Sunday, April 1, 2012

CMIO Survival Skills

While a CMIO is there to help implement the technology, so much of the job is process, workflow, and governance. So since I've now been in the role for five years now, I thought I'd take a moment to look back and reflect on the things I've learned in the last five years that I think are valuable CMIO skills.
Here are the 13 most important skills I can think of, off the top of my head, in my usual tongue-in-cheek style : (Remember, as always - Your mileage may vary, depending on your circumstances.)
  1. Hospital Governance 101 -  It's not enough to just know the clinical side of governance. You need to know the administrative side too. Both of these wings of hospital governance intersect with each other in different places, and knowing where they meet with your bylaws is vitally important. You will be navigating both, so it pays to know the landscape. Bonus points are awarded if you can diagram your committee structure by heart. :)
  2. Document Management - Understanding the basics of how documents are created, drafted, approved, and published is essential. Bonus points are awarded for knowing the details of these steps well - For starters, I wrote a post on the importance of knowing the difference between DEV, TEST, and PROD - These environments typically exist for computer projects, but in reality they apply to all construction and document development (even that email you just sent!). Know them well, why they exist, and how to use them to your advantage in your organization.
  3. Definitions and structure of your Clinical Tools - You should know your clinical tools like the back of your hand - Exactly how your organization defines them, drafts and builds them, tests and reviews and vets them, approves them, and publishes them. You should be able to look at them and have opinions on whether they are as effective as they can be. For starters, the CMIO's checklist is a good place to start working on this. Bonus points are awarded if you can recite your organization's definitions off the top of your head. :)
  4. Compliance with State and Federal Regulations - You will need to know these well, and will probably be asked to help your organization comply with some of them. Even if you don't know them very well, you need to have a good relationship with your regulatory people, and know where to look when you have questions. Bonus points are awarded as you gradually learn this landscape better.
  5. Project Management and managing 'the technical details' - You will need to know the basics of this - Whether or not you have a separate project manager to work with, you will be involved in many projects. Knowing what to expect at different stages when undertaking large month- and year-long projects is very helpful. As for the technical details, you may not want to know how sausage is made, but if you (or your organization) wants to eat sausage (pardon the metaphor), then someone will have to worry about the technical details. If it's not you, then make sure you have a good relationship with the people who understand the details, and work with them closely when undertaking new projects. 
  6. Parliamentary Basics - You will probably be asked to chair a committee or two, and be a member of others. Knowing how to properly run a meeting and conduct a committee is crucial. For starters, Robert's Rules of Order is a fantastic place to start. Also make sure you have a formal, written charter - It not only establishes your authority, it establishes the chain-of-command and is essential for good performance and when questions come up. And a tip : Always publish your minutes after approving them at the next meeting. If you wait to format and approve your minutes, they will just build up and you'll have to play catch-up later.
  7. Meaningful Use, emerging Health IT Trends, and Workflow Analysis - It's almost impossible to keep on top of every detail, but you should have a good understanding of the Meaningful Use rules, timelines, and how your organization is responding to them. You should also understand the basics and be able to comment on various existing and emerging HealthIT, clinical, and legal trends, including your statewide HIE effort, NHIN, ICD-10, clinical decision support, mobile devices, HIPAA, eDiscovery, etc. Finally, you should understand the basics of workflow analysis and why it's necessary to implement all of this technology. A good way to learn to think in a linear fashion is to read food recipes - This will help you think about the relationship between process and outcomes, and help teach you to write a good procedure.
  8. Safety through Information - Safety is not just resident workforce hours and barcoding your medications. Safety needs to be built into all of the documents and information you're overseeing. First, know what a good order set and a good protocol look like - Then learn what good documentation, good policies, good procedures, good guidelines, and good workflows look like. This is one of the big reasons organizations look for a CMIO, so always look for opportunities to improve safety with every tool you see.
  9. Networking - Virtually every hospital is going through Meaningful Use together. You will help save yourself a lot of headache if you know the other CMIOs in your area. Use social networking (e.g. Twitter), or call them up, introduce yourself, and meet them just to talk shop every once in a while. The Interstate 91 Informatics group I've set up has been invaluable to me and others in helping to share lessons and best practices. Look to see if there's any regular gatherings in your area, and try to get to at least one of the national conferences every year (e.g. HIMSS).
  10. Teambuilding, cheerleading, politics - You will undoubtedly meet other doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and other ancillary staff, and need to meet with them. Often, EMRs demand more collaboration between clinical specialties, so you will have to know how to encourage people to work together. Don't try to play sides or favorites - Treat everyone equally and you'll be able to build those teams.
  11. Budgeting realities - Implementing an EMR is expensive. There are costs at every step of the way - Technical costs, training costs, costs to change workflows, staffing costs. "Flexible budgeting" is optimal, but in today's climate, most organizations are focused on cutting costs. Be prepared to work with your budgeting people, and always ask yourself, "What if we don't get everything we ask for?"
  12. Informatics Education - Whether you're the "Chief Medical Information Officer" or the "Chief Medical Informatics Officer", you will be discussing Informatics with many people, probably while you are defining this emerging role in your organization. The term is sometimes frightening to people, until they start to understand it. Don't try to teach too much at once - Small, frequent feedings are better, so try to meet with leadership for frequent, short meetings. Bonus points are awarded if you help set up an entire Informatics department.
  13. Statistics and Process Improvement - After your EMR go-live, you will probably be asked to help optimize the EMR - That means, looking at the results from go-live, and looking for ways to improve results, e.g. higher achievement of core measures, higher CPOE rate, etc. Learn how to get utilization data out of your EMR, and look for statistical relationships that help you improve your processes. Know what a Venn diagramcontrol chart, pareto diagram, and fishbone diagram are. Bonus points are awarded if you can write your own SQL code! :)
It has been enormously rewarding to me, and if you find yourself in the role, I hope it's equally rewarding to you. Although the first CMIOs appeared on the scene back in the 1990s, it's still a relatively new position (especially in the northeast), so be prepared for a lot of change and ambiguity when you start down the road. 

As always, I enjoy simultaneous teaching and learning - Feel free to leave questions, comments, or thoughts below!