The Huntzinger Blog


CIO Chat - Laura Smith, UnityPoint Health

This is a guest post provided by Laura Smith, CIO at UnityPoint Health. Huntzinger periodically invites its clients and partners to contribute to The Huntzinger Blog.


By Laura Smith, MBA, PMP
UnityPoint Health, Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Time in Healthcare
About 17 years. I have been with UnityPoint Health for most of my professional career. I started at UnityPoint Health (then Iowa Health System) as an interface analyst, and in 2005 took my first IT management position. Over the past 12 years, I have taken on various leadership roles of increasing responsibility.

Time as a CIO
Fifteen months. I accepted the CIO role at UnityPoint Health last year. During this time, I have had the privilege of leveraging the power of technology to enhance patient care and improve the healthcare experience while leading a team of 600 information technology professionals.

Time in Current Role
Fifteen months (and loving every minute!).

What is the Greatest Challenge Facing Healthcare IT?
Cybersecurity threats will continue to increase, requiring organizations to continually evaluate their governance, policies, education and technologies.

Having board-level awareness and support is important and I would encourage organizations to leverage a cybersecurity framework (such as NIST). This framework is a tool for organizations to assess their ability to prevent, identify and respond to cyberattacks. Leveraging a framework then allows organizations to understand where there are areas of risk so that a roadmap of risk mitigation and improvement can be developed. This includes not only the technologies, but also the opportunities around processes and education.

What will be the Next Major Impact Area of IT on Healthcare?
We must shift as an industry to become more consumer/customer centric. Way too often we don’t think of things from our patients’ point of view. We can do better to challenge the status quo, redesign processes with the patient at the center, and utilize technology to deliver a more consumer-focused healthcare experience. If we don’t do this to meet the needs of our patients, others will.

IT can play a significant role in creating this new engaging consumer experience. We can bring forward opportunities to utilize digital health tools and platforms, provide convenience or transparency and quite possibility enable services that would delight our patients. When looking for inspiration, I like to look to other industries and organizations. For a personalized customer experience, I think of Netflix, which recommends movies based on my past viewing history. For convenience, I think of Amazon’s one-click ordering.

What is the biggest challenge of being a healthcare CIO?
The role of the healthcare CIO might possibly be one of the most challenging CIO roles in any industry. We have the most awesome (and humbling) responsibility to support our patients and clinicians at some of their most joyous of times and at some of their most vulnerable of times. We can provide solutions that can be a distraction or an enabler and even hopefully enhance the healthcare experience.

While keeping perspective of who and why we serve, CIOs need to align resources to deliver on strategy, support operations, meet government mandates, manage the technology lifecycle and security requirements. But at the end of it all, the greatest opportunities I see is for CIOs is to be LEADERS in their organizations, not TECHNOLOGISTS. I believe organizations are looking for great leaders who can lead change by creating a culture where team members can do their best work.

Topics: CIO Chat