Wanted: Physicians’ Fingers

March 15, 2011  |  Category: PhysiciansRegulatory Updates

Many hospital CIOs face an uphill battle winning the hearts, minds and fingers of physicians. It’s not because doctors are technology phobic. Quite the opposite: physicians are some of the most ravenous consumers of new information technology. Smartphones and tablets are becoming as ubiquitous as stethoscopes at many hospitals.

The truth is doctors are happy to make screen touches, mouse clicks and keyboard strokes if the application is right. But all too often it’s not – at least not for them; and that gets to the heart of the issue.

The software that CIOs often try to “sell” doctors on using typically wasn’t designed with physician users in mind. Some of these applications end up taking more of the physician’s time than the good old paper way of doing things. And the CIO, who is not an MD, can’t fully appreciate how cumbersome, distracting and unproductive a traditional hospital information system (HIS) can be for a physician.

That is why CIOs increasingly are not being left to operate alone. A growing number of institutions are “teaming” the CIO with a Chief Medical Information Officer (CMIO), an MD who offers exactly what the CIO needs: a physician deeply enmeshed in the hospital’s clinical systems who can be a credible and effective liaison and technology advocate with physicians. The CIO never studied medicine, and the CMO never studied IT, so employing a CMIO gets hospitals a blend of complementary skills, and an invaluable partner for the CIO. As a team, they are sitting at the “big table,” making strategic, $20+ million purchase decisions for their hospitals related to IT projects that will extend out over four years or more.

As hospitals look ahead to Stage 2 and Stage 3 “Meaningful Use” requirements, it will become even more essential that doctors willingly use the HIS. CMIOs will play a greater role in ensuring this happens by keeping IT focused on what matters most: providing productivity tools to physicians that streamline their workflow and that deliver more useful and timely clinical information, which can be applied to improve patient outcomes and let doctors focus more of their time on patient care.

Using this kind of physician-centric approach, I predict hospital IT groups won’t have any trouble winning physicians’ hearts, minds and fingers. What do you think?