So far, all of the other CMIOs I know have very interesting stories about how they got into the position. Most of them sound more like accidents than planned career choices, mine included.
Still, I'm totally happy being a CMIO. Yes, it's tough. The hours, balancing clinical and administrative time, can be brutal. And sometimes you feel like you're endlessly herding cats, trying to get people to play nicely as you move your EMR implementation forward.
So I thought tonight I'd write a little bit about the CMIO role.
Question 1 : "What does it take to be a good CMIO?"
I think there are some personality traits that are conducive to being a good CMIO.
- First, you have to believe in change. And you have to know, and accept, a basic truth : Change is hard. It it was easy, people wouldn't be interested in paying you to do it.
- It also helps to be nice. If your personality is too strong, people will see you as authoritarian and paternalistic. If you're too weak, you'll never get anything done. You want to be the middle of the road. Top of the bell curve.
- You need to be able to tolerate ambiguity. If you're the sort of person who needs an idea super-well formed, before you start working on it - You'll never survive. If you're the sort of person who needs every hour of every day planned out - You'll never survive.
- You need patience. A lot of the job deals with policy and regulatory minutiae. If the idea of writing policies or reviewing CMS regulations makes your skin crawl, this may not be the job for you.
- It helps to be super-passionate about technology. While Informatics is, in itself, not related to IT (a common mistake!) - It really is important to embrace technology, warts and all.
- A good CMIO knows when to be detail oriented, and when to let go. Part of the skill is knowing when to be which.
- A good CMIO is an awesome teacher. There's a big difference between people who call themselves teachers, and people who are teachers. Real teachers are a valuable commodity. Remember, we're all students and teachers all our lives. CMIOs are committed to real teaching.
- A super-talented CMIO will have "Jedi Skills" when it comes to personality management. Sometimes you have to negotiate politically between competing clinical areas, to reach an agreement, and this can mean some tricky political discussions. They should strive to be as Yoda-like, or Obi-Wan-like, as possible, when it comes to these discussions. Being forceful right out of the gate is often a big mistake. Subtlety and humor are two powerful tools, if used the right way.
- Finally : It helps to keep a foot in the door clinically. While it's not entirely necessary, realize that the currency that a CMIO spends, to get the job done, is physician buy-in. If the physicians don't respect your opinions, you'll have a hard time.