The average income for chief information officers in 1995 was approximately $110,000, according to surveys conducted by two professional associations for healthcare information specialists.
The level of education and years of experience logged by CIOs appeared to have little influence on salary level in most cases. What made the difference was the size of an organization's work force, facilities and budget.
And the budgets controlled by CIOs are rising fast, both in total allocation of dollars and percentage of the total hospital budget devoted to information systems, according to the survey results.
The data on executive-level information officers came from the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives, known as CHIME, and the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, or HIMSS, in surveys conducted independently in 1995.
In the CHIME survey, which sought a "statistical profile" of healthcare CIOs, the average base salary was $97,000, up from $91,600 in a previous survey conducted in 1992.
Half the approximately 300 respondents said they also received bonuses, which averaged $14,400-up from $10,400 in 1992. About 80% of the bonuses in 1995 were part of an incentive compensation plan. The combination of base salary and bonuses added up to an average $111,000 in total compensation.
In the HIMSS survey, which asked for total annual gross income, the average for 139 CIO-level respondents was $108,200. The survey attracted nearly 1,000 responses from HIMSS' wider membership, which also includes other senior managers, department heads and staff positions related to information, management engineering and telecommunication services.
The CIO income average reported by HIMSS probably is understated for several reasons, said Richard Howe, executive director for Superior Consultant Co. in Cincinnati and president-elect of HIMSS.
In the survey, respondents are allowed to determine their own station in healthcare, and some are apt to describe themselves as CIOs even though their responsibilities correlate more to those of an information systems director or department head, Howe said. Most directors are now making approximately the income ascribed to the CIO level, he said.
The average also was affected by job opportunities of those new to healthcare information services. "A lot of new CIOs coming into the field are going into small organizations," said Howe.
And organization size was the determinant factor in income level, according to both surveys.
"If you're at a 60-bed hospital, you're not going to make a lot of money," Howe said. "The big salaries are going to the big shops."
In the HIMSS survey, income showed a steady progression according to the total annual budget of a CIO's organization and the number of employees supervised (See charts).
In the CHIME survey, compensation rose progressively according to the size of a hospital organization as measured by number of beds. Starting at about $70,000 in salary and bonuses for an institution of fewer than 200 beds, the compensation figure doubled to $140,000 for an organization of 1,000 beds or more.
The respondent profile in the CHIME survey was tilted heavily toward large organizations, with a median of 473 beds per responding organization and an average of 832 beds. Half the responding CIOs were from institutions of 500 beds or more, while 23% worked for organizations of fewer than 300 beds.
Part of the reason is that fewer small hospitals designate a CIO-level position, and the number of smaller hospitals is dwindling as they're increasingly merged into larger, multiple-facility organizations, said Richard Correll, CHIME president. Most CIO positions are at the higher end of organizational size, Correll said.
According to the CHIME respondents, CIOs are getting a bigger slice of organizations' expenditures. In 1995, information systems budgets climbed to 4.5% of their total hospital budgets, a leap from 2.7% in 1992.
The average CIO in 1995 controlled a $7.2 million budget, a 26% increase from $5.7 million in 1992. And the increases are expected to accelerate. For 1996 alone, CIOs forecast a 13% rise in their budgets to an average $8.1 million.
Size of operation overshadowed other standard considerations in setting compensation levels. In the HIMSS survey, CIOs without a college degree averaged $114,000, significantly higher than the group average, while those with a bachelor's degree averaged $100,000 and CIOs with a master's degree averaged $107,000.
The comparisons were hampered by the sample's small size and wide swings in compensation within categories. Of the 139 CIOs responding, only 11 CIOs reported having no degree, and total income within that category ranged from $37,500 to more than $220,000. CIOs with a doctoral degree, medical or otherwise, averaged $157,000, but there were only eight in the category.
The HIMSS respondents were more evenly spread among six categories of income according to work experience in positions with the same or similar responsibilities as their current position.
Results showed that CIOs with less than two years' experience averaged $104,000, just $4,000 less than the group average.
Income increased to $110,700 for two to four years' experience, fell to $105,700 for five to nine years, and increased to $114,300 for 10 to 14 years.
But for 15 to 19 years' experience, the average fell to $96,000. CIOs with 20 or more years' experience averaged $111,600.
Once again, the dip in average income at the higher end of experience may have more to do with the size of the CIO's operation than with a lack of appreciation for years on the job, Howe said.
Information executives at smaller, nonurban institutions may reach an income limit after many years of experience, but their contentment with the job keeps them from moving to a larger organization, he said.
No matter where the CIOs drop anchor, they identify attributes for success that have little to do with educational credentials or technical competence.
In the latest CHIME survey, as well as in previous surveys in 1992 and 1989, the top three attributes identified as needed for success were leadership ability, vision and imagination, and business acumen.
Leadership was mentioned by 85% of respondents in the 1995 survey. Vision and imagination was next at 75%, and business acumen registered 52%. Only 16% said their record of success was important to their future success.
Technical competence was cited by 10%, and not a single CIO mentioned educational credentials as a key to success.
Correll said the priorities reflect a growing awareness by CIOs that their role is to understand what their hospitals' business needs are, not to steep themselves in the specifics of hospital information systems and other technical details.
PERCENTAGE AT EACH SALARY RANGE BY ORGANIZATION SIZE
Measured by number of beds
Fewer than 200 200 to 299 300 to 399 400 to 499 500 to 999 1,000 or more
Less than $50,000 21% 12% 0% 3% 0% 0% $50,000 to $69,000 43 21 23 11 8 2 $70,000 to $89,000 18 38 40 40 31 10 $90,000 to $109,000 4 12 33 37 31 20 $110,000 to $119,000 7 0 0 3 5 15 More than $119,000 7 18 5 6 25 53 Note: Due to rounding, percentages may not add up to 100.
Source: The Healthcare CIO, Statistical Profile-1987 to 1995
TOTAL INCOME BY ORGANIZATION BUDGET
Budget Salary average
Less than $50 million $71,154
$51 million to $100 million 89,167
$101 million to $150 million 92,125
$151 million to $200 million 101,190 More than $200 million 128,672
Total income by employees supervised Number supervised Salary average
1 to 5 56,250
6 to 10 72,500
11 to 25 85,000
26 to 50 96,838
51 to 100 118,095
More than 100 136,797
Source: 1995-96 HIMSS compensation survey