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How does one become a CIO – Rebecca Fein 1/28/2014

Dear Reader,

I'm not an executive recruiter in healthcare, but I do speak to recruiters. And what they're telling me is this: expectations around job candidates for CIO positions have been undergoing a transformation lately, along at least three dimensions.

First, the CIO position is now becoming a very senior-level position, one involving a great deal of interfacing with the rest of the c-suite in a hospital or health system, and with the organization's overall board of directors, as well as with board-level committees. That higher level of visibility is coming out of the fact that electronic health record (EHR) and other clinical information system implementation is now one of the most expensive capital investments an organization can make, with implementations running past $100 million in many larger organizations. As a result, along with other issues (such as the ICD-10 transition) the visibility, and the risk, around the CIO position, are both at unprecedentedly high levels.

What's more, with clinical informatics becoming a dominant focus under meaningful use and healthcare reform, more and more clinicians--primarily physicians and nurses--are moving into senior informatics positions, including into the CIO role, in more organizations nationwide. That is a logical development, and we can expect more physician and nurse informaticists to move down that path.

Given those two trends, my advice would obviously be for anyone aiming for a CIO position to get as much leadership experience and professional development as possible, beginning as early in their career as possible. Obviously, some level of technical IT understanding will remain important, but the CIO role has truly become a senior leadership role in most patient organizations, and one should plan one's career accordingly.

Mark Hagland