LeadingAge Magazine · July/August 2014 • Volume 04 • Number 04

Boosting the Role of Technology Professionals in Aging Services Organizations

June 22, 2014 | by Majd Alwan, Ph.D.

Why technology professionals should have more meaningful roles in their organizations’ strategic planning.

In a previous LeadingAge magazine article, I said that technology should be treated as a strategic initiative by LeadingAge members. In fact, I emphasized that organizations should include their chief information officer (CIO) in the organization-wide strategic planning process. Strategic goals need certain technology applications, which in turn have implications for the IT strategic plan and the IT infrastructure. I stressed that a provider’s IT plan should reflect the relevance of technology to each strategic business goal and the changes that will need to be made to your organization’s information and communications infrastructure. I suggested considering the following questions:

  • What technology applications do you need to carry out each of your organization’s strategic goals, initiatives or innovative business models/operations efficiently and cost-effectively?
  • What updates do you need to make to your existing information and communications infrastructure to accommodate the identified technology applications?
  • What are the business and operational priorities for which you can create a high-level roadmap for technology projects and identify the resources required for each project?

Accordingly, the CIO and other technology professionals play a significant role in your organization’s success.

When it comes to practice, most aging services provider organizations engage in strategic planning. However, based on conversations with providers as well as partners who work with providers on strategic planning, it seems that not many incorporate strategic IT planning in the process. In fact, only a small proportion of LeadingAge members have a CIO or chief technology officer (CTO), who elevates the conversation about technology to the strategic level with the organization’s executive leadership and/or the board and leads those strategic efforts, as is the case in many other health care sectors. In many cases, when such a technology professional is brought on board at this “C” level, he or she is assigned to oversee the implementation of specific narrowly focused projects, or to manage a small IT department tasked with keeping the IT infrastructure and day-to-day operations running and in compliance.

On rare occasions we see technology professionals meaningfully involved in their organizations’ strategic discussions. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule, and there are a few large multi-site organizations that have CIOs with significant strategic-level responsibilities, and that do strategic IT planning well. In fact, some have advanced IT capabilities and they occasionally lend strategic planning help as well as ongoing support to other providers as outsourced or shared services.

To elevate the role of technology professionals in aging-services organizations, increase shared learning opportunities and provide a platform for these professionals, the LeadingAge Center for Aging Services Technologies (CAST) recently launched a new initiative that aims to bring together CIOs and other technology professionals. We kicked off this initiative with an interactive Technology Professionals Forum session, led by a few CAST Commissioners, at the PEAK Leadership Summit in March. We used the session as an opportunity to gather feedback on interests and concerns of this group. We also asked these professionals whether they would find it valuable if CAST produced educational modules aimed at executive teams. The modules would be designed to help organizations:

  • Identify the role of technology applications in the organization’s strategic goals.
  • Identify technologies to help achieve these goals.
  • Conduct IT strategic planning to update communications and information infrastructures so they support all technology applications that facilitate strategic business goals.

The educational modules would represent an effort to bridge the gap between the high strategic-level guidance CAST provided in the Strategic Scenario Planning Report and the CAST Vision Video, and the operational hands-on information CAST provides in its technology selection tools (available for electronic health records and telehealth, with a similar portfolio for medication management under development).

During the forum, 17 out of 25 respondents said such modules would be “extremely valuable.” Only five respondents said the modules “may be valuable to other organizations, but not ours.” No respondent indicated that the modules would be “not valuable at all.” This validated CAST’s assumptions about the need for such modules and encouraged us to move forward with developing these educational modules. You can read more about the session and feedback we received in this CAST article.

Moving forward, CAST is creating and leading a formal network of technology professionals, will continue to facilitate networking and educational events, and will use the network keep its finger on the pulse of member needs, vet planned provider tools and tap into their expertise. In fact, CAST will host a special reception for this group at the 2014 LeadingAge Annual Meeting and Expo this October in Nashville, TN. I hope to see you there, but in the meantime please e-mail me if you are interested in joining this group or if you have any thoughts or suggestions for the Technology Professionals Network.