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Expanding Universes

March 28, 2010
by Mark Hagland
| Reprints
From biomedical engineering to facility planning, CIOs are finding the domain of responsibility widening
David Muntz
David Muntz

For many senior executives, the title of chief information officer emerged in the late 1980s and early 1990s as their historical role as IT managers was becoming more executive and strategic and less technical. Now, the current shift into an even broader and more executive-level role is feeling like nearly as great a leap as the earlier one had been.

Tim Zoph
Tim Zoph

In addition to all the traditional IT areas already reporting to them, industry-leading CIOs have been adding numerous other areas to their portfolios. Consider the following:

  • At the 14-hospital Baylor Health System, senior vice president and CIO David Muntz now has biomedical engineering, imaging equipment management, and medical services (including answering services and physician telephone support) under him.

  • At Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, Tim Zoph transitioned last year from the title of vice president and CIO to senior vice president, administration, and CIO, to reflect the vice president-level management of design and construction addition to his portfolio.

    Rick Schooler
    Rick Schooler
  • At the eight-hospital Orlando Health, vice president and CIO Rick Schooler has taken on the supply chain area, which encompasses materials management, distribution, purchasing, and retail pharmacy services, as well as the health system's separate group purchasing.

  • At the two-hospital Heartland Health in St. Joseph, Mo., CIO Helen Thompson now oversees biomed, as well as the health system's innovative new regional information exchange entity.

    Helen Thompson
    Helen Thompson
  • At the Lucile Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif., CIO Ed Kopetsky now has several areas under him, including process improvement (which includes management engineering), and management systems (which encompasses managing employee incentives).

  • At the eight-hospital Carilion Clinic, based in Roanoke, Va., senior vice president and CIO Daniel Barchi has acquired biomedical engineering (called clinical engineering at Carilion), as well as a brand-new team of EMR implementers who report to him but are members of a corps and are separate from day-to-day IT operations.

    Daniel Barchi
    Daniel Barchi
  • At the four-hospital Methodist Health System based in Dallas, senior vice president and CIO Pamela McNutt has had both biomed and telecom come under her in the past four years.

    Pamela McNutt
    Pamela McNutt
  • And at Yuma (Ariz.) Regional Medical Center, Gene Shaw, R.N.'s title changed to vice president of value transformation and CIO to better reflect the fact that the areas of quality, process redesign, performance improvement, peer review, and patient safety came under his aegis. Shaw's clinical background made the augmentation a natural, as the 333-bed community hospital shifted into a higher gear on performance improvement.

    Gene Shaw
    Gene Shaw

And while each of these seven CIOs has a unique personal background, and each hospital organization has a different history and operational profile, the fact that these seven - and many more nationwide - are seeing their management portfolios grow significantly is no coincidence. Rather, say industry observers, the expansion of CIO governance has its roots in several factors which have all reached a confluence. These include:

  • The rapid acceleration in the advancement of information technology of all types - especially clinical - in hospital organizations, to the point where IT is a part of nearly every process, and is merging with previously discrete operational areas. In fact, IT touches areas such as HIM/medical records, biomedical engineering (as virtually every medical device is to some extent computerized), and facilities planning (as IT device and infrastructure considerations now pervade construction and renovation planning).

  • What's more, industry observers and CIOs note, the demands being made of healthcare delivery on the part of public and private purchasers and payers - for documented care quality and patient safety, accountability and transparency, cost-effectiveness and care management innovation - all require intensive data collection, reporting, and analysis to support their success. Thus, CIOs are increasingly being drawn directly into performance improvement, patient safety and care quality improvement, and other areas once exclusive to clinicians and other quality professionals.

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