The distinct evolution of the CIO role

A CMIO discusses the way the evolution of the CIO role is positively affecting patients. 

Jeffrey Hoffman, MD, serves as the chief medical information officer at Columbus, Ohio-based Nationwide Children's Hospital and as a clinical associate professor of pediatrics and chief of the division of clinical informatics at the Columbus-based Ohio State University College of Medicine. 

Dr. Hoffman will serve on the panel "Mapping the Patient Journey: Technology to Help Boost Patient Care and Diagnostics" at Becker's 7th Annual Health IT + Revenue Cycle Conference. As part of an ongoing series, Becker's is talking to healthcare leaders who plan to speak at the conference, which will take place Oct. 4-7 in Chicago. 

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Question: What are you most excited about right now?

Dr. Jeffrey Hoffman: For many years, "personalized medicine" has been an industry buzzword, holding out the promise of transforming how we detect and treat disease, identifying and mitigating risks to patient safety, streamlining healthcare operations, and reshaping the care experience for both patients and providers. Recent progress in advanced analytics and machine learning has finally begun to deliver on that promise and open the door to a new and incredibly exciting era of medicine. At the same time, the electronic health record is quickly maturing from a mere replacement for pen and paper to a care management platform focused on each patient's unique circumstances and needs. Over my 15-year career as a physician informaticist and almost a decade as a CMIO, I have never before been more excited by what lies ahead. I have no doubt that years from now, we will look back at this time as the cusp between the medicine of the "past" and the medicine of the "future."

Q: What challenges do you anticipate over the next two years?

JH: In the near term, many current challenges still exist. Transitioning from fee-for-service to value-based care, closing the sometimes cavernous gaps in health equity, balancing innovation with safety, and solving the burnout crisis among healthcare providers remain to be tackled. At the same time, new opportunities are emerging at breakneck speed: telehealth and remote patient monitoring, hospital-at-home programs, and genomic-powered precision medicine, to name a few. I believe the greatest challenge is to find meaningful yet practical ways to address our existing challenges while, at the same time, not allowing these new opportunities to pass us by. Meeting this challenge will require renewed focus and a willingness to invest, not just in technology but also in our workforce.

Q: Where are the best opportunities for disruption in healthcare today?

JH: We have come a long way in achieving greater interoperability between systems, devices, and applications in the past few years. However, the goal of universal interoperability is still a dream. Our complex patchwork of standards, platforms and networks often fails to provide healthcare providers the information they need to care for patients in an organized and coherent way, burdening them with the task of sifting through a sea of data. Ultimately, the patient suffers when key information about their care is missing or obscured. Though perhaps not the easiest, I think the most impactful opportunity for healthcare disruption today would be finding a reliable and cost-effective way to solve this modern "Tower of Babel" problem. Now that would be a killer product!

Q: How is your role as CIO evolving? How are IT teams changing?

JH: Although I am not a CIO, I have noticed a distinct evolution over the past few years. There was already a shift underway even before the COVID-19 pandemic created a sudden critical need for effective data collection and visualization tools, data interoperability between health systems, and more options for remote care delivery. In the past, the primary role of a CMIO was to implement and maintain EHRs and other clinical systems while achieving meaningful adoption among providers. Now, after generally meeting those goals, CMIOs and their CIO colleagues are being called upon as thought leaders and strategic partners for organizations trying to navigate the ever-evolving landscape of health information technology in support of precision medicine, population health programs, and remote medicine. This, coupled with the strong desire to reduce health disparities and relieve pressures contributing to provider burnout, will keep me and my counterparts quite busy in the years ahead.

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