Crucial skills for aspiring CMIOs: Q&A with UCHealth's CMIO Dr. C.T. Lin

C.T. Lin, MD, chief medical information officer at UCHealth in Aurora, explains how he helped develop UCHealth's CMIO role and why fostering human connections is a crucial part of his responsibility.

Responses are lightly edited for clarity and length.

Question: How did you become a CMIO? What is your background?

Dr. CT Lin: I became a CMIO by being the "chief complainer" in 1998. I had written a seven-page detailed critique of the lousy computer systems in place at University of Colorado Hospital at that time, and a week later was invited by the CIO to meet and discuss a possible "physician liaison role with IT." I was offered a 0.1 [full time equivalent] position, and they told me it was because 'really, beyond a couple meetings a week, we don't see much need for your help. All we need you to do is to explain to the physicians all the great things we are already doing for them.'

One of my mentors explained to me that this 0.1 FTE was my 'nose of the camel' — one of those opportunities to insert myself into healthcare IT operations in a time when physician input was not really considered. Over time, I was able to grow this role into 85 percent of my job, and to have a team of 30 physician informaticists working with me to improve the EHR and intelligent flow of information throughout our organization.

I was trained in general internal medicine and came into this job in 1997, more than 20 years ago, and grew into the role even before there was such a thing as a CMIO, so I've helped develop what a CMIO is at our organization.

Q: What advice do you have for aspiring CMIOs?

CL: First, seek to be useful before seeking recognition. Often, we identify future physician leaders by their contribution to important projects within our clinics, hospitals and health system. It turns out that knowledge of computers and IT systems is nice, but the crucial skill is developing human connections with outstanding communication skills and the ability to collaborate and create consensus.

Q: What is the vision for your team in 2019? How will you approach your role and meeting your goals?

CL: All of our projects, efforts and philosophies derive from the principle of communication and collaboration. We find that communication and collaboration are always prerequisites to effective interventions, whether [or not] they include IT tools. We also spend time reading books together to develop our leadership skills and our broader perspective beyond just EHR burden, physician burnout, innovation projects and analytics projects.

We developed an internal vision for our physician informatics group: 'We improve physician and team wellness and effectiveness by building extraordinary relationships and innovative tools.'

To learn more about clinical informatics and health IT, register for the Becker's Hospital Review 2nd Annual Health IT + Clinical Leadership Conference May 2-4, 2019 in Chicago. Click here to learn more and register.

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