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CHIME recruiting more candidates for CHCIO credential

Thirty-five CIOs constitute the inaugural class of Certified Healthcare CIOs. Such certification recognizes the unique mission of the health care CIO, recipients say.

The College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) has conferred its Certified Healthcare CIO credential on 35 CIOs since last July, when CHCIO certification was first offered. In a Feb. 4 webinar, CHIME outlined the case for more to join its CHCIO ranks, as it is the only health care-specific CIO certification currently available.

The requirements include a bachelor’s degree, CHIME membership, and three years’ experience (in the last six years) in a CIO or equivalent position. Candidates must pass a peer-reviewed, 125-question test and earn 25 continuing education units. Certification is good for three years; recertification includes collecting 45 more CEUs.

For CIOs who meet all but the experience requirement, CHIME issues the “CHCIO-Eligible” credential, which becomes the CHCIO credential when they have acquired the three years’ experience too. Eight health care CIOs currently are CHCIO-Eligible, according to CHIME.

There may be personal competitive benefits for health care CIOs earning the certification, such as compensation entitlements and resumé-polishing, Russell Branzell, CIO and vice president of Poudre Valley Health System, in Fort Collins, Colo., told But he said he feels there are bigger things going on. As thought leaders in health IT, CHCIOs help shape the national health care IT agenda, as well as improve patient care through sharing their technology implementation successes with their peers.

Half of hospitals have CMIOs

The role of chief medical information officer (CMIO) continues to evolve, according to a College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) survey conducted late last year.

Only half of the members of CHIME who responded to the survey indicated that their facility has a formal CMIO, but hospitals are tapping physicians as de facto CMIOs who serve as champions for new technologies and evangelize to their peers. That’s key to getting physician buy-in for new systems.

Hospitals define CMIO roles differently and assign them to different levels of the corporate depth chart, Suzy Marzano, director of education at CHIME, said in an email.

“Some hospitals don’t even have a CMIO,” Marzano said. “Some CMIOs report to the CIO, and some report to the CMO or CEO … and one clear component that emerged is that the CIO and CMIO relationship is important.” -- D.F.

Donna Roach, CIO and vice president of IT at Bronson Healthcare Group in Kalamazoo, Mich., agreed. “It recognizes the credibility of the CIO in the C-suite,” she said during the webinar. “As more CIOs are being part of that executive suite, I think it’s important to have that kind of camaraderie with the other execs that are there.”

The CHIME certification steering committee began its work in 2008 with a job-analysis study to determine the role and responsibilities of the typical health care CIO, George McCulloch, associate director and deputy CIO at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, in Nashville, Tenn., said during the webinar. From that, CHIME identified the specific knowledge and skill set needed for health care CIOs to succeed, and hardwired them into the CHCIO exam’s 100 multiple-choice and 25 scenario-based questions.

The training helps hospital CIOs understand how they are different from their peers in other fields, Branzell said, and make sense of their decisions, be those in the realm of patient care, data management, regulatory compliance or all three. For instance, the part of the exam that covers the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act focuses on the health care CIO’s job of protecting patient health care information.

“It’s not just desktops and other things that are commodities, like it is out there in generic IT-land; this is clinical systems adoption and things unique to that,” Branzell said about the competencies required of a health care CIO beyond what might be required of a typical Fortune 500 CIO. “Sometimes, you make IT decisions in health care that make very little sense relative to traditional IT or financial outcomes, because your No. 1 goal is patient care. Sometimes we make what other industries would consider poor business decisions, but they’re great patient-care and patient-safety decisions.”

The next CHCIO exam is Feb. 27 at the CHIME/HIMSS CIO Forum in Atlanta.

Let us know what you think about the story; email Don Fluckinger, Features Writer.

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