Do MDs Make the Best CMIOs?

Ann All

Last summer I wrote about what appeared to be a growing trend: health care organizations appointing chief medical information officers, executives with both physician training and technology smarts. I cited a Forbes article that featured an interview with Andrew Svetly, Florida Hospital's chief medical information officer, who said possessing clinician credentials helped him earn respect from physicians and hospital administrators.


That kind of in-depth domain knowledge would probably be a plus for any CIO but may be especially critical for health care, an industry with specialized operational requirements and lots of regulatory and security issues.


As InformationWeek reports, AT&T's health care division has appointed Geeta Nayyar, MD, MBA as its first chief medical information officer. Nayyar, a practicing rheumatologist, helped implement an electronic health record system for the faculty practice at George Washington University while she was studying for her MBA there. Randall Porter, assistant VP of AT&T ForHealth, told InformationWeek that CMIOs who practice medicine are more in touch with the rapidly changing health care sector.


AT&T wants to be a big player in the health care market -- along with just about every other technology vendor out there. As IT Business Edge's Loraine Lawson wrote last summer, health care IT was once considered a niche market, served primarily by smaller vendors with proprietary solutions. But big tech vendors became seriously interested after the federal government announced plans to spend some $20 billion updating the country's medical records and other IT systems.


In a post on the hot market for IT talent with experience in electronic health records, IT Business Edge's Susan Hall mentioned a recent a PricewaterhouseCoopers report that predicted health care spending will make up nearly 20 percent of the U.S. economy by 2019 and research from RNCOS forecasting 24 percent spending growth on health care technology in the U.S. between 2012 and 2014.


The InformationWeek article mentions several IT health initiatives in which AT&T is involved, including a joint effort with the Department of Health and Human Services and the American Association of Diabetes Educators (AADE) to improve self-management training of diabetic patients. AT&T will contribute $100,000 to the AADE to fund the initiative, which will start with a pilot in Texas, and will provide 150 smartphones with voice and data plans for patients, diabetes educators and other coaches.


Chief medical information officers, whether or not they have medical training, face plenty of challenges in implementing new health care technologies. As interest in health care IT continues to grow, the CMIO role will probably grow right along with it.

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