Health IT is hungry for expert guidance; by sharing your experience you can not only influence the field, but also guarantee you'll be putting food on the table for years to come.
At a high level, there are many people who do what you do -- if you're a healthcare CIO, there may be as many as 3,000. So no matter how good you are at your job, it's very hard to stand out on the national stage. And while you may think tenure and performance equate to job security at your current place of employment, all it takes is a change in management for your fortunes to quickly change. True job security is not about your standing in one organization, but rather in an industry, and that means being known on the national, at least regional, stage.
One of the best ways to get known is by being associated with a particular area of expertise that your colleagues -- and potential employers -- find valuable, especially where there is a dearth of recognized resources. I call these greenfield opportunities, and they are not to be ignored or frittered away.
Such an opportunity will have a few characteristics. First off, there must be the aforementioned lack of recognized experts in the field. This will readily become apparent when intelligent people are struggling to find consistent, authoritative answers around a particular set of questions. Second, the issue in question must be of great importance. Third, it must be of interest to you -- not just in the performance of your job, but truly of interest.
When such an opportunity becomes apparent, it's time to take off the restraints and dive in. I saw this happen eight years ago when I was covering the use of IT in financial services. It was just after Sept. 11 and the issue on everyone's mind was disaster recovery. Emerging from the wreckage of that day as the de facto Wall Street expert was Merrill Lynch's Paul Honey. Honey became the most coveted speaker on the topic at all industry conferences by diving deeper into the issue than any of his colleagues, and all were thirsting for authoritative answers and best practices.
Today, there is a similar greenfield opportunity in healthcare IT, and it revolves around certification. I know because I've been involved in email correspondences with a number of CIOs who are all frustrated at a lack of information around electronic health records (EHRs), data warehouses, integration technologies, and certification.
There are many areas around the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) act and meaningful use that constitute greenfield opportunities -- chances to be known as a valuable expert. It's probable that in the history of healthcare IT there have never been so many. Privacy and security regulations are another obvious example.
Pick an area that interests you and do a super deep dive, then write some blog posts, Tweets, and Facebook entries guiding your colleagues through the thickets. If the issue is greenfield enough, before long you'll be invited to speak at your first conference, then second, etc. Soon after, you'll move from "expert in..." to simply being thought of as an expert. And once you're an expert, it's smooth sailing, because experts have big contact databases, and that's where true job security lies.