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Joan McFaulOptimum’s Executive Interview Series

Welcome to Optimum Healthcare IT’s “4 Questions with…” executive interview series, where we interview top thought leaders in the Healthcare IT space. We search for the leaders with track records of service excellence, who are passionate about their work and make patient safety their top priority.

In this installment, we talk with our soon-to-be very own Joan McFaul, previous CIO of Southcoast Health Systems & Southcoast Hospitals Group in New Bedford, Massachusetts.

OHIT: How has your role as CIO evolved and how would you define the “future CIO”?

Joan McFaul: The role of CIO has evolved from being very technically focused too much more of a business and operations focus. CIO’s have to understand the business well enough to be able to apply solutions that involve process, analysis, AND technology. I can see a future where the roles of CIO and COO merge.

OHIT: With health as the focus, how do you ensure growth while maintaining safety?

Joan McFaul: IT projects require rigorous and structured project management to ensure proper implementation procedures are followed. These procedures include several rounds of both module and integrated testing, adequate training, and end-user involvement and acceptance.  The process owners need to be heavily involved to ensure that safety standards are met and outcomes conform to best practices for safety. IT systems can help with the measurements of safety metrics.

OHIT: What do you see as the biggest challenge for CIO’s today?

Joan McFaul: There are two big areas of major challenge. One is keeping up with the pace and complexity of change. The other is cybersecurity.

The relentless pace of change amplifies the inherent disruptive nature of transformational technology projects.  There is little time for people to adapt and for the culture to form before the next major change is nipping at the heels of those affected.

Security is one of the things that keep CIOs up at night. The threats are ever evolving, and points of entry for hackers and others are plentiful. Ensuring the safety and security of protected health information and other personal information requires a high degree of vigilance, not only by the CIO but by all employees/caregivers. Continuing education of staff and ongoing evaluation of the protections in place to guard personal information are critically important. It is important to work closely with compliance and risk to ensure the coordination of efforts aimed at reducing the likelihood of a breach or other security-related incidents.

OHIT:  Where do you see healthcare IT going in the next 5 years?  How can CIOs prepare for it today?

Joan McFaul: Analytics will be taking on a more prominent role in the IT portfolio of services. Also, device and third-party product integration will grow. The Internet of Things will grow exponentially in the coming years.  CIO’s should ensure that the infrastructure they are building can adequately support initiatives in these areas.

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