The Chief Medical Information Officer (CMIO) is a dynamic position that almost every type of health IT company needs. Whether it’s a fledgling startup or a multi-national billion dollar corporation, CMIOs bridge the gap between the clinical and non-clinical. What kind of organization they work for can determine a lot about their expectations, working conditions, and how the job gets done. In today’s post, we’ll discuss the four types of CMIOs you’ll come across.
The Hospital System CMIO
The hospital system CMIO is what we typically think of when we think CMIO. This CMIO is juggling interoperability issues, implementing new software and systems, managing the organizational culture of an organization, and leading large organizations through significant technical change. The pressure for this CMIO to bring their organization into the public spotlight of a modern, technologically innovative center for health care is very high.
Fortunately, they have a large team working with them (and a large budget) to accomplish their goals so they can focus on strategy rather than tactics. While their team and budget allow them to take on demanding projects smaller hospitals may not be able to, the sheer size of the organization and need for coordination and detailed processes decreases the pace of progress. To succeed, these CMIOs need to have strong strategic leadership skills, high stress tolerance, and an earned respect by the physicians, clinicians, and administrators within their system.
Pros: Focus on strategy, higher budget, ability to impact more patients, more “prestigious”
Cons: Progress may be slow going in a large organization, less flexibility in technology choices, pressure to perform is high
The Startup CMIO
What does the startup CMIO not do? One hour they may have to hop on a sales calls while the next they’re managing new product development. They have a say in developing the organizational culture and may be responsible for growing revenue.
CMIOs looking to work at a startup are typically unfulfilled in the corporate or hospital grind and want more of a say in their own career and a speedier path to success. With this high upside comes a high downside. The risk that the startup may fail is high, and working hours may be longer than the other CMIO paths. If you can handle this though, startups provide the opportunity to work on groundbreaking technologies and challenging problems you won’t be able to find elsewhere.
Pros: Challenging problems to solve, direct input to direction of the company, casual atmosphere, atypical physician duties, high upside if company succeeds, modern technology stacks
Cons: “Riskier” than typical corporate path, may work longer hours to ensure company success, smaller budget
The Vendor CMIO
The vendor CMIO typically works at a company selling to the other CMIOs on this list (and CEOs, CIOs, CTOs, etc). Their organizations produce EHRs, management software, consulting services, clinical information systems, and other health IT products.
You may find the vendor CMIO schmoozing with other docs to make sales and get feedback on existing products and up-and-coming products. You may also find them working within their own organization making changes, maintaining, and improving their existing systems and brainstorming new ones. Either way, the main focus of the vendor CMIO is on product. Compared to the other CMIO types on this list, they won’t spend as much on re-engineering clinical workflows, implementing different types of systems, and managing change within an organization – though they may do it from time to time. Therefore, this is a great role for those with a strong vision for product, great charisma for sales, and desire for a balance of IT and soft skills.
Pros: Taking a new product from vision to completion, working with many different types of organizations, taking prospective clients out for dinners, sports outings, and other events
Cons: Pressure to make new contacts and spreading the word about the product, higher level of travel for conferences and sales meetings
The Small Hospital CMIO
The small hospital CMIO typically manages the clinical information systems for hospitals with under 200 beds. This smaller size gives the small hospital CMIO more flexibility than the hospital system CMIO. While there are still a lot of IT systems to manage there are also fewer interoperability issues (fewer connections) and interaction and feedback from patients is more immediate.
However, small hospitals that have been around for a while also have some noticeable challenges. The organizational culture in a small hospital that has been around for a while can be very difficult to change. Employees are used to running things one way and introducing new innovations or processes can come with a lot of pushback. If a CMIO can effectively implement change and innovation in a small hospital, their role can serve as a great proving ground for those looking to become system or vendor CMIOs.
Pros: Less chaos, more flexibility, immediate feedback from patients
Cons: Smaller budget than large hospital, smaller team to get projects done, organizational change difficult