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Are You a Revolutionary? That's Right, I'm Talking to YOU

October 7, 2008
by Mark Hagland
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I found a recent column in the online publication TechRepublic quite interesting. The title of the August 31 column by Jason Hiner was “Sanity check: Five things that make it great to work in IT.” And I loved the five things that Hiner cited. In reverse order, from number 5 to number 1 (which is how they were presented in the original column), they were as follows:

Ø “You’re the hero when you solve problems”

Ø “You get to play with cool stuff”

Ø “You help make people more efficient”

Ø “Your job is rarely dull or stagnant”

Ø “You get to be a revolutionary”

Now, of all the things Hiner cited, the final one, designated as the number-one thing making it “great to work in IT,” was, “You get to be a revolutionary.” And that is the line that most caught my attention. Indeed, in my humble opinion, not only do all five lines fit the healthcare CIO/healthcare IT executive job description to a “T,” but I think the “revolutionary” line is exactly what today’s industry-leading CIOs are for healthcare.

What’s fun about this designation is that, of course, the word “revolutionary” is in extreme contrast to how the average information technology person probably sees herself or himself in terms of core temperament. Radical political leaders, type-A entrepreneurs, and even avant-garde social philosophers like to see themselves as “revolutionaries”; but most people who chose IT as a field (whether in healthcare or in other industries) probably didn’t fit whatever the “revolutionary” category was in the Myers-Briggs schema of temperaments. IT people tend to be thoughtful, relatively quiet (at least compared to other types in business organizations), and technically or at least managerially focused.

But what the healthcare system is crying out for these days is indeed revolutionaries. We need to dramatically improve patient care quality and safety, clinician and staff member workflow and efficiency, patient satisfaction, and transparency and accountability to purchasers, payers, and other healthcare stakeholders; oh, and guess what? We won’t ever be getting a huge new pile of extra money to do so (the relatively small inducements of pay for performance programs notwithstanding). I’ve just published my second book on this broad area, and it was fascinating for me, as part of my research for both of my books, to delve into just how much we need to revolutionize patient care delivery in healthcare just to keep our healthcare system from imploding.

So, yes, we need revolutionaries in healthcare. And we absolutely need healthcare CIOs, CMIOs, CNIOs, and other IT executives (well, all the way down to relatively junior levels of management, to tell the truth) who will work together with physicians, nurses, other clinicians, and non-clinician leaders in order to revolutionize every aspect of patient care. In my upcoming cover story for November, I interviewed numerous CIOs, chief nursing officers, and CNIOs/vice presidents of clinical informatics, who are teaming up not only to ensure the success of clinical implementations going forward, but who are also committing themselves and their teams to clinical transformation—the wholesale recreation of care delivery, for improved quality, safety, efficiency, transparency, and accountability to stakeholders. The simple truth is that the clinician and non-clinician leaders in hospitals, medical groups and health systems can’t do it—can’t transform care delivery—without the help of and full-throttle collaboration with, CIOs and other healthcare IT executives. And, as you’ll find if you read the November cover story when it comes out in a few weeks, those CIOs who have the will, the desire, and the capability to succeed at the challenge of working with clinician leaders to transform their organizations, really do embody the core concept of the revolutionary—someone who, not content to accept the status quo, is always working for radical change.

So as unlikely as the term “revolutionary” might sound at first blush when applied to CIOs and other healthcare IT executives, I think it’s just the right word to use when looking at what kinds of IT leaders we need in our industry going forward. Are you a revolutionary? Don’t brush off the word too quickly. They’re calling for you right now at the change management barricades.

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Mark Hagland

Editor-In-Chief

Mark Hagland

@hci_markhagland

www.healthcare-informatics.com/blog/mark-hagland

Mark Hagland became Editor-in-Chief of Healthcare Informatics in January 2010. Prior to that, he...