Carefx (Scottsdale, Arizona), whose Fusionfx solution suite aggregates patient information across existing systems and offers clinicians single, clinically relevant views of patient information, has released the second in a series of white papers documenting the increasing involvement of healthcare chief information officers (CIOs) and chief medical information officers (CMIOs) in operations and physician engagement and decisions to initiate, postpone or cut IT projects.

"Carefx is proud to have an ongoing role in facilitating dialogue among CIOs and CMIOs who increasingly function as strategists, visionaries and operations executives." said Chairman/CEO Andrew Hurd. "The second Carefx white paper shines a light on professionals who are enthusiastic about newly available IT stimulus funds, but who still face tough financial decisions on IT investments and projects."

The Changing Role of the Healthcare CIO: Expanded Responsibilities in an Era of Economic Constraints was introduced at the early-April annual meeting of the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS; Chicago) and was complemented by a live CIO/CMIO roundtable where healthcare CIOs and CMIOs shared insights on issues such as data retrieval, shifting roles and business and IT plan integration.

These hospital leaders agreed that their ever-expanding roles increasingly involve a great deal of strategic thinking and planning. They also said that they spend much of their time working with clinicians to figure out ways to better utilize the data the organization collects. Said one, "We have spent the last five years figuring out how to get data into clinical apps, and now we need to figure out how to get the info out."

Also, many said that interoperability should be viewed as providing more constituents with better access to data, rather than simply moving the data around.

The newly released white paper notes that healthcare IT typically involves a significant investment of dollars but comes without a quick turnaround. CIOs and CMIOs have an obligation to "avoid the short-sightedness of cutting projects on the front end without significant backend return," which means "heavier scrutiny of capital investments, greater attention to efficiencies and review of the patient's ability to pay as increases in bad debt and self-paying patients are matched by a dip in volume and a decline in discretionary diagnostics."

Participants in the white paper include David Hotchkiss, director of academic technology services, University of Texas Health Science Center (San Antonio); Lynn Witherspoon, MD, systems vice president and CMIO, Ochsner Health System (New Orleans); Benoit Long, chief information and marketing officer, Trillium Health Centre (Mississauga, Ontario); Tom Martin, senior vice president for strategic and support services and CIO, Evergreen Healthcare (Kirkland, Washington); and Ken Lawonn, senior vice president/CIO, Alegent Health (Omaha, Nebraska).

Insights within the white paper confirm some findings of the 20th annual HIMSS Leadership Survey, where 28% of about 300 respondents reported that lack of adequate resources or budget remains the most significant barrier to successful IT implementation. A related April 2009 survey from PriceWaterhouseCoopers revealed that 82% of hospital CIOs already had cut their IT spending budgets in 2009 by an average of 10%, with one in 10 making more drastic cuts of greater than 30%.