5 top priorities for Cone Health’s CIO amid COVID-19, cyber threats and more

Ben Patel, executive vice president and CIO of Cone Health in Greensboro, N.C., joined the Becker’s Healthcare podcast to discuss his key priorities and best advice for CIOs.

Below is an excerpt of the conversation. Click here to download the full episode.

Question: What are your top priorities?

Ben Patel: I would put my priorities into five big buckets on top of our recent news. We’ve announced our intent to merge with Sentara Healthcare. As part of what we are doing for our due diligence is that anything and everything digital — from our digital strategy to the whole ecosystem of digital — our workforce and integration model is one bucket that includes defining the infrastructure we need to support us and our consumer engagement strategy.

The second bucket is data analytics, which includes how we identify data, what analytics capabilities we need, what governance and infrastructure we need for not only data analytics but also cloud computing and tools and so forth.

The third bucket right now due to COVID-19 is virtual care. All health systems have implemented platforms. What we are doing is now optimization. How do we get everyone on to a single enterprise platform? How do we have the best end-to-end consumer and patient experience that we could do?

The fourth bucket is the cybersecurity side of the story. Recently we heard a lot of big corporations were hacked and were the victims of ransomware, so we are on our HITRUST journey and cybersecurity to be completed early next year. We are focused on that and trying to make sure we not only have the right infrastructure but also the policies and procedures and education around cybersecurity to minimize the threat.

The fifth bucket is our IT operational model. Because of the cloud and other computing environments that we are actively seeking, our operations will change. We will need to identify partnerships in order for us to make that change. The other thing is that we are looking at all the shadow IT models to make sure that we have a truly centralized model as we support our digital efforts. The other issue coming our way is the CURES Act, addressing information blocking. It’s both an opportunity and threat at this point, and we need to treat it as such.

Q: What advice do you have for emerging leaders to handle the job of CIO?

BP: The first thing I would say is, resilience is a good quality that we need to develop, especially during these times of uncertainty and chaos. That resilience will help us. On top of that, I’m pretty sure all the potential and aspiring leaders will have to build relationships, be able to manage change, lead transitions and resolve conflict. Especially in healthcare, the biggest thing would be how to collaborate between business and clinical IT. That will be important for a new leader to be able to collaborate across the board but also strive for excellence and not be afraid to go off the beaten path and be a trailblazer and think outside of the box.

The other thing I learned: The man with the plan wins. Have some sort of planned approach to each challenge, whether it’s the technology or building an operational model or business model with clinical and business leaders that will truly help.

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