By Max Schlather,
Managing Director, Strategy, Clarity Insights. Mr. Schlather has significant experience across complex healthcare information management and analytics programs with the goal of advancing business capabilities. He has worked at regional health systems, retail pharmacies, and national and regional health plans. He delivers value to clients through projects across the continuum of strategy to implementation, helping turn clinical, financial and operational data into insights.

In moments of crisis, it can be difficult to put one foot in front of the other, let alone plan ahead. Leaders may be ready to throw 2020 strategic priorities out the window, especially as hospitals, health systems and insurers, large and small, work tirelessly to implement contingency plans, secure resources amidst shortages, and keep abreast of federal- and state-level emergency response advisories.    

While it’s nowhere near business as usual, organizations still need to deliver on their business objectives. How do technology leaders navigate the now and next, while keeping long-term goals in mind?

While organizations in every industry can’t afford to be in a state of paralysis right now, the response from healthcare companies will be most vividly on display. With stakeholders doing their best to sense changes and adapt amidst rising uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, decisions must be made that both manage immediate concerns and create unity around shared principles. In a word… leadership. How do CIOs embrace this call? 

According to Gartner, different variables related to uncertainty can be clustered into five groups for CIOs to consider: ambient, health value realization, government and society, consumer power, and information fluidity. At the onset of 2020, these points of uncertainty should have been addressed in strategic planning for the year. While hindsight is 20/20, the only certainty now is that we’re in an unprecedented reality, more so than most could have imagined. Thoughtful adjustments to strategy, rather than knee-jerk reactions, are necessary, and can help fuel the next right thing in a sequence of actions. 


Coronavirus (COVID-19) Outbreak: Short and Long Term Actions for CIOs - A Gartner Report

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Healthcare CIO Priorities

Ambient uncertainty. This is most urgent right now— the ability to understand the health of the economy, disaster demand, the role of the digital giants and population migration. But as the COVID-19 response plays out, other factors listed above will also dictate market shifts. These factors must be weighed with current decisions, even if they carry significantly less weight than before.

Rely on scenario planning. If your team has used scenario planning in the past to consider the likelihood of disaster demand or the impact of economic health, these simulations need to be carried out further in the midst of emergency actions taken by the business. Keep in mind the potential for even further fluctuation in the second half of 2020, so that you can conservatively estimate your needs.

Prioritize investments that thrive under pressure. Investments that thrive under high usage and have incremental or secondary benefits with new data should be prioritized now: If you scored technology investments by criteria tied to uncertainty factors or a similar threshold, use this for buy-in. Artificial intelligence and other applications have shown the exponential value of having data accessible on the back end and systems set up for easy integration with patient interactions, as well, to combat COVID-19 and to sustain care and epidemiological advances in the aftermath. 

Connect the dots. When healthcare systems are pushed to their max, leadership will benefit from remembering that technology isn’t just an assumed commodity. Cloud computing is bringing researchers closer to vaccine discovery. Outreach processes can be tested and expanded to communicate directly to patients and consumers who are receiving misinformation elsewhere. Point-of-care solutions can now inventory and catalogue symptoms while enabling better follow-up - especially for cases that are discharged to make room for those with more critical needs. 

Other strategic deliverables—like consent management, digital literacy, and cloud adoption—won’t disappear overnight despite the need to temporarily redirect efforts to focus on crisis support. Supporting physicians and medical personnel as well as new strains on facilities is crucial. All of this, while not making headlines, is connected by the very networks and systems IT operates. The CIO can be a face of calm by showing the C-Suite what is running smoothly, while consistently bringing as much “business as usual” to the front lines. This leads to a steady presence working behind the scenes for immediate benefit—making medical records available, passing data to research partners, and more—while in tandem staying the course on strategic recommendations that can free up costs to divert elsewhere.

We want to help you however we can in this critical time so that you can use your resources most effectively in both times of crisis and of calm. Connect with us and let us know how we can support you. 

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