CMIOs see roles changing

OJAI, Calif.—As health information technology changes, so does the role of chief medical information officer (CMIO).
 
"We’re seeing an evolution from CMIOs to informatics teams," Gartner analyst Vi Shaffer said Thursday at the annual Association of Medical Directors of Information Systems (AMDIS) Physician-Computer Connection meeting. In its annual survey of AMDIS membership, Gartner found that 81 percent of CMIOs are no longer lone wolves, but had staff reporting to them.
 
What CMIOs are missing is budget control, though. "Funding was a special issue," said Richard Gibson, MD, chief healthcare intelligence and informatics officer at Providence Health Systems, Portland, Ore., who helped with the survey. Many of the 73 respondents to date—the survey is ongoing—didn't have direct control over purse strings, but were happy not to have to deal with budgets.
 
Instead, CMIOs must take strategic planning and optimization roles, Shaffer said. Indeed, according to the survey, 47 percent still report to the CIO. Just 29 percent report to the CMO and a mere 19 percent of those surveyed work directly for the CEO or COO.
 
"The higher you reported to in the organization, the more influence you had," Gibson noted. Therefore, CMIOs need to work on building relationships, he said.
 
Shaffer highlighted several reasons why it is better for CMIOs to report to the CMO. It gives them an advantage in dealing with physicians, it helps support quality improvement initiatives and it allows CMIOs to be closer to those involved in workflow improvements, according to Shaffer.
 
The good news for CMIOs is that they are gaining influence. "Celebrate! You've done it!" said AMDIS board chairman William Bria, MD, the Tampa, Fla.-based CMIO at Shriner's Hospitals for Children. "You've transformed American healthcare IT."
 
Thanks to CMIOs, Bria said, the "medical establishment" has accepted the necessity of health IT rather than appearing completely oblivious to the potential.
 
He based that conclusion partly on another survey previewed at the AMDIS conference, a June 2011 online poll of health IT professionals distributed via the listservs for AMDIS, the ANIA-Caring nursing informatics group, the Alliance for Nursing Informatics and HIMSS Physician Workgroup members.