Strategies and Best Practices for Developing and Nurturing Leadership Skills in Health IT

The new year is a time of personal growth and self-improvement. We all set out with a list of resolutions, determined to become the best versions of ourselves. While we are still in this mindset, let’s talk about how we can also improve as health IT leaders. Aristotle believed that in order to become a virtuous person, you must do virtuous things. So to become a better leader in health IT, we need to figure out what skills and best practices we must do and find out if these skills for health IT leadership is different than other healthcare sectors.

We reached out to our incredible Healthcare IT Today Community to ask them what strategies and best practices are effective for developing and nurturing leadership skills within the field of Health IT, and how they differ from leadership in other sectors of healthcare. The following are their answers.

Rich Amelio, Vice President, Healthcare IT Operations & Consulting at e4health

In 2024, Health IT Careers and Leadership will undergo a significant transformation, demanding a unique blend of technical proficiency and indispensable soft skills from professionals. The traditional role of CIOs will expand to include supporting remote teams, virtual patient care, and strategic assessment of evolving technology innovation. Soft skills will emerge as the linchpin, enabling CIOs to navigate complexities, foster collaboration, and communicate most effectively within their teams. Amid the push for digital transformation, leaders in IT will face the challenge of balancing innovation with regulatory compliance and patient safety.

CIOs are at the forefront, leading transitions to new EHR vendors while managing constrained budgets. The forward-thinking approach involves advocating for seamless communication, integration, and a clear vision for enhanced multi-lateral data governance. This delicate balance will advance healthcare while maintaining the safety of patient data. The role of CIOs in Health IT necessitates a shift in leadership development strategies.

In 2024, collaborative leadership will become paramount, requiring engagement with multiple stakeholders, including hospital operation teams, departmental leaders, and operational end-users. This collaborative approach will distinguish Health IT from other industry sectors and emphasize the need for leaders who are adept at navigating both technology and interpersonal relationships. To stay more informed, they will rely on symbiotic relationships and strategic partnerships with vendors. Adept healthcare IT professionals hold the key to advancing the industry in 2024.

Nancy Pratt, RN, Senior Vice President, Clinical Product Development at CliniComp

While many leadership principles are universal, there are some nuances in Health IT that differentiate it from leadership in other sectors of healthcare. Some strategies and best practices include a commitment to continuous learning in both health IT and leadership principles, effective communication, strategic thinking that includes a vision for the integration of technology in ways that facilitate patient care, team building to encourage collaboration and innovation, effective decision-making, and adaptability to foster and manage change.

Leaders should be particularly skilled in healthcare domain knowledge, interdisciplinary collaboration, data governance, regulatory compliance, project management, risk management, vendor management, and patient safety. It’s also crucial to foster collaboration between IT professionals and healthcare practitioners to achieve shared goals.

Caryn Hewitt, RN, BSN, CENP, CPHQ, Senior Director of Consulting Services at CenTrak

The best leaders in Health IT are those who understand that they are in this business to serve the clinicians and the patients. Leaders must make sure the clinicians understand the technology and its purpose but must also be able to understand what the clinicians need and modify solutions to ensure usefulness. They also need to be well-versed in the IT world within healthcare to know what solutions exist and what their organization has the capability of supporting. At the end of the day, Health IT leaders must remember their mission is to make clinician life easier to promote better patient care.

John Johnson, Chief Information Officer at Savista

Developing leaders within Health IT requires the development of skills beyond technical expertise. It requires Health IT professionals to develop skills in strategic planning, change management, collaboration, security, compliance, and project management.

Strategic Planning: Health IT leaders should align technology strategies and initiatives with the overall organization’s goals. This should include the development of short-term and long-term technology roadmaps. Roadmaps should not be developed in isolation, instead, they should be developed in collaboration with a range of organizational stakeholders.

Change Management: Change is constant within Health IT given the rapid pace of technology advancement. Leaders must be able to embrace change and guide the organization through change. Defining a comprehensive change management framework and partnering with stakeholders throughout the change process can decrease overall risk.

Collaboration: Health IT professionals understand that a diverse team improves the likelihood of success. Partnering with business and technical resources can close the gaps in understanding and communication. Establishing formal team communication channels and communications cadence, in addition to informal ones, can improve overall results.

Security: Health IT leaders must incorporate security requirements and design into every initiative. They should place a focus on data governance and management to ensure the accuracy, integrity, and security of health information.

Compliance: The legal and regulatory landscape of healthcare is complex, with healthcare data being subject to Federal and State regulations. Health IT professionals must develop a deep understanding of legal requirements and ethical considerations. Engaging with Legal and Compliance teams is required to ensure adherence to regulatory requirements.

Project Management: Leveraging a Project Management methodology can enable the IT leader to deliver consistent results. Applying Project Management best practices such as scope definition, stakeholder involvement, resource planning, schedule development, budget management, risk management, quality assurance, change control, communication management, procurement management, and approval processes can deliver the best results in an efficient way.

Wes Wright, Chief Healthcare Officer at Ordr

The same best practices for developing and nurturing leadership that we used in the Air Force, I used in health IT. It’s really about treating people with integrity — it doesn’t matter what field you’re in. If you do that, then you show leadership, and then, by example, those around you will start adopting that mindset too.

Caryn Hewitt, RN, BSN, CENP, CPHQ, Senior Director of Consulting Services at CenTrak

Healthcare organizations are investing in comprehensively understanding day-to-day workflow and how applying technology can make a significant impact on operational efficiencies. Leadership is making the leap towards digital transformation and smartly embedding Health IT professionals in the process. This is crucial to me. Organizations must have IT teams walk a day in the shoes of clinicians to figure out how they can use technology to make lives better.

Nick Stepro, Chief Product and Technology Officer at Arcadia

Achieving digital transformation requires an enterprise lens to interoperability and a framework that puts information in the hands of a variety of stakeholders—including clinical, financial, and operational. Each of these stakeholders have distinct needs for a core set of data. A strategic leader will understand each of them individually, but also holistically (meaning how the needs of one stakeholder impact and interact with the needs of another stakeholder). This macro-level understanding of a healthcare system is imperative and can be developed through a progression of roles in IT management, project management, and strategic planning. Strong leaders in the field of health IT will also possess a deep understanding of the regulatory and compliance environment, especially around patient privacy.

So many great insights here! Huge thank you to everyone who took the time out of their day to submit a quote in to us and to all of you for reading! We could not do this without your support! What strategies and best practices do you think are the most effective for developing and nurturing leadership skills in the field of health IT? Let us know in the comments down below or over on social media. We’d love to hear from all of you!

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