AMDIS 2014: Branding and the evolution of the CMIO

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As the CMIO role evolves, so does the potential for different career paths that the typical CMIO can take.

In a session on the evolving role of the CMIO at the recent Association of Medical Directors of Information Systems Physician-Computer Symposium, Steve Nilsen, CEO of SSi Search, an executive search firm that focuses on the healthcare industry, said that depending on the desired career path, a CMIO needs to be able to define a personal brand that can help achieve his or her career goals.

While an organization like AMDIS is helping to position the role of CMIO,  individual CMIOs have to position themselves “whether they want to remain a CMIO or not.”

“When you think about branding, Coca-Cola is a branding miracle,” Nilsen pointed out. “It’s black, with sugar water and flavors no one can recognize, much less name.” But it has established an unassailable reputation in its market.

“Branding is really the same for individuals as it is for soft drinks,” he said. “You have to create a reputation and back it up with facts.”

Nilsen’s brand manifesto sets out the path a CMIO can take to define a brand. The target of this effort is both internal stakeholders, such as executives, clinicians, patients and peers within an organization, as well as external stakeholders, such as healthcare executives and peers across the healthcare field.

According to Nilsen, a CMIO must first comprehend how he is currently perceived. “If I want to reposition a brand, there is no way I can do it unless I know what people think about me right now,” he said. Do stakeholders think he is needed to implement an EHR and can communicate easily with physicians? Does he understand workflow? Love technology? Does he lack business skills?

Depending on his “brand mission” the CMIO might have to change those perceptions. In Nilsen’s example, if the CMIO wants to become a “world class healthcare executive” he’ll want stakeholders to think he is critical to the success of an EHR and is needed at the table for all new initiatives; can bring physicians on board and involve them as part of the solution; understand the strategic role of technology; knows how to build cross-functional teams to get things done quickly; and builds great teams to leverage strengths and bridge gaps.

In order to get to that point, the CMIO will have to back up that reputation by, perhaps, getting a business degree or managing large teams and large budgets. And then the CMIO should be able to differentiate his brand. For example, if he wants to establish a reputation as an innovator, he should consistently “hammer the point home” that he can "find new and innovative ways to solve problems.”

The point is, Nilsen said, CMIOs need to be concerned about their reputations and their brands. “We need a strong brand and a strong reputation to get through our careers."