CIOs Who Inspire Us

Digital technology has become pivotal to the experience and delivery of healthcare, with fluidity of data exchange being crucial across systems and organizations. Leading Chief Information Officers (CIOs) are modeling how to partner in strategic business responsibilities and accelerate growth while also governing systems, software, IT, and data implementations. They are showcasing how technology executives can maximize their influence and impact.  We are inspired!

The Modern Healthcare CIO: Balancing Tech with Business & Strategy

Healthcare is experiencing seismic shifts in business and operations. This demands that CIOs rapidly adapt solutions and fully harness technology to meet business and consumer needs. And it creates an imperative for CIOs to hold a new leadership role, where technology and data are essential considerations and drivers in strategic business decisions, rather than post-decision and operational initiatives.

Consider these findings from a recent cross-industry Gartner survey, noting, “Those at the top have gone all-in on digital business, and they have developed the capabilities to allow them to do it.” CIOs are encouraged to build on their momentum and continue to be involved in “higher value, more strategic initiatives.”

  • 76% of respondents said that demand for new digital products and services increased in 2020, with even more respondents (83%) reporting that it will increase in 2021
  • 63% of top performers stated funding for digital innovation has increased
  • 58% are increasing investment in intelligence and data analytics and 53% in cloud services and solutions
  • Organizations that have increased their use of digital channels to reach customers are 3.5 times more likely to be a top performer than a trailing performer

2021 will be a race to digital, with the spoils going to those organizations that can maintain the momentum built up during their response to the pandemic.

“Nothing, yet everything, has changed for the CIO….  They now have the attention of the CEO, they have convinced senior business leaders of the need to modernize technology, and they have prompted boards of directors to accelerate enterprise digital business initiatives. CIOs must seize this moment, because they may never get another opportunity like it.”  

Andy Rowsell-Jones,
Distinguished research vice president at Gartner

Challenges to Overcome for Healthcare Organizations to Harness CIO Leadership and Influence

While many CIOs may be finding their new path, we can look to a prior healthcare-specific Black Book research survey for indications of challenges that surely still lurk. 

  • Only 21% of [healthcare] CIOs felt they were meaningfully involved in creating market-facing innovations and strategic departmental software selections
  • Of [healthcare] CEOs surveyed, 29% think of their CIOs as tactical and not strategic enough to navigate the complex healthcare business systems to drive financial success
  • 88% of colleagues in the [healthcare] C-suite perceive CIOs as developers and deployers of technology and not usually as a source of innovation and transformation to deliver business value
Healthcare Digital Connectedness
Healthcare Can Seize this Moment for Greater Digital Connectedness Read Insight

Paths to Strategic Partnership in the C-suite

CIOs and other technical executives can chart their path forward with intention, engage in different types of conversations, and contribute ideas in new ways to elevate their involvement and drive value at the highest organizational levels.  

Business Relevance: Conversations that harness your expertise and drive alignment, growth, and value

Suppose the objective is to engage your CEO and other executive colleagues in meaningful conversations. In that case, it becomes vital to walk in their shoes and build bridges between their concerns and the power and promise of technology.

Here are three strategies for building credibility and setting the foundation to contribute technology-inspired ideas for business growth (aka digital business acceleration) that will get traction.  

Become fluent in healthcare business outcomes, such as:

  • Business outcomes: efficiency, growth, innovation
  • Quadruple Aim
  • Regulatory compliance, with transparency looming large right now

Understand and engage in CEO’s specific concerns, for instance:

  • Consumer experience and engagement: 
    • Bring a trend about consumer tech preferences or app usage; or connect the dots between improved digital experience and reduced member switching
    • Paint a picture about how AI and ML models enhance care manager or call center conversations, delighting both employee and consumer
    • Create a technology strategy to tap into social determinants data that improves benefits product design
  • Efficient care models and social determinants: 
    • Bring ideas for tech-enabled post-acute (non-institutional) care 
  • New entrants to the market (increased competition and co-opetition): 
    • They are primarily big tech or startups, which CIOs understand deeply
    • They can also involve direct contracting (see next bullet)

Demystify technical topics and create a clear line of sight to business value, for instance:

  • Strategic interoperability: 
    • Become fluent in context: care settings (inpatient, outpatient, home health, home asynchronous) and the ecosystem of care delivery organizations (payer, provider, community, and employer)
    • Treat information as a strategic asset
    • Frame data exchange in terms of business value, for instance, reduced effort for clinical staff, who can then work to the top of their license; or enhanced data access that delights consumers (because they don’t have to answer a question for the hundredth time)

Systems Thinking: Contribute new ideas fueled by holistic and systems thinking

“94% of problems in business are systems-driven.” W. Edwards Deming

W. Edwards Deming

Technically savvy executives are often masterful systems thinkers. In today’s era where business and experience are defined by technology, this mastery can now be applied more broadly and upward. 

Bringing ideas to the table with a business focus first (per examples above), and treating technical endeavors holistically, (business, people, process, tech, data) are critical success factors for effectiveness. CIOs and other technology executives are well suited to unpack the layers of business problems and the deep tendrils of technical solutions (and all the interfaces that come with them) in ways that are relevant and helpful to their colleagues.  

By repurposing traditional systems tools (interfaces, data flow, cause and effect) at the enterprise level, they can engage their colleagues to collaboratively navigate complexity, finding the most significant leverage points and fastest paths to highest value. 

Personal Enablers: Activities to broaden your perspective

Achieving relevant dialogue and consumable technical explanations is a process and takes practice.  Consider these activities to broaden your horizons and arm yourself with the language, stories, and evidence to catalyze the conversation.

  • Spend time with business colleagues. Actively set up meetings. Ask about their objectives and success measures.
  • Participate in business conferences in addition to technical events.  Think AHIP (vs. HIMSS).
  • Read non-technical materials.  Find out what your C-suite colleagues read and follow.
  • Pay attention to the venture capital community.
  • Find a mentor:  an inspirational CIO who is further along this path, or perhaps be mentored by a CEO, COO, or CFO. 

CIOs In Action. #BeInspired

Lisa Davis, CIO, Blue Shield of California

Lisa Davis, CIO for Blue Shield of California, is new to healthcare but no stranger to the demands of IT. As an award-winning IT executive, her extensive cross-industry experience is in expediting the payer’s digital transformation and enterprise-wide modernization strategies. In a HLTH webinar about breaking the mold of healthcare in early 2021, she expressed how they have foundationally changed the way IT interacts with and supports the business. Her presentation covered topics you might not expect to hear from a CIO: virtual and personalized care, remote monitoring, ICU care, real-time claims settlement (like retail!), and a holistic, high-tech, high-touch digital health ecosystem.


Kenneth Letkeman, SVP, and CIO, Houston Methodist

Kenneth Letkeman, SVP, and CIO at Houston Methodist and a CitiusTech Advisory Board Member, is no stranger to the healthcare technology scene with 30+ years of deep industry experience. As a forward-thinking executive, Ken is a leader of DIOP (Digital Innovation Obsessed People). With Ken’s support, DIOP created a Center for Innovation and focused on implementing innovative technologies in virtual care, digital care pathways, intelligent automation, and natural language processing.


Shally Pannikode, CIO, Humana

Shally Pannikode, CIO at Humana, brings a career history of “digital” taking center stage in healthcare. In a 2019 HealthSystemCIO interview, she discussed the criticality of IT individuals understanding the “why,” building coalitions with authenticity (within-payer and payer-provider), and her team’s highly-interconnected consumer experience-focused model that seamlessly connects physical and virtual care. They were well ahead of the curve relative to virtual appointments, remote monitoring, and online follow-up care! Strategically joining IT with digital, security, and operations, she leveraged interrelationships and broke through traditional silos to deliver exceptional service and digital experiences.


“I do not believe digital transformation is just a technology play. It takes every part of the organization to move the needle in this space. It only happens when the entire organization is walking the path with you, and there is leadership backing.”

Shally Pannikode

Seize this Rare Opportunity to Pull IT Out of the Back-Office

Healthcare’s digital business acceleration calls for consultative-type executives who can orchestrate integrations and strategies, business goals, and digitization opportunities while evaluating innovations and consulting with LOB managers.  CIOs who make the shift are in a perfect position to fill this need, creating stellar organizational (and personal) growth and advancement.

As CIOs gain traction in this new reality, we stand ready to serve, connecting business, technology, and data strategy dots and implementing initiatives with maximum alignment and efficacy.    

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