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5 Must-Haves for CMIO Success

Gienna Shaw, for HealthLeaders Media, November 16, 2010

Thinking of adding a chief medical information officer to your IT staff? You can't just pluck anyone from the doctor's lounge and consider the job filled. Here are five key attributes that should be part of the job description for any CMIO.

1. Must have leadership, communication skills
It might seem a little obvious, but CMIOs can't effectively champion electronic health record systems if their peers won't listen to them. "This physician has to be more than just a clinician, they have to be a leader," says Edward Marx, CIO at the 13-hospital Texas Health Resources in Arlington, TX. "That's what helps make an excellent CMIO."

Jon Morris, CMIO at WellStar Health System in Marietta, GA, agrees that the CMIO must be more than a spokesperson. "Don't misunderstand: I'm out there selling a lot of the time, but I also act as an interpreter [and] facilitate engagement of other providers."

Morris' communication skills and the fact that he has the respect of his peers is what makes it work, says Ron Strachan, senior vice president and CIO at WellStar. "Physicians need to be involved and they need to be involved from working with a peer, a respected peer, because I or any other CIO that's not a physician can stand up and essentially preach all day long about values of their involvement in various projects and process change, but I'll never have the credibility with the physicians at large when compared to one of their peers. There's no replacement for that," Strachan says.

2. Must work well with others
The ideal candidate should also have a collaborative and innovative spirit. "I like to be innovative in our use of information technology and finding ways to use technology to drive better performance from the healthcare system, whether that's in terms of the clinical outcomes or patient safety or efficiency," says Ferdinand Velasco, MD, THR's CMIO.  

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