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NZHIT: Thoughts on clinical leadership

Thursday, 12 April 2018   (0 Comments)
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Guest column for NZHIT: Dr Will Reedy muses on the crucial role of clinical leadership in the digital age.


The role of the CCIO

The role of the chief clinical information officer has evolved over the past 20 years. It was initially established to support CIOs with clinical engagement for electronic medical record and electronic health record programmes.  


Traditionally the CCIO has been a doctor, but increasingly nurses and allied health professionals are being appointed to CCIO roles.


In recognition of the potential impact of digital health technologies on healthcare teams and emerging models of care, larger healthcare organisations are appointing chief nursing information officers and chief allied health information officers in addition to the CCIO.


Historically the role has not been well defined, but that is changing with CCIOs becoming a critical leadership role in executive teams. The CCIO has both a strategic and operational role.


The ideal CCIO is visionary leader with a track record of leading the development and implementation of information and data strategies to transform health services. This is based on the assumption that the healthcare organisation is on a journey to transform how it delivers healthcare services to deliver better health outcomes.


Interestingly, digital health technology companies are now appointing CCIOs to support their customers on their digital transformation Journey.


Opportunities for New Zealand

To date, New Zealand has been largely behind in appointing this role, but this also presents an opportunity to consider the role moving forward.


In appointing CCIOs, healthcare organisations in New Zealand should consider whether they have the following: a consumer/patient focus, experience in successful delivery of digital health projects with benefits realised, experience in assessing the clinical and patient safety of digital health technologies, postgraduate qualifications and whether they are systems thinkers, i.e., across care settings, multidisciplinary teams, social determinants of health and health and wellness.


The Ministry of Health should also consider appointing a national CCIO to provide clinical leadership to support delivery of the new Digital Health Strategy.


Leadership in the digital age

Increasingly, healthcare organisations are becoming digital by design, and this is best reflected by organisations developing business strategies with intrinsic links to digital capability (rather than the traditional business strategy followed by a digital or IT strategy).


Chief digital officers are now emerging as a critical role in healthcare organisations. This role considers how a healthcare organisation considers opportunities for digitisation particularly focused on the customer experience, in this case healthcare consumers/patients.


Consumer expectations of healthcare require that healthcare organisations think about value-based healthcare across the care continuum and this often requires specific digital skills and experience to augment executive teams.


With the explosion in digital health technologies, clinical leadership remains in the top two critical success factors for the successful adoption of digital health technologies (the other critical success factor is executive buy-in).  


Like other interventions or treatments in healthcare, such as medications and procedures, digital health technologies will increasingly need to have supporting evidence of benefits to health service delivery.  


Clinical leadership is essential in ensuring digital health technologies provide evidence of benefits and more importantly do no harm to consumers/patients.


Dr Reedy recently visited Telus Health in Canada and the Microsoft Global Health Team in Seattle, and attended HIMSS 2018 in Las Vegas with several key stakeholders from the New Zealand health sector.


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