Reporter's Notebook: AMDIS

The title of chief medical information officer (CMIO) sounds pretty important. But so few people know what it actually means.

CMIOs are very smart, since they are, by definition, medical professionals -- usually physicians -- who also know a great deal about informatics. That much was evident at the 14th annual Physician-Computer Connection, put on two weeks ago by the Association of Medical Directors of Information Systems (AMDIS).

At the moment, though, the definition does not go much further than that. Business analytics firm Gartner is wrapping up a survey of many of the 1,400 or so members of AMDIS -- up from 800 as recently as 2002 -- to refine the notion of a CMIO.

Gartner research director Vi Shaffer presented some preliminary results of the survey, but the press was admitted to the conference on the condition that a good deal of what was said was to be taken off the record (ostensibly to foster open dialogue).

What can be said is that Shaffer described the CMIO as the "human super glue" of health-IT, the person within a healthcare organization who holds technology projects together amidst the often-divergent interests of executive leadership, clinical staff, and IT departments.

Details such as what kind of background the typical CMIO comes from and how much money a CMIO can expect to earn will have to wait until the study is published in a few weeks.

Meanwhile, national health-IT coordinator David Brailer, M.D., who normally is the featured attraction at any conference he goes to, was just another medical informaticist among peers at this San Diego gathering. Sure, Brailer had the microphone for more than an hour, but this time he spoke with the audience rather than merely speaking to them.

Suffice it to say that Brailer, a former AMDIS member in his previous role as chief executive of care-management software vendor CareScience, was very much at home with this group. But, alas, so much so that his frank, honest comments also were considered off the record.

Such is the nature of high-level meetings, I suppose.
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