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January 10, 2011
by Mark Hagland
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Interview: Charles E. Christian, CIO, Good Samaritan Hospital

On Jan. 4, the Ann Arbor, Mich.-based College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) and the Chicago-based Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) announced that their organizations had named Charles (Chuck) E. Christian, CIO of Good Samaritan Hospital in Vincennes, Ind., the John E. Gall, Jr. CIO of the Year. The award recognizes “healthcare IT executives who have made significant contributions to their organization and demonstrated innovative leadership through effective use of technology,” according to CHIME and HIMSS. It is named in honor of the late John E. Gall, Jr., who pioneered implementation of the first fully integrated medical information system in the world, at El Camino Hospital in Mountain View, Calif., in the 1960s. Chuck Christian, who is in his 22nd year as CIO at the 232-bed Good Samaritan, will formally receive the award at the HIMSS Conference in Orlando on Feb. 22.

In a statement upon receiving the award, Christian said, “I’m very humbled to be mentioned with the industry leaders who have received the John E. Gall Award over the years. I’ve had the privilege of working with and learning from a large group of outstanding professionals.”

Among numerous other distinctions during his career to date, Christian has served on the CHIME board of trustees and is a past chair of the HIMSS board of directors. He is currently serving on the Indiana Health Informatics Corporation board of directors by appointment of Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels. He has received numerous industry awards in the past, and is well-known among national CIO leaders.

Christian spoke with HCI Editor-in-Chief Mark Hagland last week regarding his receiving the award, and his perspectives on the challenges and opportunities facing CIOs in today’s landscape.

Healthcare Informatics: What does this honor mean for you and for what you’ve been doing in the field?

Charles E. Christian: For me, it’s a recognition by my peers that they recognize the efforts I’ve made and that others have made.

HCI: For those just up and coming in their careers, what goes into being a recognized CIO leader in the industry?

Christian: I think it’s more about being a servant, and about participating. And while I’ve been fortunate to participate in many ways, I’ve always gotten more out of it than I’ve put into it. I had the honor of introducing Dennis Quaid at the HIMSS Conference in Chicago. And I actually spent about an hour talking with Dennis privately. And he’s a great guy, very personable. And I’ve been able to travel to Europe to present over there. So it’s through that participation that I’ve been privileged to do these things; and I’ve just made an outstanding group of friends in the industry, people who are truly captains of our industry.

HCI: What kinds of leadership will CIOs need to show in the next few years?

Christian: Many of us are already deeply involved in “CIO 2.0”—we’re more strategic than technical. I started out as an x-ray tech, and I’m married to a critical care nurse. So patient care is front and center for me. So it’s really about looking at the strategies to improve care, and to improve referral patterns—because at the end of the day, it’s about how we can create the best possible patient experience, and the best possible outcomes for patients. I think of myself as an internal consultant—I get called on in numerous discussions to help the organization move forward in a number of ways—and those discussions may not even be related to technology. For example, at our hospital, we have a customer excellence steering committee, looking at all aspects—we’ve got the director of cardiology, director of public relations, director of respiratory care, myself—we’re really looking at creating the best possible experience of care, and it really doesn’t have anything to do with technology.

HCI: When you look at the last two decades, what developments have been most surprising?