Healthcare News & Insights

Essential skills CIOs need to improve cybersecurity

An effective cybersecurity environment starts with an effective IT/security leader. But what skills do chief information officers (CIOs) need to survive in the new threat landscape? 

doctos-looking-on-laptopAt one point, they needed a strong technical background. However, some security experts believe the new threat landscape will require CIOs to use different skills and methods to protect their systems.

CIOs and communication

In particular, they’ll need strong communication skills to educate organizations about effectively guarding patients’ protected health information (PHI), according to a Health IT News article.

In the article, experts like Connie Barrera, the chief information security officer for Miami-based Jackson Health System, outline why security teams must evolve with the changing environment.

According to Barrera, introverted IT workers may no longer be the right choice for CIO or other IT leadership positions. At least not when it comes to creating a workplace culture focused on cybersecurity — and especially if your IT staff is limited, like Barrera’s is.

To compensate for this, Barrera says CIOs need good communication skills to reach out to staff members to better educate them about cybersecurity issues. For example, Barrera regularly touches base with facility leaders on HIPAA and security topics, and presents on cybersecurity issues to staff members on a regular basis.

The point she and other CIOs drive home is that IT leadership should focus on making front-line staff security partners, in addition to setting up technical safeguards for data and improving IT related issues.

That means the next generation of CIOs will need strong communication skills to bring staff up to speed. They’ll also need a solid understanding of your facilities’ operations and business.

Benefits of clinical CIOs

In a different Health IT News article, another CIO makes a case that doctors might be the best suited to meet the new demands of the security landscape.

Dr. Thomas McGill, an infectious disease specialist who’s now the CIO and VP of quality and safety for Pittsburgh’s Butler Health System, doesn’t have the same tech skills as his team.

However, Dr. McGill has a solid understanding of the clinical and business needs of his system because he still practices at the facility, though on a limited basis.

This helps him to compensate for his technical deficiency because he understands where improvements need to be made in daily operations.

Understanding facility operations is key to making sure new IT improves workflows and doesn’t disrupt front-line workers’ daily duties. It’s also important for ensuring that all possible PHI endpoints are being monitored and protected.

Similarly, more IT pros are being asked to speak before boards about security and IT topics. In order to effectively give a clear picture of a facility’s capabilities, CIOs must understand how to present IT issues in a business context – for example, showing the importance of implementing security features because a breach hurts patient trust and loyalty.

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