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12 leadership tips for a post-modern healthcare CIO (feat. Ed Marx)
Posted by The HCI Group
on November 30, 2021 at 6:42 AM

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As a business leader rather than a technology manager, a post-modern healthcare CIO becomes more valuable by creating value for their organization.

“Your value is what you make of it,” says Ed Marx, Chief Digital Officer for The HCI Group. “You can get a lot of value out of what you have or a little bit. That’s the litmus test for leaders.”

While a modern CIO supports their organization with IT, a post-modern CIO  leads. “They hire the people who know the tech and focus more on strategy,” Marx says.

With more healthcare organizations embarking on digital transformation journeys, now is the time for a post-modern CIO to lead, according to Marx, who was formerly CIO at some of the nation's largest health systems and was most recently CIO and digital leader for Cleveland Clinic before joining The HCI Group. CIOs become more valuable by creating value for their organizations in the following ways, he says.

12 Tips for a post-modern healthcare CIO

1. Prioritize the business strategy.

Know the CEO’s agenda and how you can help them achieve their goals. Suggest ideas. “It’s not about one person,” Marx says. “Having deep talent in leadership makes a difference.”

2. Take the lead.

As a mountain climber, Marx knows that sometimes he must be out front while his hiking partner follows. “It’s incumbent upon the leader to just lead and be visible and transparent. Then other people will catch it,” he says.

3. Be transparent.

Don’t hide mistakes or poor performance. “There’s always a tendency, and I think it's a natural human tendency, to hide things,” Marx says, “But when you identify it, like if you are behind on a project, you can do something about it.”

4. Set the standard.

“You share your expectations in terms of growth and then it’s incumbent upon each of the individuals that report up to you to grow along with the organization,” Marx says.

5. Develop leaders.

Prepare your team for advancement. “You often see a big gap develop when a lot of the organization is moving forward and growing and other people just aren't taking personal responsibility or the leader hasn't enabled them or helped them along. Then when that person leaves, everyone scrambles and they have to bring in someone from the outside because there's no one inside that's ready,” Marx says.

6. Become a strategic asset.

Position technology as an enabler of business goals. “If all you’re doing is making IT operationally oriented, then it'll never get to that next level and it will always be struggling for funding,” Marx says.

7. Demonstrate value.

Show the return on investment that IT provides to your organization, not just your department. “If you are diligent and have business cases that are proven and you partner with finance to make sure everyone trusts the numbers, you can start showing consecutive years of success in what you're doing,” Marx says. “This builds trust within the organization and it gives you more money.”

8. Think financially.

“That's a financial way of thinking of IT as a strategic asset,” Marx continues. “And you have to make sure that you work closely with Finance and make them your best friend.”

Healthcare digital transformation finance

9. Help clinicians.

Tie technology to the pillars of your organization, including its clinical focus. “For example, if you were to optimize the EHR, you could enable a better experience for the clinician and that year’s annual survey for clinicians would show the level of burnout goes down. That would be huge,” Marx says. “That’s strategic.”

10. Have vision.

Envision the industry’s future. Push for funding virtual-care technology instead of bricks-and-mortar facilities, for example. “That’s often the failure of leaders, and especially a modern CIO, is that they don't think enough about the future and where things are going,” Marx says.

11. Take risks.

Be creative. “Too many people are risk-averse and nobody wants to follow you if you’re totally risk-averse,” Marx says. “Take chances to be creative.”

12. Work with passion.

“People want to hang out with passionate people and our industry is the easiest of all to have passion in because what we do saves people’s lives,” Marx says. “So share examples of how you’ve leveraged technology to save lives and improve the quality of lives.”

As you create more value for your healthcare organization, you will become more valuable, just as a post-modern CIO should.

Bonus: Three ways to recharge as a healthcare leader.

  1. Rest and reflect.
  2. Be humble.
  3. Help others.

Digital Transformation Strategy