Information systems and data management are now strategic elements of a healthcare organization, not just the wiring and plumbing. They're crucial to the goals of reorganizing and squeezing productivity from operations.
But to achieve that, information technology has to serve its users well. If a beautifully constructed and state-of-the-art system ends up fitting into the workday of healthcare professionals like a square peg in a round hole, it's worse than useless.
That increases the importance of knowing how the operations of healthcare work. "Clearly, understanding the business of healthcare is becoming increasingly important, and in some cases knowledgeable CIOs have evolved into that role," says Linda Hodges, who sees such trends up close as an executive recruiter at Hersher Associates, Northbrook, Ill.
Many chief information officers from the traditional technology career path do just fine because they're intelligent enough to gain an awareness of the new business priorities, Hodges says. But domain knowledge is becoming so important that some CIOs are making an impact coming from medical or financial backgrounds. This bucks the tradition of having a technical IT professional in charge.
To illustrate that impact, Eye on Info has profiled five CIOs with basically only one thing in common: They come from a non-IT background but have ended up in charge of all IT operations.
"Obviously you don't go from being a nurse to being a CIO overnight," Hodges says. There's definitely a maturing process involved, a blurring and blending of the two career disciplines into a new management profile that includes the best of both.
The following stories offer some variations on that profile.