One-on-One with Partners HealthCare CEO James Mongan, M.D. | Healthcare Informatics Magazine | Health IT | Information Technology Skip to content Skip to navigation

One-on-One with Partners HealthCare CEO James Mongan, M.D.

June 4, 2008
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Want to impress your boss? Learn what CIO attributes make James Mongan, M.D., sit up and take notice.

AG: And talk to me a little bit about the reporting structure you have there. Oftentimes we see CIOs reporting to the CEO, but then there’s quite a few that report to the CFO. Tell me about what you do there and what you think would be a best practice to make the CIO effective.

JM: Well, again, I think each organization is a little bit unique. The role, I think, has grown in recent years. What we do here, technically, is John reports to the Chief Operating Officer Tom Glynn and myself, but the way Tom and I have worked it, I meet with the top six or seven people on a weekly or every-other-week basis. Tom then also meets with them and is free to join my meeting when he wishes, so it’s kind of dual reporting in a sense.

AG: Does the org chart matter much or is it more about access?

JM: Well, it matters to some extent because organizational charts have some meaning or they wouldn’t exist. On the other hand, I think obviously the personalities and relationships and track records becomes as important, if not more important, than the organizational chart over time. You’re always looking at people who can produce and making sure that they have the opportunities that they need.

AG: Can you tell me your thoughts on board involvement in IT spend?

JM: I think it’s important that our board committee has been very helpful working both with myself and John. They’ve not gotten into micromanagement in particular purchases or expenditures, but they’ve been very helpful in looking at overall priorities like how much of our investment is going to go to administer the system or clinical systems, and what order we are going to do. So I would think in those kinds of strategic and theoretical bases, I think they’ve been extraordinarily important to us.

AG: How would you define being an effective leader?

JM: I think that to be a good leader you have to have the vision thing that the first George Bush used to refer to, “If you don’t know where you are trying to take the organization, you’re not going to be very successful in the end.” I think you have to have the ability to communicate that vision. I’ve often said that if the leader is too far in front of their troops, he will lose them, and if he’s too close to them, he’s not really leading. You’ve got to be far enough ahead but not too far ahead, and then you’ve got to be communicating enough that you can keep the connection with the team. Then I think the appropriate attention to details and being able to obviously not micromanage every issue is key. But you also need to scan the environment for when something comes up that needs some extra attention and being willing to roll up your sleeves and get into it. I think it’s also an important feature.

AG: What do you enjoy most about your job?

JM: I mostly enjoy the variety of fascinating issues and really spectacular people I get to work with. I mean, any day can encompass anything from political issues down in Washington, to something going on in genetics research, to working with John on IT, to building a new facility. I think that the range of issues and the caliber of people I’m privileged to deal with are the things that I get the most satisfaction out of.

AG: Any overall advice you can give to our CIO readers that will help them be effective?

JM: I guess the main advice would be that they should recognize how critically important their field is going to be to healthcare over the next decade or two. But balance that with a recognition that resources are going to be, I think, increasingly constrained over the next few decades. Therefore, the ability to make wise investment decisions and operate efficiently is going to be very important as we go forward.

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