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CIOs Want More Responsibility — And It’s About Time They Get It

Posted on January 19, 2015 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare editor and analyst with 25 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

The life of a healthcare CIO is a tough one. More than ever before, healthcare CIOs walk a fine line between producing great technical results and thinking strategically about how technology serves clinicians. As with their more junior peers, many healthcare CIOs only get noticed when something breaks or goes offline. Worse, healthcare CIOs may get the blame dumped on them when a big project — especially a mission-critical one like an EMR implementation — fails due to problems beyond their control.

But despite the political battles they must fight, and the punishing demands they must meet, healthcare CIOs are largely satisfied with their career paths — as long as they have a shot at getting more responsibility that can help them move their organization’s strategy forward. This, at least, is the conclusion of a new survey by SSi-SEARCH.

SSi-SEARCH surveyed 169 CIOs to learn how they felt about key aspects of their job, according to iHealthBeat.  All told, the researchers found that CIOs are most satisfied with the trajectory of their career, compensation and strategic involvement. (This is a significant change from a couple of years ago, when CIOs told SSi-SEARCH that their pay wasn’t keeping up with the growth in their responsibilities.)

On the other hand, healthcare CIOs were markedly dissatisfied with the resources available to them, and almost half (48%) said that there will need to be changes within the next year. That’s certainly no surprise. As we’ve noted in this space before, not only do healthcare CIOs need to implement or further augment EMRs and handle the switch from ICD-9 to ICD-10, many need to make costly upgrades to or replace their revenue cycle management systems.

Even if their institution can’t increase their budget, healtlhcare CIOs would be somewhat mollified if they got some respect for some of the softer skills they bring to the table.

Forty-five percent of those surveyed said they wanted recognition for improving patient safety, 44 percent said they wanted to be recognized for innovation, and 37 percent wanted CEOs to appreciate their skill at “bringing departments together,”  SSi-SEARCH found.

Not surprisingly, they want to be appreciated for their overall contributions to their institutions as well. While 69 percent of CIOs felt that their work was “critically important” to the strategic mission of their organization, and 29 percent felt they had been “very important,” some of their employers don’t seem to see it. In fact, 23 percent of those CIOs surveyed felt that they hadn’t been recognized at all.

Sadly, though the healthcare CIO’s job has evolved far from bits and bytes to projects and strategies that directly impact outcomes, not every institution is ready to give them credit. But if they have CIOs pigeonholed as tech wizards, they’d better change their tune.

Giving CIOs the latitude, responsibility and budget they need to do a great job is enormously important. If healthcare organizations don’t, they’ll never meet the demands they currently face, much less emerging problems like population health management, big data and mobile health. This is a make-or-break moment in the dance between healthcare organizations and IT, and it’s not a good time for a misstep.

Healthcare IT Consulting Job Slowdown

Posted on December 1, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

A recent poll on HIStalk, caught my eye. In the poll he asked readers “For health systems: how much IT related consulting will you use in 2015 vs. 2014?” Here’s an image of the responses:
Healthcare IT Consulting

It seems only fair to acknowledge that this wasn’t a deep study. It was an online poll with plenty of potential sample bias. Plus, it only had 107 respondents to the poll. Especially with it being an online poll, I’d have liked to see more respondents. However, it’s worth noting that 50% of those who did respond are planning to use less healthcare IT consulting in 2015. Although, just as surprising is that 14% plan to use more health IT consulting.

This was somewhat expected from my point of view. The consulting market just exploded over the past couple years as hospitals raced to implement an EHR and show meaningful use. As that program has started to mature, there isn’t as much need for consultants. So, it’s no surprise that the government incentivized EHR consulting market would contract back down to a more reasonable market.

That’s not to say that there aren’t still lots of opportunities for EHR consulting still. In fact, I’d argue that the opportunity for EHR consulting has never been bigger. It’s the EHR staff augmentation companies which often dress up as EHR consultants that are likely taking the hit. My feeling is that EHR staff augmentation is way down and EHR consulting is going to continue trending up. All of these hospitals need to start maximizing their EHR investment. That requires a consultant as opposed to more hands on deck for the EHR go-live.

We’re currently seeing this play out on the Healthcare IT Central job board. The type of jobs that are being posted are much more advanced. Plus, we’re seeing a maturing of EHR adoption and that’s shifting towards more full time EHR staff vs consulting.

What are you seeing in the market? Are you using more health IT consultants or fewer? Where do you see the industry headed?

Monday Health IT Potpurri

Posted on August 25, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.


This is a little bit self serving since Dan’s tweet includes a link to my article on EMR and EHR called, “If You Were an EHR, Which Would You Be?” Although, that post was 19 days ago, so it’s fantastic that Dan loved it enough to tweet it again. Plus, I’m sure that hospital readers will love that article. Side Note: Be sure to subscribe to all the other Healthcare Scene blogs here.


This shouldn’t be surprising. ACOs only require basics. Once they start requiring advanced capabilities, then they’ll built them.


Good advice from Cassie on LinkedIn. Good advice for anyone looking for a healthcare IT job is to get brushed up on LinkedIn. Not to mention uploading your health IT resume to Healthcare IT Central.

Hospital EMR and EHR Recruiting

Posted on April 17, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Late last year, I acquired the healthcare IT career website Healthcare IT Central. Since bringing Healthcare IT Central into the Healthcare Scene family, I’ve dove head first into the healthcare IT Recruiting and career space. It’s been quite an adventure with a lot of great learning for me along the way.

What I’ve learned most is that there are some really amazing people working in healthcare IT and some really amazing companies that are trying their best to make healthcare better. There are a lot of screwed up things in healthcare, but the people are generally good people and a real pleasure to work with.

Health IT Job Seekers
If you’re in the job market and looking for a healthcare IT job, take a few minutes to register as a job seeker where you can upload your resume and apply for jobs at some of the top healthcare IT companies. Also, be sure to check out some of these popular job searches:

Of course, you can always do your own health IT job search using the criteria that matter for you. All of this is all free for the job seeker.

Health IT Employers
If you’re a health IT company or a hospital organization looking to hire qualified healthcare IT professionals, you can register and post your jobs as well. We just passed over 20,000 registered job seekers and are getting close to 11,000 active health IT focused resumes.

We also have other options available to employers like eNewsletter sponsorships (almost 16,000 email subscribers), webinars, and resume database access where you can search for specific candidates.

We’re working really hard to be an amazing health IT career resource for both job seekers and employers. If you have any feedback on the site and what we’re doing, we’d love to hear it on our contact us page.

Healthcare Generalists vs. Specialists

Posted on August 7, 2013 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

The good people over at Healthcare IS have put together an interesting slide share discussing whether contractors should be generalists or specialists. You can see the slideshow embedded below:

I especially like the chart on slide 6 which shows the way a hiring manager looks at the skill profile of a possible hire. It makes a solid case for why it’s better for a contractor to specialize in one application as opposed to being a generalist that can work on all the various applications.

Of course, this is a great strategy if you choose an application that sticks around for a long time to come. However, if you’re a specialist on an EHR application that gets sunset, then you’re going to regret putting all of your eggs in one basket.

What does seem to hold true is that people who specialize get paid more. I just wonder if someone can specialize in a certain vertical category as opposed to specializing in a particular software application. If someone becomes an expert at implementing lab software across all the top lab software, that seems to be a different way to specialize, but not put your skills all in one vendors basket.

The other way to diversify your skill set is to focus on two major vendors. This way you still have deep expertise in both software systems, but you still have some diversification in case something goes south for a vendor.

The other thing to consider when thinking about being a generalist or a specialist is that most people enjoy being a generalist a lot more than being a specialist. As they say, “variety is the spice of life.” Certainly, there is a lot more to the decision of generalist vs specialist than just money. Although, I’m certain that every generalist who’s out of work would give up that “spice” for a paycheck.

Do you see this trend in your organizations? Do you want to hire the person who’s most specialized over someone who’s more of a generalist?

Health IT Worker Shortage Worse Than Expected

Posted on March 14, 2013 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare editor and analyst with 25 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

Battered by growing needs and increasing competition, managers hiring for health IT face a worse shortage than previously expected, according to research by PwC.  Because hiring needs are so acute, many healthcare hiring executives are expecting to change strategies for hiring over the next year, the consulting firm reports.

Right now, 75 percent of providers are currently hiring health IT employees, PwC found. But it’s not the same old same old when it comes to recruiting approaches. Over the next year, more than three-quarters of  health execs expect to shift strategies in hiring, thanks to mounting pressures both internal and external.

These pressures are varied. Seventy-nine percent of those surveyed by PwC expect an increase in technology investments in the coming year, 62 percent are worried about the availability of needed skills, and 51 percent are threatened by the speed of technology change, PwC’s research found.

Meanwhile, it’s not just competition with other providers that has healthcare CIOs worried. According to PwC, they face health IT labor competition from drug and device companies, HIT vendors and health insurance firms as well.

When it comes to skills, providers said clinical informatics was most important in meeting their goals. But they’re willing to compromise, and are increasingly borrowing IT specialists from other industries to meet their hiring needs.

To gain an advantage in health IT hiring, employers must pull off a neat trick, the building of their reputation as a place to work, PwC advises. Researchers note that providers who build their IT identity and brand will be in the best position to hire, manage and most of all keep key health IT workers on board.

Health Management Associates Makes System-Wide Deal With athenahealth

Posted on September 21, 2012 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare editor and analyst with 25 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

Cloud-based EMR vendor Athenahealth has struck a deal with hospital chain Health Management Associates that its vendor competitors would die for.

HMA has signed an agreement with athena under which the chain’s 1200+ employed physicians — cutting across 15 states and 300 locations — will now use the vendor’s practice management, EMR and patient communication services. HMA’s 10,000-odd independent physicians will also have access to the systems.

In the announcement, HMA and athena took pains to emphasize that the selection process was a fair and thorough one:

Health Management selected athenahealth after a twelve-month review and due diligence process that involved more than 350 clinical experts, including more than 200 physicians. The evaluation process included detailed questionnaires, onsite and virtual demonstrations, site visits, and clinical template shootouts.

Perhaps those details were included to convince observers that the deal didn’t include some kind of payola. I don’t think doctors are going to be too impressed by the IT talk. (If it were me I’d care about only one demonstration — how it worked for me on Day One.)

HMA may not be the country’s largest hospital chain, but it’s still a heavyweight, operating 66 hospitals spanning 10,330 licensed beds. Its hospitals span Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, and West Virginia.

Particularly given its scale, this deal intrigues me for a few reasons. It raises what seem to me to be important questions:

* Is HMA expecting its independent physicians to dump whatever EMR they may already have in place and switch it out for athena?  Or adopt its practice management module instead of what they use now?  That seems, uh, a bit unrealistic?

* I don’t know what enterprise EMR system HMA uses (do you, readers?) but whatever it is, I doubt it will plug seamlessly into to the athena cloud.  How do the IT types at HMA plan to connect the whole schlemiel?

* If the independent physicians don’t want to adopt the athena package, what will HMA do? Club them like baby seals?  Or just accept that a large percentage of its docs aren’t connected?

Healthcare Pros Learning IT

Posted on September 12, 2012 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Ever since I wrote my post about the Old Boys Club of Healthcare IT, I’ve been meaning to write a follow up piece about healthcare pros learning IT. In fact, many of the following comments came from or were inspired by discussion with Tom Roberts. So, let’s give him credit where credit is due.

The discussion of whether to only hire someone with healthcare experience and no IT experience versus someone with IT experience and no healthcare experience is a complicated one. Let me provide some quotes that will hopefully cause some hospital CIO’s and other senior level IT management to pause and think about their hiring choice.

First a few quotes that could apply to the idea of being multi-disciplinary:

“One thing we know about creativity is that it typically occurs when people who have mastered two or more quite different fields use the framework in one to think afresh about the other.”
— Marc Tucker, pres. National Center on Education and Economy

“We begin where others leave off” George Szell

I think one thing that’s generally been missing from healthcare IT has been people with an outside framework that can apply afresh that framework to healthcare. It’s amazing what fresh eyes can do to help find creative solutions. Funny thing is that in hindsight they don’t seem that creative, but we’re so blinded by tradition that we can’t see even simple creativity.

This next story is one that will strike many at the heart.

I know of an RN who had quite a bit of IT background that was working for one of the early adopter hospitals. One day he put a set of scrubs on his managers desk. When the manager asked what they were for he said ‘ I thought you might want to give them to one of your IT guys and we’ll give him an assignment on the floor today. The manager said ‘what? Are you crazy’ ? To which he replied ‘ well you just gave IT analyst positions to some RNs here!’

The reality is that learning has to take place in both directions. Someone who can cross the chasm is unique, but it is doable and will be needed in the future. Instead of only hiring those with healthcare experience or only those with healthcare and IT experience, we should consider creating processes that allow you to hire either side of the chasm and provide a bridge for those people to learn both sides.

Hospitals Adjusting to Meaningful Use Stage 2 Rules

Posted on August 30, 2012 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare editor and analyst with 25 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

We knew the final draft of Meaningful Use Stage 2 was going to come with as many complaints against it as Stage 1. Given the scope of the new rules, and the importance of following them, hospitals don’t seem to be up at arms to the extent one might have expected.

To start with, it’s worth noting that hospitals are very happy about one change from the draft, the provision that requires Stage 2 compliance to begin in 2014 rather than 2013, though they still have some significant Meaningful Use worries, according to an AHA official quoted in Modern Healthcare. Presumably, the AHA is also psyched that providers will only be required to demonstrate MU for a three month period in 2014, rather than an entire year.

But that doesn’t mean they’re perfectly content. Senior vice president of public policy analysis and development Linda Fishman said in a statement that hospitals are “disappointed” that the rule sets an “unrealistic” date by which hospitals must meet Stage 1 goals in order to  avoid being slapped with reimbursement penalties.

Other provider groups are focused on a new provision requiring 5 percent of patients to view, download or transmit health information during a three month period. The College of Healthcare Management Executives’ noted, quite fairly, that providers can’t control what patients do on their own time. If nothing else, making sure patients meet these goals is going to take marketing, workflow changes and some arm-twisting, to say the least, so I feel their pain.

Meanwhile, some non-hospital groups think Stage 2 didn’t go far enough. The requirement that physicians submit an electronic summary of care docs for 10 percent of patients being transferred to a hospital or another provider does far too little to promote data exchange, critics in the HIE world say.

I too am surprised that HIE-type requirements are relatively light (and focused on Direct Project specs). I’m sure that Meaningful Use Stage 3 will address these issues further, but given what our guy Farzad has said about interoperability, it might have been nice to see more progress now.

CMS Now Auditing Meaningful Use Documentation

Posted on August 15, 2012 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare editor and analyst with 25 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

It’s been a while since our beloved Recovery Audit Contractors (RAC) were on the front page of the trades every day, but they’re far from gone.  In fact, CMS has started to get aggressive in a few new ways, according to the Fox Group:

  • Meaningful Use Attestation Audits:  So you’ve collected EMR data, you’ve attested, and you’re waiting for your check. All is well, right?  Not necessarily. CMS has begun requesting documentation from providers that supports  the attestation, largely data from your EMR but also possibly info from internal audits you’ve conducted to see that you’re meeting objectives.  This is big stuff; if you fail your audit by CMS, there goes your money. And in the future, if you fail multiple audits, you could be seen as submitting false claims. Mega-ouch.
  •  MACs Look At Documentation:  Medicare Administrative Contractors (MACs) have been auditing medical records for years to make sure documentation supports the services billed. Now, they’re going to start looking at “auto-generated data” produced by EMR medical record documentation systems.  If the auto-documentation looks “cookie-cutter” and possibly out of line for some specific patients, providers could be in trouble.

And if you somehow get entangled with a RAC investigation, don’t count on carefully-spelled-out EMR documentation to save you. According to a recent study by the American Hospital Association, 77 percent of claims denied by RACs were restored upon appeal, suggesting that most of the time, claims targeted by the RACs weren’t bad to begin with. In other words, I think it’s fair to say that they’re out for blood, so prepare yourself.

An internal audit of your documentation can work wonders, Fox Group suggests. And keep an eye out for copy-and-paste documentation across bunches of patients; it’s gone from questionable to perilous.