What Keeps Healthcare CIOs up at Night

Yesterday, I attended the December Austin HIMSS meeting featuring a distinguished panel of four area Healthcare CIOs: John Mason of Hill Country Memorial (formerly HCA – St. Davids, Mike Minx from Seton Healthcare (Ascension), Matt Chambers from Baylor, Scott & White and Bill Philips from University Health Systems, San Antonio.

This was a great CIO panel and really highlighted some of the concerns and thoughts of healthcare technology leaders.  I thought it was worth recapping some of the more interesting discussions.

Security, Security, Security

Far and away the most talked about topic at the meeting was security.  Every CIO expressed various levels of concern with regard to hospital and healthcare security in general. Five years ago, HIPAA and data breaches were the number one concern of CIO’s, but today’s challenges are morphing along with technology and a connected world.

I found most interesting a comment by Mike Minx regarding small scale devices.  Mike’s chief concern was how do you secure medical devices, such as pacemakers or insulin pumps. It’s not new that these types of devices have proven to be easily hackable.  In a hospital settings, Mike and other participants wondered how CIOs can manage the security complexity of 1000’s of devices, connected or otherwise, inside the hospital setting.


Matt Chambers talked about the difficulty in finding qualified technical personnel.  Healthcare isn’t a “glamorous or sexy industry” and “doesn’t pay as well as technology giants like Google or Apple that we compete with for headcount.”  Matt said that the Dallas IT sector has over 40,000 open IT positions at any given time.

Mike Minx mentioned that Seton has started an apprentice program to hire two year graduates and train them in specific technology disciplines. Bill Philips mentioned that they are partnering with San Antonio to open technology high schools to help with the problem.

If It’s Connected, It’s My Problem

The panel ended with discussion around the changing role of the Healthcare CIO. Each participant talked about how more connected devices, and more devices in general have morphed their role from a straight IT leader, into that of the digital strategist.


Overall, a great panel discussion.  CIO’s in healthcare face the same challenges that I have seen in other industries, security always tops the list.  An increasingly connected hospital AND patients is generating new challenges and opportunities for everyone.  I’m excited to see how things change at next years session.