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The IT Docs

Gienna Shaw, for HealthLeaders Media, November 15, 2010
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The ideal candidate should also work well with others and have an innovative spirit.
"I'm very collaborative," Velasco says. "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." Marx, he adds, has a similar viewpoint. "He complements me from the standpoint of being very innovative, very focused on continually raising the bar. Those are the attributes that have contributed to our successful working relationship."
Having communication skills and the respect of his or her peers is also important, adds WellStar's Strachan.

"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.

Marx agrees. "If I go talk to a bunch of docs about why they should adopt electronic health records, it's going to have a range of about five feet for effectiveness, whereas Dr. Velasco gets in there it goes for miles and miles and miles."

How do we know it's working?

Both organizations are monitoring the progress and success of IT projects and measuring adoption rates and other metrics to gauge the effectiveness of having a clinician leader in the IT department.

"We know that physician adoption of any change or any tool is going to vary greatly," Strachan says. Engaging physicians and medical thought leaders can help minimize variances. The idea, when it comes to process is to do it with them instead of to them.

So far it's working, he says. "We have evidence of that based on some early successes with some very big things like the adoption of order sets very rapidly over the past 12 months."

The same is true at THR, where physicians document more than 90% of their progress notes in the EHR, and CPOE adoption exceeds 80% at the 12 hospitals where its EHR is live. And 65% of its order sets are standardized. As a result, the organization is well-positioned for meaningful-use stimulus money.

 "We would not have achieved the level of success without the CMIO," Marx says.

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