CIO Specialists a Growing Trend in Health Care

Ann All

A few months ago I wrote a post in which I suggested that CIOs should be specialists in a given industry rather than generalists who lead business technology initiatives in different industries. Supporting this opinion, I cited statements from University of Kentucky CIO Vince Kellen, who prior to his stint at UK served as VP of Information Services for DePaul University, and IT Business Edge contributor Mike Vizard, who mentioned the CIO specialist in his presentation at the Midmarket CIO Forum in Orlando. Said Vizard:

People think you can run IT at a fruit company and then run IT at a chemical company. I'd argue that's insane. That's why business people begin to see IT as a utility. When I talk to CIOs, many of them have more loyalty to IT than to the industry they are working in. I think you add more value if you become a specialist. That's how you make IT integral to the business.

Health care is one industry that appears to value specialist CIOs, with hospitals appointing chief medical information officers, whose expertise includes physician training in addition to technology smarts. In an Forbes interview, Andrew Svetly, Florida Hospital's chief medical information officer, discusses his role, saying CMIOs need to be "good clinician[s] with a passion for information technology."


Having clinician credentials earns respect from physicians and hospital administrators, Svetly says:

If you put someone else in that role -- a CIO or CTO -- the conversation is always, "You don't understand. You've never practiced medicine. You've never had the responsibility of a patient's life in your hands." Once you get that out of the way, the rest of the conversation happens more easily.

While Svetly says medical training supersedes a technology background since "we can all learn technology," CMIOs like other CIOs should possess enough detailed tech knowledge to communicate with their IT staffs.


Like most other CIOs in the medical field, electronic health records are high on Svetly's agenda, and Florida Hospital employs lots of wireless devices. IT Business Edge contributor Loraine Lawson wrote about both topics in yesterday's post, predicting big futures for both. With electronic health records, though, current medical technology falls short in several areas, which means any investments facilitated by federal subsidies probably won't result in the kinds of improvements the health care industry and the government would like to see.

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