and require a combination of technical and business acumen to be effective.

By building up their analytics capabilities, CIOs will be enabled to answer crucial questions for the business, such as:

  • Why do care outcomes differ between providers?
  • What is care actually costing?
  • How can care delivery be optimized in order to enhance the patient experience?

Answers to these questions will support change in the care delivery process and promote informed decision-making, positively influencing innovation.

3. Addressing cybersecurity as an enterprise transformation
The confidentiality of health records — including those of political leaders and other public figures — is clearly critical.

As recently seen in the banking industry, the cost of cyber breaches can be huge. But the potential ramifications from the misuse of medical records are just as worrying. And organizations that suffer a breach could face punitive penalties.

Putting the public’s minds at rest — and persuading them to share their data — will require new investments in robust cybersecurity. This will mean doing all the usual things, from establishing strong firewalls to using former hackers to test defenses. It will also mean ensuring that the organization’s people are increasingly security-minded in their behaviors. CIOs must think of cybersecurity as a transformation initiative, which combines technical solutions with a mindset and culture change.

Today’s CIOs have a unique opportunity to lead innovation in their organization. The health care industry demonstrates how digitization and big data can be harnessed to drive new ways of working and significant transformation. For all CIOs seeking to establish a bridge between technology and innovation, these lessons from health care could prove critical.

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