4 Traits Hospitals Look for in CMIOs

Years ago, when hospitals and health systems were hiring their first CMIOs, they were mostly looking for a physician with an interest in technology who could help get other physicians interested in IT initiatives, says Laura Musfeldt, vice president of executive search at B. E. Smith.

Now, the expectations are much higher.

"It started as more a physician interested in improving their own working conditions by improving the electronic medical record," says Marilyn Palmer, DO, vice president of physician executive searches at B. E. Smith. But as the medical informatics field has grown in an importance and a new board certification process is providing physicians with the necessary qualifications to be successful as CMIOs, "I've seen the role progress into an important member of the C-suite," she says.

Below, Ms. Musfeldt and Dr. Palmer share what hospitals and health systems are looking for in a new CMIO.

1. Communication skills. Because CMIOs act as liaisons between the clinical and IT departments, they need to be able to simplify and communicate complex clinical information to the IT staff, and the same with complex technical information to the clinical staff, says Dr. Palmer. They also need to be able to convey the ultimate goals of IT projects to the clinical staff, and keep clinicians motivated and engaged with IT goals.

2. Strategic leadership. "I am finding the CEO and other leaders in the C-suite expect [the CMIO] to be a partner, an equal in driving strategy," says Ms. Musfeldt. "They have to have that clinical background, but also need to operate as any other C-suiter." This means being able to engage with organizationwide decisions, and use informatics and analytics to help inform strategic decisions.

3. Ability to drive outcomes. Hospitals and health systems aren't as focused on a potential CMIO's experience with a particular EMR as they are with that person's ability to use the EMR and other technology to improve clinical outcomes, says Ms. Musfeldt. Questions asked during a CMIO interview have changed from questions about a candidate's experience with the technical aspects of a specific EMR to how the candidate used the data available through the EMR to improve care delivery at their previous organization.

"They want to know how that person drove quality and helped the hospital become a preferred organization for payers," she says.

4. Business acumen. Potential CMIOs also need to understand how EMRs and other technology affect a hospital or health system's bottom line, says Dr. Palmer.."It's important to have a CMIOthat can understand at a high level the importance and benefits of a highly functioning and integrated electronic information and communication system as it relates to hospital costs and provider and patient experience," she says.

Basically, as healthcare organizations and the industry itself become increasingly reliant on data-driven care, hospitals and health systems are looking for CMIOs who have a background in informatics and experience using data to help a hospital achieve its goals, says Ms. Musfeldt. "But, they also need someone who is comfortable and articulate in sharing this with others and motivating people to use analytics," she says.

More Articles on CMIOs:

Hiring an IT Executive? Think Outside the Box
CHIME, AMDIS Partner to Better Serve CMIOs
11 Recent CIO, CMIO Executive Moves

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