INTEROPERABLE e-MRs FOR THE SMALL-MEDIUM SIZED MEDICAL PRACTICE
[You’re the CIO of your Own Office]
By Shahid N. Shah
These are exciting and very promising times for the widespread application of information technology to improve the quality of healthcare delivery, while also reducing costs, but there is much yet to do, and in my comments I want to note especially the importance of the resource that is most often under utilized in our information systems; our patients.
– Charles Safran MD [Testimony to the House Ways & Means subcommittee on health]
Many large healthcare organizations have a Chief Information Officer (CIO), a Chief Technology Officer (CTO), perhaps a Chief Medical Information Officer (CMIO), or Chief Medical Officer (CMO) that is tasked to do things like figure out the information technology (IT) and computer systems that support clinical and business goals within a healthcare organization. Smaller groups and practices don’t have enough resources to have dedicated staff for such a purpose so it will fall onto the physician staff or other senior leadership at a practice.
However, it’s still important to perform the tasks that a CIO, CTO, CMIO, or CMO performs with respect to technology strategy building:
Ask lots of questions and take nothing at face value – focus on core issues of concern to your practice, why things are the way they are in your organization, why things cost what they do, and what the implications of technical changes might be. Since you’ll be your own CIO, you have to be the “grand inquisitor” when it comes to technology solutions. Technology providers try to make themselves sound smart by using heavy technical terms but the most astute are those that that can explain why things matter to you.
Focus on practice results, not the technology – technology supports your business and having technology is not a goal on its own. Being your own CIO means that you will have to say no to most things that vendors want you to do; you’ll have to keep telling your vendors that you’re not in the software business, that you’re in the patient care business. Many consultants have to be reminded that they need to show results for each of their suggestions and you’ll have to remember that a consultant or vendor will get paid regardless of whether or not you’re successful.
Understand where technology can fail you – software is complex and IT systems can become a burden when not implemented correctly. Focus on the limitations and applications of technical solutions and learn how to implement them. Try to know when vendors or consultants are giving you advice that you can’t take because it doesn’t fit your organization.
Make sure IT strategy decisions are made by clinical people and IT implementation decisions are made by IT people — one of the most important decisions that you can make when implementing a technology is who gets to decide what goes in versus what stays out. If you’re going to be your own CIO don’t think that somebody outside your practice will do a better job defining your needs that you can. If you let the vendors or consultants decide, you’re relegating important responsibilities.
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Dictionary of Health Information Technology and Security: http://www.springerpub.com/prod.aspx?prod_id=49952