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CCIOs: Clinician Leaders Taking the Wheel

In nearly a decade since the Affordable Care Act the role of the healthcare leader continues to evolve. Today there is a recognition and shift to bring clinicians into key leadership and decision-making roles across the market. People become clinicians to help, to serve. By nature clinicians are innovative and curious, constantly seeking a better way.

We are rapidly observing a need to have clinical leaders on the executive team, not just as stakeholders that are invited for certain workgroups, but as consistent decision makers. One of the newer titles we hear is the Chief Clinical Informatics Officer (CCIO). Don’t let the informatics in the title scare you off; informatics certifications available are not necessary to lead an organization through the endless decisions necessary for smart planning, investments and prioritization.

The growing number of C-level clinical informaticist roles – such as Chief Medical Information Officer, Chief Pharmacy Information Officer and Chief Clinical Information Officer – shows that healthcare is recognizing the value of clinical leadership in technology transformation. Having clinicians in C-suite and key leadership positions helps organizations make better decisions about the use of clinicians’ time and better investments that will impact the patient’s experience. Clinical leaders apply the same thought and concern about the wellness of the organization as they do the wellness of their patients.

In the earliest days of health IT rollouts, IT efforts were often IT-led, and many resulted in workflows and solutions that did not work for clinicians and ultimately contribute to the burden issues we are confronted with today. But we are seeing increasing numbers of physicians and nurses involved with health IT initiatives, and they bring several advantages.

What clinicians bring to the table

Clinicians are on the front lines of patient care, and their focus on patient safety doesn’t change when they become administrators and executives. They bring a deep understanding of how patient care happens, and how technology and financial decisions can affect patient safety – for better or worse.

Physicians are trained to be decisive and evidence-based, important qualities for any leader. Combining this skill set with leader personalities and business acumen becomes a driving force in any healthcare organization (whether it’s for a provider, payer or vendor).

Despite nurses representing the largest segment of the healthcare workforce, they have not traditionally been part of health IT decision-making processes. But we’ve seen signs of change over the last two decades, with more efforts to improve nurses’ satisfaction with EHRs, and the CNIO voice is getting stronger.

CCIOs rely on first-hand experiences to anticipate how technology will influence the enterprise delivery of patient care. Patient safety is always the top priority, and the CCIO is focused on several areas that increase risk, including.

  • Clinician burnout. It is well documented that overwhelmed, overburdened clinicians are more likely to make mistakes that can cause potential harm. Clinician wellness must be a priority. CCIOs make sure tools are efficient and reduce burden for their users.
  • Clinician shortage. An aging population, combined with higher rates of chronic disease, have placed increasing demands on providers. Clinician burden is becoming a deterrent to new clinicians entering the field.
  • Gaps in care. Patient care doesn’t just happen within the four walls of the hospital. CCIOs provide technology solutions that enable effective care management across the continuum of care.
  • Patient engagement (partnership). It’s not new to the clinician that patients are part of the care team. (The only thing that is new is that provider reimbursement is tied to patients’ behavior.) CCIOs will make decisions advocating for both clinicians and patients.
  • Value-based care. Demonstrating quality with data is fundamental to success with value-based models of care. CCIOs facilitate that process with effective technologies to keep pace with a rapidly changing financial environment.

As these challenges keep expanding, so does the role of CCIO. But the core purpose remains the same: a CCIO advocates for advancing technology, while maintaining the humanity and dignity of healthcare. The premise of ‘doing something for the clinician, not to the clinician’ being the key. Successful CCIOs will be able to keep this balance while furthering their organizations’ missions.

Comments 2

  1. Amy P. Davis 11/27/2018

    Agree with your thoughts here, Catherine. The most successful hospitals and healthcare systems seem to share the characteristics you describe: the IT department sees itself as a “servant” to the clinicians, care providers and patients of the institution. The mission of the IT department is to make the EHR and all hospital systems work together, supporting the best workflows, patient safety, outcomes and care documentation possible.

  2. Geeta Nayyar 11/28/2018

    Well said Catherine! Change in healthcare can only happen “with” Clinicians not “to” clinicians. Enjoyed the post!

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