Data doctors: scarce supply, high demand

Chief medical information officers started to be in great demand in 2011 – just as the job was getting more demanding.

In April, Healthcare IT News spoke to Eric Hartz, MD, an oncologist and CMIO at Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor, Maine, who fielded numerous job offers soon after EMMC received a coveted Davies Award in 2008 from the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS). The award recognizes excellence in the use of healthcare information technology.

Fast forward three years, and the search for CMIOs was becoming even more urgent as hospitals and health networks seek to qualify for government incentives by proving meaningful use of health IT.

In fact, Hartz’s assistant CMIO flew the coop.

“There are phenomenal job opportunities,” Hartz said. “There are not enough CMIOs. For a CMIO who can demonstrate successful implementation of computerized provider order entry, decision support, recruitment of physicians into projects, they’re very much in-demand.”

That came as no surprise to William Bria, MD, whose first job in the early 1980s was as a CMIO at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, Mass., where he worked with IT pioneers. Today, Bria, a practicing pulmonologist, is CMIO at the 22-hospital Shriners Hospitals for Children system, based in Tampa, Fla. He is also president of the Association of Medical Directors of Information Systems (AMDIS).

It’s not that data is related to the practice of medicine, Bria said. “It is medicine.”

The role of the CMIO, he said, is similar at most institutions. One has to be a translator, bridge and interlocutor.

The responsibilities include making sure the data is relevant, and that it’s delivered to the right place at the right time to impact the delivery of healthcare.

Those responsibilities are increasing over time.

The practice of medicine is always evolving as the body of knowledge evolves, said Bria, offering as example the number of changes physicians have made in defining the ideal blood pressure or the fact that passive smoking was once considered insignificant.