CIO Compensation: It's About More Than Money

Healthcare CIOs earn an average base salary of $208,417, according to a 2013 survey from the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives.

Based on responses from 263 CHIME members, the survey provided insight into the factors that most affect a CIO's salary: the size and type of a CIO's organization and a CIO's title. CIOs at multi-hospital systems had an average base salary of $254,054, compared with the $125,573 base salary earned by CIOs at critical access hospitals. Titles carried with them an even larger variation in salary; survey respondents with titles including "senior vice president" or "executive vice president" reported an average salary of $310,326. Those with titles like director of information systems or director of IT earned an average of $128,193.

Russ Branzell, CEO of CHIME, emphasizes CIOs' salaries vary between organizations, and the average salary does not give the whole picture. "This is not a perfectly shaped bell curve," he says. "They're more highly compensated within larger systems, which isn't representative of the industry as a whole."

What did seem to be consistent throughout the industry was the size of CIOs' raises. According to the survey, 74 percent of CIOs received less than a 5 percent pay increase year-over-year, 44 percent received less than 3 percent and 18 percent received no raise at all. "While it varied among organizations, most CIOs received a fairly modest raise," says Mr. Branzell.

These relatively stagnant salaries come at a time of increasing demands and projects for CIOs. "Even though their compensation is very appropriate, the demands on CIOs for that same compensation have dramatically increased," says Mr. Branzell. "As they innovate and transform the industry, the demands on them are intensifying, [and bring with them] high workloads, stress levels and expectations."

Blackford Middleton, MD, chief informatics officer and assistant vice chancellor for health affairs at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn., and board of directors chairman at the American Medical Informatics Association, agrees the role of a CIO is changing rapidly. "CIOs will need to be strategically oriented to help the systems figure out where technology should be applied," he says. "We're looking at elevating the basic function of a CIO from implementing IT systems, from getting the trains on the track, to being active members of the executive team. That's a different sort of character than the typical IT director or CIO of the past."

However, the rapidly expanding duties of the modern CIO probably won't push CIOs' salaries up as might be expected.

Over the past few years, CIOs' compensation has not changed very much, and Rich Miller, senior vice president of IT and talent services at healthcare-focused executive search firm B. E. Smith, doesn't expect it to, despite CIOs' increased responsibilities. "Among the clients we work with, there doesn't seem to be a good deal of change [in salaries], and we don't expect there to be," he says. "CIOs are compensated well, and will continue to be, but we don't expect dramatic increases over the next few years."

Despite more responsibilities generally not being matched by more money, most CIOs are content with their compensation, largely because many CIOs do not view compensation as their primary motivator. From speaking with CIOs around the country, CHIME's Mr. Branzell has learned other factors are more important to a CIO's job satisfaction and propensity to stay. "It's about their supervisor, are they doing meaningful work," he says. "At some point some might want to move to a more complex environment with additional compensation or benefits, but the vast majority would not leave [their current position] for more money," he says.

Mr. Miller's experience supports the theory CIOs are in it for more than just the money. The large, labor-intensive projects they're working on don't make CIOs want a position that pays better, he says, but rather these projects keep them tethered to their current position out of a desire to finish what they've started. "The CIOs I speak with are committed to seeing these projects through. Even the ones who are considering retirement or a new career move are quick to say they want to see their current project through and deliver results for their organizations," he says. In a few years, once meaningful use and ICD-10 begin to fade into the past, CIOs might begin to look for their next challenge. But for now, they're mostly staying put.

"It's very admirable," says Mr. Miller.  

More Articles on CIO Compensation:

Most Healthcare CIOs Are Male, Earn $286k Per Year
CIO Compensation Has Increased 7.5% Since 2011
9 Statistics on Hospital CIO Salary by Region

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