- The Chief Medical Information Officer (CMIO) and Chief Nursing Informatics Officer (CNIO) have emerged as key strategic roles over the past 10-15 years
- CMIOs and CNIOs bridge the gap between clinical and technical leaders, often acting as “translators” to lead successful technology deployments at health systems
- Current and aspiring CMIOs and CNIOs can strengthen their effectiveness by following the best practice guidance shared in a recent HealthsystemCIO.com webinar
The roles of Chief Medical Information Officer (CMIO) and Chief Nursing Informatics Officer (CNIO) have emerged in the past 10-15 years, responsible for the overall strategy and management of technical applications used by clinical staff at health systems. Most CMIOs and CNIOs come from clinical backgrounds, and often have training or a formal degree related to health informatics or technology.
HealthsystemCIO.com recently hosted a panel discussion titled “The CIO’s Best Friends: Leveraging CMIOs & CNIOs to Foster IT Success,” where participants discussed the trends and best practices for these important roles. Panelists included Pele Yu, CMIO at Arkansas Children’s Hospital, Becky Fox, CNIO at Atrium Health, and Allison Morin, VP of Nursing Informatics at Halo Health, now a part of symplr.
The conversation highlighted several best practices for how CMIOs and CNIOs can partner most effectively with CIOs.
1. Broaden your perspective
Healthcare can be highly specialized. Diving into the details of a particular medical specialty or patient case is second nature for many providers. But CMIOs and CNIOs need the ability to “zoom out” for a broad, system-wide perspective because their work impacts multiple functional areas, departments, and workflows. For example, they often need to consider how a technology decision will impact downstream departments and systems.
According to Becky Fox, CNIO at Atrium Health, “the entire care team is complex and intertwined and interconnected. That’s why it is really important to be ‘the great translator’ and to understand the system-wide perspective of how everything works together.”
2. Forge strong relationships
As noted, CMIOs and CNIOs act as “translators” within their systems, explaining the clinical impact of a decision to technical leaders and vice versa. But translation is only part of the challenge. Leaders in these hybrid roles must build trusted relationships between clinical and technical leaders by:
- Bringing the two roles together often, doing what is necessary to remove friction and avoiding one-sided initiatives
- Encouraging active listening and trust in their functional counterpart’s expertise
- Appealing to the underlying motivations of each role (i.e., clinician’s top priority to improve patient care) and empathizing with the natural resistance to change
“You need to understand and appreciate where each person is coming from, along with the expertise and experience they bring to the table,” said Fox. Because she has discussed her clinical background with her colleagues, “they understand the experiences I’ve had,” and when a problem arises, “they’re open to the solutions because of that collaborative relationship.”
3. Address underlying workflows
All too often technological solutions are deployed without addressing the underlying workflow challenge, which leads to poor adoption. In healthcare, re-configuring hard-wired technological solutions after-the-fact is difficult. CMIOs and CNIOs can avoid this misstep by ensuring involvement from their clinical informatics team from the start of a project. For health systems, industry leaders have suggested at least one clinical informaticist per 250-400 beds.
Pele Yu, CMIO at Arkansas Children’s Hospital, notes that, “if the end users have a different workflow in the way they think (compared to the technology solution) …it’s very hard for them to adapt to it because it’s clunky.” Allison Morin, VP of Nursing Informatics at Halo Health, recommends that you, “figure out what workflow problem you’re trying to fix before you add a different type of technology thinking it’s going to make it better.”
4. Show, don’t tell
Let’s face it – sometimes you need to see or experience something to fully appreciate it. This is certainly true in healthcare, where meetings, texts, and phone calls only go so far. The most effective CMIOs and CNIOs will go beyond these normal touchpoints and invite their technical counterparts to join them for bedside rounding, observing first-hand the experiences of front-line caregivers.
“The most effective way to communicate the challenges facing clinicians is by inviting CIOs and other leaders on rounds,” Fox added. “Being able to show them firsthand how a problem with the IV pumps, for example, affects clinicians — and more importantly, the positive impact it will have to fix them — is simply more powerful.”
5. Stay agile
The best CMIOs and CNIOs stay nimble with their approach because change in healthcare is inevitable.
“The reality is that things change — workflows change, and that’s okay,” said Fox. “The complexity of healthcare isn’t going to go away; it will only continue. And so we have to have the right people in the right place, giving the right advice and guidance, and bringing people together in order to make a bigger impact for all of us.”
To hear more best practices for CMIOs and CNIOs, check out the HealthsystemCIO.com on-demand webinar, “The CIO’s Best Friends: Leveraging CMIOs & CNIOs to Foster IT Success.”