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Seamlessly Operating Healthcare Institutes
By Lisa Emery, CIO, West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust
Within the NHS, it is a role that has evolved over time. Forward-looking organisations have recognised the need to transition from the more technically-focussed IT Director, to a CIO with strategic and transformational leadership skills, and a seat at the executive table.
As a consequence, it is not something for which there is a defined career path, at present.
Unsurprisingly therefore on speaking to my peers in the NHS about their route to CIO, many have ‘fallen’ into the role over time, and via various routes, including conversion from the IT Director position, or in many instances via diverse scientific, operational and commercial careers. The ability to lead transformational change is something we either inherently possess, or have acquired on our career ‘journey’.
Of course it is often this varied career background and well-rounded set of skills that contribute so well to the ever-increasing demands of the role.
Digital will transform the way we deliver care in the future, and it is critical that we invest in the development of world-class leaders to make this happen
Reflecting after the event, it further solidified my view that at the moment, becoming a CIO in healthcare seems more like a journey than an intended destination. And I think we need to do more to develop and support future leaders, both formally and informally.
Today’s CIO needs to be a transformational and strategic thinker, with a broad knowledge base (and a thick skin!). To achieve success you need to be a great communicator, able to understand the broad needs of the business and translate from technical terms to real benefits.
For me, these are skills we can spot early, and nurture. It doesn’t mean losing that sense of excitement about the technology, but is about being able to take that and bring people along with you in terms of how it can transform the way they work, to the benefit of their patients.
Happily, there are lots of great role models out there, actively engaging and sharing their experience widely and keen to provide mentorship to aspiring leaders. And this month, the first cohort will attend the NHS Digital Academy, a year-long course set up to develop a new generation of digital leaders to drive the information and technology transformation of the NHS. Created in response to Professor Robert Wachter’s Making IT Work report, it is clear that “Investing in the people tasked with making technology work in the NHS is as important as investing in the technology itself”. I couldn’t agree more.
Digital will transform the way we deliver care in the future, and it is critical that we invest in the development of world-class leaders to make this happen.