How CIOs Cope When the Going Gets Tough

Edward Prewitt, January 3, 2012

Healthcare IT is subordinate to the medical mission. Information technology in hospitals and healthcare systems operates in the service of executives, medical staff, and especially patients, and healthcare CIOs tend to focus on industry-specific issues such as meaningful use, healthcare information exchanges, and EMRs/EHRs/PHRs. The professional organizations for healthcare CIOs, CHIME and HIMSS, speak to the specific issues of their members.

Yet I am struck by how similar the healthcare CIO's job is becoming to that of CIOs across other industries. John Halamka, CIO of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School and a noted blogger, recently penned a column titled "The modern healthcare CIO job: It's becoming a Mission Impossible." He recounts a host of difficulties, including "compliance burdens, overwhelming demands, and impossible expectations."

These issues are common to many CIOs, no matter what industry they work in. Though IT executives in healthcare may face more than their share of regulatory compliance requirements, the CIO is often the default chief compliance officer. A bigger concern is the gap between the expectations of IT and the CIO's ability to deliver.

It may help or just depress you to know that this gap is endemic and is hardly limited to healthcare.

The disparity between expectations of IT and reality results, paradoxically, from the success of technology. People have come to expect instant communication and copious data from their devices. In an age of Internet protocol, it's hard to explain why systems can't talk to one another. (Legacy systems are meaningless to those who haven't invested money in buying them or training time in using them.)

To people used to downloading new, ever-more-inventive apps, it's hard to explain why IT systems can't accomplish seemingly simple tasks. Reliability and privacy are always someone else's problem?i.e., yours.

Edward Prewitt Edward Prewitt is the Editorial Director of HealthLeaders Media. Twitter
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