HIMSS: Tides change for CIOs, skills expected

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ATLANTA--The role transition of CIOs and health IT executives, and how these roles will continue to play out in the future of healthcare unfolded as an area of interest during an a health IT workshop today at HIMSS10.

Citing a quote from a 1990 edition of Business Week, the role of a CIO was once thought “to stand for ‘career is over,’" said George Hickman, senior vice president and CIO of Albany Medical Center in Albany, N.Y.

However, believing that the tide for the role of the CIO in the healthcare industry is changing, Hickman said that in healthcare, CIO actually stands for a “chief information oracles.” CIOs are integral parts from the executive management team and board’s perspectives, stated Hickman.

Because IT adoption is rising, more will be expected from CIOs and those entering or already within the field. For example, CIOs need to keep current with industry and technologies while directing their organization with their own technical, operation and management experiences, Hickman stated.

Hickman cited data from “100 Most Wired Hospitals” data, collected and analyzed by Hospitals and Health Networks that 63.2 percent of the most wired hospitals are non-teaching facilities and that Meditech led the most installations with 26. 2 percent. The first runner-up was Cerner with 12.7 percent.

A CIO must also lead in a manner consistent with organizational culture. “If you don’t have the ability to read culture, you’re probably going to see the cost of failure,” stated Hickman. Additionally, a CIO offers proactive consultation and education to executive staff.

In one of many discussions for the conference concerning meaningful use definitions, Hickman noted that the definitions essentially hold five key elements for hospitals and physicians:

  • Use of a certified EHR;
  • Alignment to meaningful use criteria;
  • EHR-generated quality and other reporting;
  • Data will eventually controlled bv vocabularies and technically stored for internal and exchange use; and
  • New privacy and security requirements on reporting.

Included in these expectations for the new role of the CIO are to provide policy, standards and oversight for all IT concerns, be a contributing team member of executive management and develop strategic directions and integration of enabling IT to support organization’s vision, Hickman stated.

“How will you give care,” Hickman posed, “the need will be to build an IT portfolio that has intention associated with it and working with your misson’s need."  The CIO will have to decided to what degree to adopt IT integration, he said. Some will adopt it rabidly and wish to become a leading edge user while others will see it as a “necessary evil” to accomplish quality patient care.

As the tides change, a new breed of CIOs will "gather their skills," according to Hickman. "Those entering the field will need a distinct skill set including transfunctional skills, empathy to their board and community, being healthcare savvy and leading by example."