Healthcare Leadership: The Evolving Role of the VP CTO

Guest post by Nicholas Giannas, Senior Associate, IT Practice

In the information technology world, we have seen most executive positions evolve and grow over time, and many new titles and positions develop. This happens even more frequently in a rapidly changing industry like healthcare. With healthcare reform and the federal electronic medical record (EMR) stimulus program, IT roles are increasing in scope, importance, and number.

There has been a lot written about the evolution of the healthcare Chief Information Officer (CIO). Undoubtedly, the CIO position has gone through a metamorphosis that is not only obvious but justified. CIOs have gone “from the basement to the C-Suite” as their responsibilities have become more strategic and critical to organizational success.

The leadership position responsible for managing an organization’s technology infrastructure has quietly gone through its own transformation. In the past, this position was often called Manager/Director of Technology or of Technical Services. (This title still exists today, particularly in smaller organizations). The individual in this role was typically thought of as a “techy” that managed the hardware and lived in the data center. Over the years, the Director role was upgraded to an officer position called Chief Technology Officer (CTO) in larger and more complex organizations. The CTO was not only responsible for managing infrastructure operations but also managing technology from a strategic perspective. This position required a visible leader that could present to leadership when called upon and communicate technology in a way that non-technical people could understand.

Beyond the Traditional CTO Role

Nicholas Giannas

Today, the CTO has become a vital role in healthcare. Many hospital organizations are recognizing the need to hire a Vice President, Chief Technology Officer (VP CTO). The VP CTO has a broader presence across the organization, participating in strategic governance committees and working closely with administrative and clinical leadership. Reporting to the CIO, the VP CTO develops and leads the infrastructure strategy and technology roadmap in alignment with the business goals and objectives of the organization. This position also works closely with the CIO in establishing the overall IT vision and strategy.

As expectations of healthcare IT departments increase and it becomes imperative to operate a more efficient IT environment, the VP CTO can have a significant influence. He or she brings knowledge and experience with regard to best practices in support of standards, policies, procedures and service and performance management. In addition, the VP CTO has a deep understanding of current IT trends in healthcare, including cloud computing and mobile technology. With the focus of healthcare organizations on meeting meaningful use, transforming themselves into accountable care organizations, building health information exchanges, planning for ICD-10, and/or continuously improving the security infrastructure, the Vice President, Chief Technology Officer position has become mission-critical.

Looking down memory lane, these technology leaders have truly come a long way. They are now viewed as important and full-fledged healthcare executives as opposed to “techies” that are solely responsible for network uptime and the infrastructure. It appears that the VP CTO role is here to stay and will continue to grow in prominence throughout healthcare.

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