CIO Recession Survival Skills

Carrie Vaughan, for HealthLeaders Media , June 2, 2009

Focus on the whole organization. Identify ways that IT can help the organization run more efficiently. Are you deeply involved in strategic planning, so that you can help ensure goals and objectives are being adequately evaluated and met? CIOs also need to be able to empathize with the clinical and business processes of the organization. Put yourself in the shoes of the people who do the work and imagine you are running the business, the report advises.

Choose a CMIO who knows the physicians well. Chief medical information officers need to understand clinicians and be viewed as a trusted advocate on their behalf. They also need to be candid with clinicians and able to communicate what is and isn't possible when it comes to technology.

Optimize workflow in an electronic environment. Organizations need to make the transition to a paperless environment as soon as possible. The funding for HIT in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 has made this transition even more urgent if organizations want to claim their share of stimulus funds. Having both paper and electronic systems does not work. It is the CIOs responsibility to transition to and leverage electronic medical records as quickly as possible. That means CIOs need to be able to articulate how technology can enable business and improve patient safety and quality by improving care delivery processes. CIOs need to relate to stakeholders that have varied levels of technological experience. It is important for them to avoid terminology and nuances of technology that staff members won't understand.

Embrace the seriousness of clinical IT implementation. CIOs should recognize the enormous changes that they are asking clinicians to make by switching from a paper-based system to a paperless environment. It is a fundamental change in care delivery and physicians need to completely alter the way they practice medicine. IT leaders should acknowledge what a huge undertaking this is and involve various stakeholders to make the transition as seamless as possible.

Look ahead. CIOs should be able to articulate a vision of the future and how technology fits into that vision, so senior executives and staff members want to help achieve that vision of the future. To accomplish that goal in the current economy means that CIOs will need to excel at doing more with less and prioritizing the projects that are the most important to the organizations overall strategy and performance.

IT leaders who can master these skills and make themselves an invaluable member of the team will not only have job security during this difficult time, but they can also become a valuable member of the senior leadership team.

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Carrie Vaughan is a senior editor with HealthLeaders magazine. She can be reached at

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