Leadership in Healthcare: Chief Information Officer Salary and Job Description

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A chief information officer discusses data with a healthcare worker.

Digital technology is revolutionizing the ways in which data is being analyzed by organizations to provide insights on potential clients, products, and patients. Organizations utilize data analytics to predict growing trends. In order for an organization to properly manage its technological framework, a chief information officer is hired to maintain, implement, and manage the technology division. Chief information officers are critical to the future of the healthcare industry, as data is being used in conjunction with digital technology to reinvent the way medical professionals access important information.

A chief information officer’s salary is comparable to that of other top executives due to their responsibilities in managing a team of information technology (IT) professionals, implementing new technologies, and handling existing systems—especially in the healthcare field. This high salary is the result of the skill and expertise a chief information officer brings to the role. As such, getting a master’s degree provides prospective chief information officers with the knowledge they need to pursue this high-level career in healthcare.

What Does a Chief Information Officer Do?

The role of a chief information officer (CIO) has changed over the past couple of decades. Previously, it was common for a CIO to primarily focus on the technology needs of a company, as well as fill the role of the head of IT. Today, CIOs understand the expanding technology needs of an organization and work in coordination with other departments to develop a plan to address the future technology needs of the organization. For example, the information technology network in a hospital may need to be updated to support the overflow of data from electronic health records, while ensuring that the patient’s electronic health records are secure.

The primary goal of a CIO is to develop technology strategies that increase profit and sustainability. According to a 2017 report from Forbes Insight, 70% of CIOs feel that the development of technology is enabling them to potentially acquire the responsibilities once filled by CEOs. The report also states that 40% of CIOs believe that their job is pertinent to “successfully formulating custom-facing solutions, creating global capabilities, developing new revenue opportunities, and fostering innovation.”

CIOs in healthcare can work for insurance companies, in contract positions, or for hospitals. The CIO is the driving force of technological innovation in hospitals, as they work directly with clinicians to understand what technology needs to be implemented in order to provide better care for patients. They also troubleshoot existing data system problems, including considering which systems may need to be updated or replaced, and they provide security from hacks to systems such as those containing electronic health records. In order to effectively implement this strategy, they must have the technological skills to manage a team and ensure that technology decisions promote patient care and bring about revenue.

These professionals must also be able to understand patient care and how technology can benefit patient outcomes. CIOs understand that they must develop technology systems that support the medical efforts of clinicians in order to improve the health of patients. The other major responsibility of healthcare CIOs is to ensure that the integration of technology does not impede the workflow of clinicians by taking time away from caring for patients.

Steps to Becoming a Chief Information Officer

To become a CIO, an individual should have a bachelor’s degree in computer science, information technology, IT management, or a related field. Those with an advanced degree in health informatics or business administration are well suited for fulfilling the responsibilities of the position. Individuals who pursue a Master of Science in Health Informatics learn the skills necessary to interpret healthcare system integration within the field, as well as develop the knowledge to understand how healthcare data is stored within electronic health records.

An online degree in health informatics allows prospective students to achieve an advanced degree on their own schedule and prepare for a potential career as a CIO. A Master of Science in Health Informatics teaches students how to implement technology to help clinicians manage the healthcare information of patients, improve patient care, and secure electronic healthcare records.

A concentration in health data science encourages students to implement theories related to data science and apply them in order to provide innovation to the field. Those looking to pursue a career as a CIO must have relevant work experience in business, technology, or healthcare as well.

Skills, Salary & Job Growth

CIOs in the healthcare field possess a variety of skills needed to succeed in an executive role, such as leadership, communication, technological, and analytical skills. CIOs must be able to communicate with clinicians to understand what technology is required to improve their ability to care for patients. Leadership skills are necessary for CIOs who must manage a team to ensure that technology systems are being run efficiently. These professionals must possess the knowledge and analytical skills to predict the future technological trends that can impact an organization, and consider the technological demands of each department.

The median chief information officer salary is around $159,000—according to PayScale—and the top 10% of earners make around $250,000. The job outlook for these top executives is expected to increase at a rate of 6% from 2018 to 2028, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Explore a Career in the Healthcare Field as a CIO

A successful CIO has the necessary education and experience to be effective in implementing and managing new technology systems. The University of Chicago at Illinois’s online Master of Science in Health Informatics provides students with a curriculum that positions them to pursue these high-level roles. The degree program’s concentration in health data science establishes working knowledge of the U.S. healthcare system and contributes to an understanding of electronic health records.

Explore how an online Master of Science in Health Informatics prepares students for a successful and rewarding career as a chief information officer.

Recommended Readings

University of Illinois at Chicago Blog, “Health Informatics Careers for Graduates with an MSHI”
University of Illinois at Chicago Blog, “Leadership in Health Informatics: What Is a Chief Information Officer?”
University of Illinois at Chicago Blog, “Applying Technology to Improve Healthcare: What Is Healthcare IT?”


Forbes, “Role of CIO Is Changing and Growing in Importance, Say New Forbes Insights Studies”
Healthcare IT News, “Meet the Modern Healthcare CIO: A Business Leader That Is Casting Off Their Traditional IT Role”
HealthManagement, “Developing the Role of CIO in Healthcare Management: From ‘the IT Guy’ to CIO”
Investopedia, “Chief Information Officer (CIO)”
PayScale, Average Chief Information Officer (CIO) Salary
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Top Executives