Healthcare CIOs: Are you ready to take a seat at the leadership table?

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Editor's note: This is part 2 in a two-part interview with Russell Branzell, CEO of Fort Collins, Colo.-based Colorado Health Medical Group and new CEO of the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME). In part 1 of the exclusive interview, conducted during the CHIME CIO Forum during the annual meeting of the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society conference in New Orleans, Branzell discussed the core competencies required of healthcare CIOs.

In this exclusive interview Branzell talks about the CIO's role in the leadership of healthcare organizations and how health IT professionals can advance their executive careers, work with other members of the executive team, and prepare for the massive changes that healthcare reform and other initiatives will bring. 

FierceHealthIT: What are the challenges for CIOs when it comes to working with CEOs and other members of the leadership team?

Branzell: Every organization has its own ecosystem. And each one is unique in how it looks at the CIO. In my organization, I came in 10 years ago as the CIO but I've also been the VP of HR, I've been the president of a for-profit company, I ran the medical group for two years, I've run big construction projects. I was seen as a healthcare leader that happened to be responsible for IT. Sometimes people get pigeon-holed, especially people who grew up in an organization over a long period of time. They were the people that were always there in the basement, they were the tech people, they ran the old data processing unit, the IT. When they get to a certain point, that's the only way they're seen.

FHIT: And what would you say to CEOs about that dynamic?

Branzell: When that CIO leaves and the organization's leaders begin the recruitment process, they realize what they really want in a CIO is a person who is helping drive organizational change in money savings, quality improvement and safety improvement. And you had that person--they just left. The irony is they got hired by another organization to do that. Why didn't you promote them? Why didn't you get them to that level?