Hospital CIOs Bring More MD to IT

By Mark Knickrehm Print this article Print

Defining a critical role as healthcare goes high tech.

What is a hospital CIO? The definition of “an IT strategist and a deployer of systems” might have fit the bill at one time, but not anymore—or, at least, not exclusively. Today’s hospital CIO must also help drive a significant change in medical informatics.

Increasingly, physicians are using electronic medical records (EMRs) as a vital care-delivery tool, and the world that hospital CIOs have known is changing. The challenge now is to enable physicians with integrated technology at the bedside, support dramatic improvements in the quality of care—across the continuum of care—and deliver a granular understanding of quality and cost.

With EMRs, the volume of clinical data available has never been higher. CIOs must now find the way to extract insights from this treasure trove of data and deliver these insights to physicians at the moment of interaction with their patients.

With the HITECH Act of 2009 calling for the “meaningful” provision of advanced clinical EMR applications and their “use” by the frontline medical delivery team, the need for a tight alliance between the CIO and the medical staff has never been greater. For EMRs to serve their intended purpose, they must be ingrained in how physicians practice medicine.

The CIO is in a position to combine the knowledge of medical practice with a deep understanding of how technology can enable physicians to deliver and document care more effectively and with greater flexibility. Technology allows consultation and clinical documentation, making diagnoses and writing of physician orders all possible—
virtually. This speed of care brings better patient outcomes and, ultimately, reduces health care costs.

The CIO needs a team that understands how medicine is practiced and must work with medical teams to meld technology into almost every clinical process. The CIO needs insight into the value of different clinical information and knowledge of the right process to mine that value. What information can give the hospital the best visibility into its process of providing care? What technology can enable access to that information at the right time and in the right location?

Beyond care at the patient level, the CIO will be on point to develop, maintain and enforce information standards and policies at the clinical level to help automate the processes of pulling information from EMRs for timely government reporting under HITECH’s “meaningful use” requirements. Successfully integrating the required standards and workflow changes into the clinical process will require a shift in mindset among physicians, the members of the care-delivery team and the CIO’s organization.

The next-generation CIO needs to use data standards and a robust and flexible data model, as well as creative new ways to partner with the medical staff. Only by understanding physicians’ practices and their analytic needs in detail—and pairing them with best technology practices in the industry—can CIOs make a significant contribution, ushering in a new era of more effective, safe, patient-centric and efficient health care.

Mark Knickrehm leads Accenture’s global health practice.  

This article was originally published on 2012-01-19
eWeek eWeek

Have the latest technology news and resources emailed to you everyday.