For many years hospitals’ IT departments have operated as isolated units, focusing all their attention on technology, IT infrastructure, IT networks, hardware and software problem solving. These days this is not enough, as the opportunities and pace of digitalisation require innovative strategies and new business models.
The “we deal with the medical treatment, they are responsible for IT” approach is today one of the major barriers to the smooth computerisation of health care, an archaism no longer fit for a modern environment. Why is this so? Because information technology has become an integral part of any health care service development process, and technologies are a prerequisite for maintaining a high level of organisational processes and patient service, and an element in the creation of health care quality.
As the digitalisation in healthcare has developed dynamically, the IT department of every hospital has taken on a strategic role in the development of the organisation. Its competence goes far beyond purchasing hardware and providing software maintenance, moving on towards the level of organisational change and culture management, participating in the formulation of a digital development strategy (which is an integral part of the services offered to patients and strategies for improving treatment outcomes), motivating staff, monitoring data sets and managing the data itself. We are talking about the tasks of a leader in transformation, one which has become a continuous process in today’s world, intrinsic to the activity of nearly every hospital unit.
The role of the CMIO is crucial, especially in those places where it is not the technology itself, but the process of organisational change that plays the strategic role.
Therefore, every hospital needs someone who can combine IT and medical issues, someone known as the CMIO, or Chief Medical Information Officer. Who is the CMIO? Generally this is a doctor with additional education in IT, but may be a graduate of studies in the field of medical information or simply a medical professional who is both greatly interested in new technologies and well-versed in digitalisation processes and new solutions. Thanks to their medical competences, they represent two perspectives: that of the user (doctor and nurse) and the IT specialist (systems and new tools).
Information technologies in health care are evolving rapidly, as are the tasks of the CMIO. In general, the CMIO performs managerial functions, with the main aim of designing, implementing and developing new technologies within the organisational structure of the hospital. The list of competences is long: implementing the system within the workflow of individual units, analysing the management of electronic medical records, defining standards and objectives related to IT development, and developing a long-term digitalisation strategy. The role of the CMIO can be crucial in many areas, such as in the process of implementing an electronic medical record, where it is not the technology itself but the process of organisational change that is of a strategic importance.
While IT competences remain within the domain of the IT Manager, the CMIO should be characterised primarily by soft competences. They have to be a mentor, passionate about digital tools, a leader of change, and able to inspire all employees, especially doctors and nurses. It is not easy to translate the value of IT solutions into the language of benefits for the whole organisation, as this requires understanding the day-to-day work of the medical staff and the new technologies. Strategic thinking must be accompanied by the ability to turn plans into practical actions, which is a highly difficult task. The CMIO should be a good negotiator, seeking compromise between different groups as well as between technology and medicine. Good interpersonal skills enable the CMIO to build IT project teams, while thinking in terms of benefits and goals translates into real change that impacts everyone in a positive manner. As a visionary and a leader, the CMIO continues to implement new solutions, attempts to use the latest technologies, takes risks, and does not limit themselves to maintaining the already existing IT systems – not for the technological development itself, but to achieve specific organisational and qualitative objectives.
The CMIO is the bridge between the IT department, the doctors, the nurses and the facility manager. Their role in the structure of hospitals is the precondition for improving the processes related to medical treatment, patient service and quality of work. They are conductors, who know how to create a harmonious orchestra from the combination of simple instruments at their disposal.