The CMIO role within healthcare organizations is no longer new, and, in fact, is gaining in importance. The evolution of the CMIO is further demonstrated by the qualities organizations are looking for when it comes to hiring CMIOs—traits that suggest organizations are looking for healthcare leaders in the “truest sense of the word,” says Pamela Dixon, founder and managing partner of SSI-SEARCH, a national executive search firm that focuses on health leadership that intersects with technology.
When it comes to a CMIO search healthcare organizations—particularly those leading systems that are large and complex—are looking for individuals who can step into a high visibility position, Dixon says. “So we consistently see a call for several traits.” These include:
“When we do a search for a large, complex organization, this is not frequently requested, this is always requested,” says Dixon, who adds that this trait seems to becoming more important in an industry that is rife with mergers and acquisitions.
“These organizations want someone who understands how information flows through a healthcare organization and knows how to engage at appropriate points within that organization in order to get things done,” she says. “It’s a special skill.”
This goes hand-in-hand with organizational awareness, Dixon says. “Organizations want people who can communicate across boundaries and orient their message in a way that it can be understood by different groups—clinicians, nurses, IT, the executive team.”
Organizations are frequently looking for strong innovators. “It depends on the organization’s needs,” Dixon says. “Will the CMIO be communicating and executing a strategy that is already in place, or will the CMIO need to impact strategic thinking or change the way the strategy is being implemented?” One thing is clear, she says, which is the speed at which we are seeing changes implemented in healthcare is driving the need for more innovation.
Accountability and Transparency
Organizations want a CMIO who can operate based on clear and accurate information, Dixon says. “We see a call for a leadership style that focuses on being accountable and transparent—not only as an individual, but creating a culture that fosters transparency across the team he or she leads."
The importance put on these kinds of traits will, and can be, supplemented by other requirements desired by different organizations.
For example, Dixon says, smaller hospitals may not place as much emphasis on “organizational awareness,” but instead may focus on someone with a leadership and communication style that fits within their specific culture.
“Perhaps they are looking for someone who can roll up their sleeves, visit a hospital in the system and work more in a one-on-one kind of situation," she says. Or, for example, if an organization is looking to build out its analytics team it could be looking for someone who is more task-oriented.
“And there may be organizations that are at different points of evolution in terms of healthcare reform,” she points out. If the organization is looking at EHR implementation it’s going to be looking for a leader who is very strong in helping execute on the implementation, rather than the optimization of EHR. “Even if that’s the case, you’re still looking for leaders who can carry the ball once you’re past the implementation stage.” Dixon adds, “A strong search process will not only impact the ability to bring the absolute right fit for the organization, but it can impact the timeline of the search dramatically. This is so important in healthcare right now.”