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CMIO as Change Agent: Three Crucial Skills

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As the evolution to information-driven healthcare accelerates, many hospitals and health systems have added a new executive role, the chief medical information officer (CMIO).

The CMIO originally served as a physician liaison, a translator of sorts between clinicians and the IT staff. Today, this role has expanded to one of strategic importance, leadership and high visibility. CMIOs are responsible for ensuring IT is utilized in the clinical setting in a manner that enhances quality of care and patient safety, reduces costs and achieves organizational strategic goals.

I coach many CMIOs, and I tell them that there are three key skills a CMIO must have: the ability to think strategically, to plan strategically and to manage culture change.

Strategic thinking involves asking the right questions with a long-term view. Will this technology improve care and safety? Will it advance strategic goals? Is it the best use of resources? Will it prepare us for the future?

In strategic planning, the CMIO must be able to judge competing priorities and create a plan that will ensure technology is fully adopted and used to the best of its capabilities. CMIOs must think through the end-to-end implementation process, and identify and secure every resource needed for success.

Managing culture change is the most challenging of the CMIO’s tasks. Healthcare IT adoption is not really about technology. It is about fundamental change in the way we practice medicine.

The old model was one of physicians practicing independently with unbounded autonomy, using their education and personal experience to heal. The new model is about working in teams, collaborating with a wide array of other disciplines to achieve the best patient outcomes. And it is about using standardized, evidenced-based practices. This is a major change that clinical IT accelerates.

The most successful CMIOs understand and communicate the power of this new, information-driven model to their physician colleagues, and create an environment where it can be embraced. This is about more than just adopting technology, it is about empowering caregivers to achieve full-blown clinical transformation.

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