Health IT Chiefs: Our Next IT Rock Stars?

Chief medical information officers and chief nursing officers gain importance as hospitals integrate medical devices into the IT system.

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As IT managers gradually connect medical devices to electronic health records (EHRs), the role, influence and responsibilities of chief medical informatics officers (CMIOs) and chief nursing officers (CNOs) will continue to grow "to a level not seen before," predicts a study from the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS). Among the medical devices that will likely require such integration, according to researchers, are fetal monitors, cardiac output monitors, ventilators, IV pumps, anesthesia machines, balloon pumps, and even smart beds.

The November report--Medical Device Integration: CMIO and CNO Perspectives--provides a window into how medical device integration will impact CMIOs and CNOs.

"As organizations move forward toward integration of medical devices into the EHR environment, it is likely that operations for supporting and maintaining the interfaces for medical devices to the EHR will be the responsibility of the IT department. CMIOs and nurse executives can be key assets to IT executives, as they can ensure that the proper clinical workflow is taken into consideration," Jennifer Horowitz, senior director of research at HIMSS Analytics, told InformationWeek Healthcare.

[For background on e-prescribing tools, see 6 E-Prescribing Vendors To Watch.]

HIMSS Analytics, in collaboration with Capsule Technologies, interviewed CMIOs and CNOs who work at hospitals, integrated delivery systems, and other medical facilities. They found that as providers put new technology in place to meet various federal regulations and incentives, CMIOs and CNOs believe these initiatives will spark a corresponding change in their roles and responsibilities.

According to Horowitz, more organizations see the importance of the CMIO role, as evidenced by the fact that a growing number are hiring them. Some healthcare providers also see the value of a relatively new member of the IT team, the chief nursing informatics officer (CNIO), who can further align the priorities of nurses with the IT department.

"Clinicians are a key group of end-users at healthcare organizations, and CMIOs and CNIOs have the ability to understand both the workflow needs of clinicians as well as the IT environment. As such, I believe they will continue to play a role in the systems evaluation, selection, and implementation process," Horowitz said.

According to the report, CMIOs believe medical device integration is an important priority on the road to achieving a fully functional, integrated EHR environment. That makes integration a major task on their "to-do" list during the next four years.

Many survey respondents observed that as the healthcare industry moves towards more complex EHRs, data capture, management, reporting, and sorting the data into usable information will become long-term goals.

Survey respondents also reported that medical device integration into the healthcare IT enterprise will ensure a more comprehensive documentation system that is likely to reduce medical errors.

When are emerging technologies ready for clinical use? In the new issue of InformationWeek Healthcare, find out how three promising innovations--personalized medicine, clinical analytics, and natural language processing--show the trade-offs. Download the issue now. (Free registration required.)

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