Do CMIOs have an identity complex?

March 16, 2015 in Medical Technology

]]>A relative newcomer to the C-suite, the chief medical information officer role continues to redefine itself.  At the onset of meaningful use, one frustrated CMIO captured the anxiety of this new role when he referred to himself as the “chief apology officer.”

As the industry moved forward and began to look past the implementation of the electronic health record, CMIOs looked nervously at the horizon and questioned the permanence of the role. Now, we see a role that is becoming a trusted healthcare executive with a solid understanding of the transformative powers of technology as well as front line patient care and workflow. What could possibly go wrong?

This question was behind the latest SSi-SEARCH study, or rather, what can be done to keep things moving on a positive track. The retained, executive search firm continues to track and monitor the evolution of this role since the firm was launched, nearly ten years ago.  Since the average tenure for a CMIO is 4.5 years, the firm established an early vanguard from which to see the potential value of the role.  That vantage point is continuously augmented with research into the role.

[See also: Can CIOs keep up with pace of change?]

This year’s survey, conducted in mid-2014, had 235 respondents who claimed the responsibilities of a CMIO, with 169 of them holding the actual title.

The picture of a ‘typical’ CMIO emerged as follows:

  • Male (87 percent)
  • Average tenure 4.5 yrs
  • 40 percent hold a master’s degree;
  • 100 percent hold an MD/DO;
  • Practices medicine one day per week or less
  • Earned $320,000 on last year’s W-2

The SSi-SEARCH annual CMIO study is not a compensation survey, though compensation is a key factor in the overall evolution of the role. We explore compensation (most recent W-2) from various perspectives, including tenure (experience in the role), level of education, and the practice of medicine.  Finally, we also looked at the role gender may play.

Compensation in terms of gender:

  • Women CMIO respondents reported an average 2013 W-2 of $268,600;
  • Men CMIO respondents reported $330,600, 23 percent more than women;
  • Men 17 percent more likely to hold a graduate degree.

Overall, compensation was not significantly impacted by a Masters Degree: CMIOs with a graduate degree reported an average W-2 of $323,300, slightly less than those without a graduate degree, who averaged $324,300.

SSi-SEARCH ‘gut-checked’ this finding with industry veterans, including CMIOs, who were not that surprised. In very general terms, those CMIOs with fewer degrees were likely those who had entered the CMIO role earlier, and had a longer professional track behind them. The data seems to support this.

[See also: CIO: No longer just ‘the IT guy’.]

CMIO compensation was most impacted by tenure:

How could the role be strengthened? First, greater diversity:

second, certification in clinical informatics can add structure to the role.

The new sub-specialty board certification in clinical informatics has met with a positive response.

  • 28 percent of respondents say they have taken the exam and are board certified.
  • 19 percent are currently studying to become certified.
  • 29 percent say they are interested in becoming certified. 

If all respondents follow through on their plans, then 75 percent of all CMIOs would be board certified within a short period of time. Board certification can provide structure and sets another baseline for qualification of young and future CMIOs. 

Does it help to continue to practice medicine?

In terms of how much a CMIO practices medicine, a full third (36 percent) say they do not practice at all, while a quarter (25 percent) say they practice between a half and a full day per week. Only 8 percent of the CMIO respondents said they practice half or more of their time.

Next in this series derived for SSi-SEARCH surveys: Are CMIOs Strategically Aligned?

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