Meaningful use adds to CIO workload

By Kyle Hardy
09:08 AM

Since the passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in early 2009, and the definition of “meaningful use” of an EMR, the healthcare CIO is looking at a much larger range of responsibilities.

“One of the big issues CIOs will be facing is the responsibility for achieving meaningful use,” said DawnLynne Kacer, Keane’s public sector healthcare practice lead. “The CIO is taking on a financial role ensuring each facility will be qualified for healthcare incentives.”

As a result, providers can expect the CIO role to be more involved with revenue cycle management and medicare reimbursement as well. The CIO will be highly focused on how physicians and other clinical staff are using the new technology the HITECH Act calls for, said Kacer. CIOs will be taking on a greater responsibility making sure the provider will be eligible for those stimulus package incentives and then applying for the money, she said.

In addition to making meaningful use a reality in a hospital or health system, the CIO will be fully responsible for filling out and filing the application for federal incentives starting in 2011.

“We’ll do the application, show that we qualify,” said Gene Grochala, CIO of New Jersey-based Capital Health System. “We are looking at the possibility of bringing in lots more revenue. I don’t think the money is going to cover all of our expenses, but it will help us subsidize the overall cost.”

Grochala said his responsibilities have seen a big hike with executive and IT technician meetings as well.

“Yeah, the days are longer. Many meetings with execs and technicians and IT centers are a 24/7 operation,” said Grochala. "And recently, we are being pushed more and more into patient care."

Grochala said the CIO is becoming just as important as a COO or CEO and will be a central pillar in the planning of day to day operations.

As the definition of meaningful use does become more clear, the new job of the CIO, according to Kacer, will involve looking beyond one facility and encompass moving entire health systems into compliance. When Stage 3 of meaningful use comes around, said Kacer, providers will be expected to have full HIE capabilities. The CIO is not only collaborating with clinical staff, but the surrounding community as well, she said.

“The communities need to have an infrastructure in place to support HIE and to get incentive funds,” Kacer explained. “And many facilities operate at or below breaking even. Hospitals ask: Do we wait to on the state develop a structure so as to get money? The CIO is going to take a larger role in answering this question.”

Kacer stressed that not only infrastructure, but Internet connectivity is another big deal. Cell phone access is the another thing for the CIO to think about, said Kacer.

The CIO has never been busier, said Grochala. “Everything is changing so fast. The bar is set really high, and I don’t see it coming down."