What should be the role of the CMIO?

leadDid you ever notice when you’re watching a sports movie that a down-and-out, last-place team can always be rallied into first place in one season by the simple addition of one player with a winning attitude?  Some people keep going to see Gone With the Wind thinking that if they see it enough times the south might win.  Fantasy works well in almost any setting where popcorn is served.

Unfortunately, they don’t serve popcorn in EHR planning sessions.  Perhaps that’s because there aren’t very many planning sessions.  If there were, and if they were held by people who knew what they were up against and how to deal with it, there would be far fewer failures.

There seems to be a rush amongst hospitals to hire Chief Medical Information Officers (CMIO).  Good.  Hospitals should benefit from their skills.  I am curious, what is the qualification or specific expertise that one must possess to be a CMIO?  Are these people officers in the firm in the same sense as CEO, COO, and CFO, or is it more of a naming convention, a way of stating that a doctor has an understanding of IT?

I raise this question because of a hospital I know acting in the belief that this could be the missing link in their EHR genome program.

From my perspective a CMIO is as necessary—but not sufficient—as a CIO, provided that each is used correctly.  Whichever one is placed in charge of EHR, the other will be slighted.  Not just them, but their organization.  If the “I” in CMIO only refers to an informatics degree, I see the role of a CMIO somewhat like that of a color commentator on ESPN.  Unless the CMIO has a successful track record of planning and implementing eight or nine figure information technology projects, I think the role of the CMIO should be limited to ensuring that the clinical side of the program is functional and effective.  In the same sense, the role of the CIO should be limited to non-clinical issues.

I recommend for large EHR programs that a hospital hire a seasoned Program Management Officer, one who can walk in the door and state with confidence, “This is what we are going to do tomorrow because this is what should be done.”

I recently ran the PMO for a large medical device manufacturer implementing a very pricey Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) system.  I knew with certainty the project was at risk the moment we walked past the smattering of cubicles which housed the PLM team.  There was no ‘I’ in team, there was no ‘ME’ in team, there weren’t enough people to play a good game of dodge ball.  There was no team.

Giving people the responsibility will not get the job done if they don’t have the skills to do it.  Who is leading your effort?  Should they be?  What should the minimum skill set be of someone who will manage this hundred million dollar spend?


3 thoughts on “What should be the role of the CMIO?

  1. Pingback: Healthcare Informatics: one time at band camp… « EHR: How difficult is it without the correct strategy?

  2. Isn’t a CMIO just a response to a perceived need? Someone to manage health informatics information? For example after 9/11 when information security became a hot topic, organizations created CPOs (Chief Privacy Officer) to guard “my data from unwarranted intruders”.


    • Agreed. I think it’s an essential role, just perhaps not the lead EHR role. There is so much nuance in healthcare that without experts who understand the clincial side of the data and the process, the effort will be wasted.


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