Outside of healthcare, very few people understand what a CMIO does. Usually when I meet new people I explain that I’m a doctor, but I work in the information technology world. If I get a totally blank stare, I might go on to say I work on the electronic records systems that hospitals and physician offices use.
Some will ask why I’d want to give up the money and excitement of being a physician. I suspect they don’t have any idea of what being a primary care physician actually looks like. Occasionally someone will ask me if I can help them with some home networking problem, which I find pretty funny that people assume that everyone “in IT” knows how to do desktop and network support.
Inside the hospital, I’m not sure that many physicians actually understand what we do either. They know we’re the people to call when they have complaints and that we’re usually the figurehead telling them they have to do something for Meaningful Use or CMS audit purposes. Physicians may not understand the role we play as their advocate or the depth of the battles that we fight on their behalf.
I’m not sure our role is always fully understood by the IT teams either. Some analysts think we’re just super-nerdy physicians or that we had to leave full time practice for some reason. Others are afraid that having a physician on the team means that we’re going to try to call the shots or be the boss all the time. Frankly there are some days that I’m not even sure what I do. Teams work more effectively when they understand where the various members are coming from. In that spirit, here’s a week in the life of a CMIO.
I started Monday with a half-day of teach-back training for a couple of our new implementation team members. Our organization is a stickler for making sure that training is consistent and reproducible so that no one can complain that he or she didn’t have every opportunity to learn the material. As part of that process, I deliver train-the-trainer sessions for the team.
Some of our team members come from non-clinical backgrounds. It’s important that they understand the training scenarios and clinical pearls we incorporate for our end users. Having that knowledge helps them build credibility and trust with the end users. They’ll also shadow other members of the training team so they can see various presentation styles before it’s time for them to start deliver their own sessions independently.
Over lunch, I returned a couple of phone calls from cranky colleagues who don’t understand why we won’t customize the system for their individual needs. Although our EHR is template-rich, it lacks content for some of our subspecialty physicians. They all have access to voice recognition so they can dictate narrative as part of their notes, but some are insistent on wanting click-the-box type templates.
From experience, we can build them whatever they ask for and they still won’t like it, so our bent has been to steer them to using dictation, but creating macros and templates to make it even faster. One of them agreed to try our standard approach but the other was more skeptical, so I convinced him to shadow one of his colleagues and see how well it can work. I’m cautiously optimistic.
The afternoon was filled with a mountain of email that had built up from taking Friday off. I make it a habit to not work on the weekends unless it’s an upgrade situation or a critical outage. I hope setting that example for our team means something, but I still see entirely too much correspondence originating during the off hours. Maybe it’s time for another work-life balance discussion with a couple of them.
Tuesday began early with the hospital credentialing committee, which is always somewhat of a snoozer. I appreciate the need to have medical staff committees, but they can be pretty dry. In a world where I preach the gospel of working to the top of the license, it’s hard to justify having 10 physicians sit in a room and make decisions that would be quite amenable to the committee equivalent of a refill algorithm or a standing order.
After that, I had a meeting with one of our physicians who is interested in our open associate medical director of informatics positions. He’s qualified, but reluctant to give up any of his current duties to make it a reality. Somehow he thinks he can just fit it in, and that’s not going to be the case. I keep trying to explain that we’re not going to put someone in a position where they’re destined to fail, but he isn’t getting the message. I’d really like to add him to the team, but you can’t just squeeze 16 hours a week of informatics work in between patient appointments.
I met in the afternoon with our project team to run through the presentation we’d be doing for our bi-monthly steering committee meeting on Wednesday. The budget numbers looked a little funny, so we had to dig into the reports and the time-tracking system, which is never fun. It turned out to be some operating expenditures that should have been capitalized, but it took forever to find the discrepancy.
In between meetings, there is a steady stream of email, requests to visit practices, and occasionally help desk tickets that providers want escalated directly to “a real doctor who will understand.” Most of the time those end up being user error or training issues, but they take a lot of time to explain, reassure, and arrange for retraining when needed.
Wednesday can only be described as Meet-a-Palooza. We started with the steering committee. One of our hospital VPs must be reading some kind of leadership book because he was all over asking hard questions just for the sake of asking hard questions. Although no one of them stumped us, it drives me crazy when people use meetings to try to make a name for themselves. Following that was our regular project leadership team meeting, followed by an implementation team meeting, which I usually sit in on so I can stay on top of any practices that are having difficulty with EHR.
I hid in my office with the door closed during lunch because one of our junior analysts has decided he wants to go to medical school and is driving me crazy. I think he’s watched too many episodes of “Grey’s Anatomy” and his expectations are completely unrealistic, but he’s persistent. Unfortunately he didn’t like biology or chemistry in school, and although he has a masters in health information management, his undergraduate major was political science. He’s not willing to concede that he’ll have to go back and take all the science 101 classes, so until he does, I’m avoiding him.
The afternoon’s scintillating meetings included: monthly clinical quality measures review; MU status review; new provider on-boarding; and a red-hot discussion of whether or not we should pay our providers to attend training (we don’t, but they always ask us to).
Thursday is my work from home day, which is the only day I can get anything done. I had a couple of presentations to prep – one on change leadership that I’m submitting to present at a conference, the other for a local residency program on the business of healthcare. I was able to get them mostly done, but I like to let them rest for a week or so then revise, so I’ll be back at them again. In the afternoon I worked on performance reviews. Although I don’t have any direct reports, our organization believes in a 360-degree evaluation, so I end up doing reviews of most of the implementation team and support analysts. I can only do a couple at a time before my brain shuts off, so I punctuated them with some gardening, which was pretty therapeutic.
Friday I met with our testing coordinator to review the test plan for a new specialty we’re bringing up. She’s going on maternity leave soon and I suspect she won’t be coming back, so we’ve been spending time making sure we document the process we use to evaluate new content, build scripts, and ultimately test new content. Although that will make on-boarding her replacement easier, I hate to see her go. We’ve had too much turnover in that position and I’d like to find someone who will stay for the duration.
Next it was on to our monthly ICD-10 update for senior leadership. The delay has taken the wind out of our sails. I wish someone would just cancel the meeting for a couple of months and then we can pick it up full steam, but instead it languishes on the calendar and doesn’t have a real purpose. It’s not my meeting, though, so all I can do is suggest a different path, and when we run out of agenda items, be the one to recommend we adjourn early.
Friday afternoon I came full circle with the implementation team, this time being the student instead of the teacher. I have to say I was impressed with how quickly they were able to pick up the material and how well they did. We cleared them both to go out into the field and work with seasoned trainers. They’ll initially just shadow and assist with the hands-on portions, but over the next month they’ll start teaching parts of the new employee sessions until they’re eventually teaching the entire course with another trainer as backup. By mid-June they’ll be out of the nest and on their own.
I always end Friday by looking over my calendar for the next two weeks. It gives me an idea what I need to focus on for the coming week and lets me see any conflicts or major issues in the one that follows. Sometimes our administrative assistants get a little cavalier with our schedules, so if we want to be able to breathe or eat during the day, it pays to be proactive. I realize they’re trying to squeeze every minute out of the day and respect what they do, but ultimately I’m the one who looks bad when I’m absent or late due to an overcommitted schedule.
Some weeks are different, but many are the same but with just different meetings and different cranky colleagues. When we’re close to a major upgrade, it looks completely different, with much more focus on the new version but with all the same standing meetings continuing. It can be quite the juggling act at times. Nevertheless, I enjoy doing what I do. But sometimes it’s just easier to be “the doctor who works in IT.”
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