Want to know what's happening next in healthcare?

MedCityNews is the leading online news source for the business of innovation in healthcare.


“I read MedCity because it captures the pulse of what's going on in healthcare innovation, a go to source. I also like how MedCity supports women in digital health.”

Dr. Charlene Ngamwajasat, @doctorcharlene, Physician and techie


Sign up for our daily newsletter


Chief Medical Information Officer’s role becoming more important

4:35 pm by | 1 Comments

Although my business cards and my CV list the title Chief Information Officer, I was given the title Chief Medical Information Officer (CMIO) when I was hired at BIDMC in 1998.   Today, I serve three kinds of roles:

CIO — Responsible for strategy, structure, staffing, and processes for a 300 person IT organization
CTO – Responsible for the architecture of our applications and infrastructure, ensuring reliability, security, and affordability
CMIO — Responsible for the adoption of the applications by clinicians, optimizing quality, safety, and efficiency in their workflows

Although I’ve been able to balance these three roles because of the extraordinary IS staff at BIDMC, good governance, and a supportive CEO, it’s challenging for one person to perform all these tasks.  Many hospitals and health systems are expanding their management team to include a CMIO.

Here are a few thoughts about the role of the CMIO.

Advertisement

*Clinical applications are only as good as the processes they automate.   Automating a broken process does not make it better.  Clinician stakeholders working with a CMIO should re-engineer workflows, document requirements, then begin software implementation.  

*Achieving consensus among clinicians is challenging.   Medical education is an apprenticeship that is part art and part science.   It’s unlikely that one automated best practice, care plan, or guideline will be acceptable to everyone.   The role of the CMIO, as a trusted practicing clinician, is to create consensus around software configuration and decision support rules.

*Selecting new applications can be a daunting experience.   Integrated or interfaced?  Complete or modular? Best of suite or best of breed?   What may be the best solution for a department may be less than optimal for the entire institution.   The CMIO can weigh the pros/cons, cost/benefits, and the overall  integration into the enterprise portfolio during application selection.

*Nothing is perfect and clinical systems implementation will always be a journey, balancing compliance, security, ease of use, automation of manual processes, and safety.  Clinicians have constantly evolving needs and they will frequently feel that the IT organization does not have the supply to meet their short term demands.   The CMIO can run processes which engage clinicians in priority setting and resource allocation decision making.    Although the projects they want will likely be done at a slower pace than they’d prefer, they will understand the balance of time, resources, and scope because they were involved in creating the plan.

*Often, there are no right answers in clinical IT.   Given fixed time and resources, what is the top priority – Meaningful Use, ICD-10, healthcare reform, Joint Commission mandates, or quality improvement agendas?   Some may answer, all of them.   The CMIO can advise senior management how to phase an endless stream of projects so that the greatest good is done for the greatest number over the long term.

Who should the CMIO report to?  Choices include the CIO, the CMO, the COO, the CEO, or some governance group i.e. the Medical Executive Committee.     Every organization is different and the reporting relationship should be a function of where the CMIO can have the greatest impact, visibility, and support.

In my view, Meaningful Use, increasing demands for clinical workflow automation, and healthcare reform necessitate that every hospital larger than 50 beds have a  full or part time designated CMIO.    Given the daunting array of clinical IT requirements over the next 5 years, CMIOs will be increasingly important.

The author, Dr. John D. Halamka, is chief information officer and dean for technology at Harvard Medical School who writes at Life as a Healthcare CIO.

Copyright 2014 MedCity News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Dr. John D. Halamka

By Dr. John D. Halamka

Dr. John D. Halamka is chief information officer and dean for technology at Harvard Medical School who writes at Life as a Healthcare CIO.
Visit website | More posts by Author

1 comments
Patricia Valenti, MD, MBA
Patricia Valenti, MD, MBA

Very good point, however what we've been seeing is a chaotic ehr implementation system putting in place by big consulting firms as they hired by the hospitals. CMIOs who should be an active part of this process, are not in placed yet and have not even considred by the consulting firms. The reality in the trenches have been quite concerning. The ONC office have been marketing their efforts in a very rosy picture and have been paying attention to the deep disconnect witihin their programs. They've been freely spenging millions/billions of dollars in grants and other financial mechanisms for traning a hit workfoce tht hospitals and consulting firms do not wantdue the stringent requirements of vendors!!