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CIO Recession Survival Skills

Carrie Vaughan, for HealthLeaders Media, June 2, 2009

There are two camps of technology leaders in healthcare. Chief information officers who are focused on more than technology (such as operations, construction, and strategic planning) versus IT directors who are exclusively focused on technology.

The CIOs who focus beyond technology are often the IT leaders who are part of the CEOs inner circle and a valuable member of the senior leadership team. They have demonstrated that they bring knowledge and a skill set to help the organization realize its overall business and clinical goals. The recession combined with the government's focus on health information technology has created a great opportunity for IT directors who are ready for more responsibility and an expanded role in the organization. Healthcare facilities are searching for ways to be more efficient and improve clinical outcomes and technology can play a huge role in improving hospital operations, which is the goal right now for many senior leaders. Surviving this recession in a manner that they can be successful on the other side.

A report by Scottsdale, AZ-based Carefx, the "Changing Role of the Healthcare CIO: Expanded Responsibilities in an Era of Economic Constraints" offers insight from five chief information officers on how to not only survive during a recession, but how to advance your career. Here's a sampling of the advice provided.

Understand how the economy affects your job. It is essential to demonstrate that you understand the big picture—how the recession is impacting the organization and that you are willing to help and contribute, even if that means putting a favorite IT project on hold. It's also the perfect opportunity to showcase what skills you have as a leader by driving efficiency and staying current on IT innovations that can help the organization save money or improve care. During the past several months, many hospitals have been forced to lay off staff members, a large portion of whom were from the administrative offices. Organizations are cutting back on the number of executives they have so it is essential for IT leaders to demonstrate that they can take on more than technology projects.

Emulate C-suite executives. IT leaders should ensure that their staff members know the organization's strategic goals by keeping them updated about its milestones and future projects. Portraying the role you wish to have is an important step in gaining the trust of and being viewed as a senior leader. For instance, CIOs should demonstrate skills in strategic thinking and planning, listening, communication and even empathy. How can IT leaders demonstrate these skills? By helping keep staff members calm in troubled times, fulfilling the role of a business enabler, operational driver, service leader, visionary and people motivator. Empowering people is how you can get the long term results the organization needs to be successful.

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