Overseeing healthcare information technology (HIT) is the responsibility of the chief medical information officer (CMIO). While that job once may have entailed a few projects a year, CMIOs now are major players in management and administration. The programs and data CMIOs oversee determine everything from the viability of medical research breakthroughs to whether the institution is making enough money to pay its employees.
It is the task of the CMIO to stay abreast of the latest technologies and make sure his or her department is prepared to bring the changes to the rest of the facility in usable and understandable formats. This involves everything from marketing plans and patient portals to making sure each institution is meeting state and federal programs and mandates.
Other healthcare industry challenges that fall on the shoulders of the CMIO include high-level oversight of personal devices and the transfer of information. Every day, physicians and nurses use their phones and other handheld devices to access patient information, look up research protocols and sometimes even talk to patients. IT departments must ensure devices and data are secure. They must also ensure the hospital’s bandwidth can handle the extra usage, that apps and functions don’t interfere with facility networks and that there is regulation of business and personal access.
Career opportunities abound in the IT world and becoming a power player in the healthcare industry is feasible in a way it has not been before. Health informatics training, whether in areas such as IT security, database management or in the research and development of new programs and networks, is valuable for those pursuing the CMIO title.
CMIO Job Description
The day-to-day responsibilities of CMIOs vary among healthcare systems. Many CMIOs are practicing physicians or heavily experienced IT professionals with specialized training.
The duties performed by a CMIO typically include:
- Evaluating an organization’s IT systems
- Designing and applying EMR/EHR software and applications
- Converting and analyzing medical and health data
- Insuring quality of care across multiple information systems
- Leveraging medical and health data to improve services and daily operations
- Training physicians and other medical professionals in IT systems and applications, especially EMR/EHR and computerized physician order entry (CPOE).
Depending on the area of expertise and depth of training, a CMIO also might be tasked with conducting data analytics for research purposes and reporting findings to other executives or representatives of government or academic institutions.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has not yet published precise data on the health informatics employment subsector. As they become available, this information will be provided here.
However, as of June 2014, the BLS projected a 23% rate of growth in employment opportunities for medical and health services managers and a 22% rate of growth for medical records and health information technicians. While neither figure should be taken as directly representative of the employment potential for CMIOs, they do represent a surge in opportunities for qualified health IT candidates as a whole.
The salary of a chief medical information officer certified in health informatics varies based on a number of factors, including:
- Level of education
- The type of healthcare facility
- The scope of the job
According to Health Information Careers, the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) website, the 2010 biennial AHIMA salary study listed the annual median salary of a Health Information Executive/President/Vice President at $125,609. The survey was given to nearly 11,000 health information professionals by AHIMA, the foremost professional organization for the field of medical record management.
Of the 118 respondents to the widely referenced CMIO 2010 Compensation Survey, conducted by Clinical Innovation+Technology, 45% reported earning between $180,000 and $220,000 annually, with 8% reporting salaries of $300,000 and higher.
Two-thirds of survey respondents said they were “very satisfied or somewhat satisfied with their current compensation.” In addition to differences in employer size, type and location, the disparity in reported compensation might also be attributed to the fact that many CMIOs receive bonuses and other financial performance incentives. Most CMIOs, including 68% of those responding to the 2010 Compensation Survey, also serve as physicians, either for their employers or in private practice.
Education and Training
In years past, minimum requirements for CMIO candidates included a bachelor’s degree in IT or a related field and relevant experience in medicine. Employers often prefer candidates with advanced degrees. With the federal mandate for EHR implementation looming – and interest in credentialed health informatics professionals skyrocketing – it’s now possible for medical professionals to earn a graduate certificate in health informatics.
Many institutions also are adding master’s degree programs in health informatics, which can help an IT professional transition into one of the fastest-growing healthcare-related fields in the country.
The survey also reports that CMIOs are more involved than ever in formulating organizational strategy, including capital expenditures. Interestingly, most people new to the health informatics field transitioned to CMIO within their current organization, rather than finding a position elsewhere.