For most of his 20-year career running information technology systems for hospitals and health systems, Edward Martinez was just “the computer guy” to his C-suite colleagues. He reported either to a chief operating officer or a chief financial officer and was rarely invited to weigh in on big-picture matters.
But now Martinez, who has been senior vice president and chief information officer of Miami Children's Health System for seven years, reports only to CEO Dr. M. Narendra Kini and is involved in “just about every” aspect of the organization, from expansion plans to population health initiatives.
Being the computer guy has become a much bigger job, with significantly more influence and responsibility.
“I'm now sitting in (the boardroom) because IT has become the center of all business,” Martinez said. “Today there isn't an element in a hospital environment that isn't controlled by some IT. That puts (me) at the forefront of at least being asked, 'Ed, what do you think?' ”
Kini said he and Martinez are “linked at the hip.” They text and talk multiple times a day, every day, about all areas of the business.
This isn't unusual. As in other industries, CIOs in healthcare are becoming key advisers to the CEO and important figures in board meetings, a dramatic shift from less than a decade ago. The change reflects the sprawling role technology now plays in the overall operational and strategic viability of hospitals and health systems.
The increasingly complex organizations now rely on electronic health records, data and analytics to track and improve the quality and safety metrics they will need if they want to thrive under new reimbursement models like bundled payments and accountable care. They also depend on their IT prowess to offer patients new ways to interact with clinicians, such as telehealth and remote patient monitoring.
“It's all so integrated, so it really takes a CIO who is tuned into the whole executive suite,” said Jim Cavanagh, a former CIO who's now a healthcare IT consultant at Comport. Cavanagh says the best CIOs know the financial, operational, clinical and strategic goals of the organization so they can implement and invest in technology the system needs and can afford.
At Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital in Valencia, Calif., where Cindy Peterson has been CIO for 14 years, CEO Roger Seaver meets with Peterson one-on-one twice a month to discuss the IT department's current assignments and future projects. The hospital is in the thick of updating its Meditech EHR system to a newer version.