Health Info Management Leaders Push to Elevate the Healthcare CIO

Gienna Shaw, March 1, 2010

Healthcare CIOs are excited about what is undoubtedly a hot time in the health IT world, the flames fanned in part by health reform, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), and its HITECH provision, which promises millions in stimulus money for those organizations that achieve meaningful use of healthcare technology, such as EHRs and CPOE in the coming years.

But amidst that excitement is the nagging concern that—despite the fact that CIOs and other healthcare technology leaders have the expertise to help their organizations prepare for change—CIOs still aren't getting the recognition they deserve or the accompanying seat at the C-suite table.

At the 2010 CIO forum held in Atlanta, GA, on Sunday, College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) 2010 Chair Tim Stettheimer, PhD, said one of the organization's strategic goals this year is to position CHIME's 1,400 CIO members as trusted sources for expert information and leadership. Doing so will help the "c-suite understand the potential we have," Stetthemier said, and "make sure that our voices are heard."

The 2010 HealthLeaders Media Industry survey suggests that they do have a battle ahead of them on that front. Less than 20% of CEOs surveyed said CIOs are represented on the senior executive team—the inner circle that works together on strategic planning. They were eighth on the list, just ahead of service line directors.

Stettheimer also announced that CHIME will foster state-level communication among CIOs with the launch of an online network of CIOs for all 50 states. Dubbed "StateNet," the initiative's Web site is open to member and non-member CIOs. It will include a toolkit to help CIOs gather basic information about HIT activities in their own states, such as HIE business and operational processes.

"The primary reason to bring StateNet together is that so much is targeted at state-based initiatives," said Russ Branzell, CIO and vice president at Poudre Valley Health System in Fort Collins, CO.

Once again, the initiative is aimed at amplifying CIO's voices. "What's been interesting is that over the last six weeks, CIOs have finally realized that if we don't do something where we're leading this, we're going to be led and we won't have a voice," Branzell said.

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