A few years ago Atrius Health, a major independent physicians group, tried giving elderly, chronically ill patients devices that they could use in their homes to do things such as provide a verbal reminder to take their medications. "It absolutely made sense," says Dr. Michael Lee, Atrius Health's director of informatics. "It just didn't work." People simply didn't like using the devices, so adoption was tiny. But, Lee says, this is exactly the kind of experimentation health IT leaders need to be doing. "The honest answer is we don't know what changes in processes will truly impact a lot of these patients," he says, "... and the only way we can learn is to innovate and try and see what the outcome is."
Lee, who's also a pediatrician, is among the health IT leaders we recognize in this year's InformationWeek Healthcare CIO 20. We call it the "CIO" 20, but as Lee's presence shows, we include people holding many titles who are driving change in their organizations and the industry. The list calls out leaders in informatics, in data integration, even the CEO of a health information exchange. This mix reflects the fact that many people are influencing the tech decisions at health organizations. Lee's colleague at Atrius Health, CIO Dan Moriarty, also is on the CIO 20. This year's list is the third annual one, and as in past years, it highlights new leaders.
Today's health IT leaders must balance practical realities with a sense of purpose. They're in healthcare to cure the sick and keep people healthy, and they believe IT can help improve care and lower the costs. But the practical piece is that government regulatory requirements dominate the short-term tech agenda, particularly healthcare providers' need to meet Meaningful Use standards to receive electronic health record subsidies.
These 20 leaders are helping their organizations strike the right balance between these pressures. We see Rady Children's Hospital-San Diego experimenting with the Internet of things -- connecting monitoring devices in new ways for better understanding of patient health. We see groups such as University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Iowa Health System and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute trying out new ways to apply analytical software. And we see people like Ed Marx, CIO of Texas Health Resources, keeping all this technology grounded in patient needs by insisting that his IT leadership team, himself included, spend time on rounds with clinical staff.
As Michael Smith, CIO of Lee Memorial Health System, puts it, "There is more to do than there is funding or time to do it." Health IT requires tough choices, and these 20 leaders are helping their organizations get those choices right.