Contemporary Issues in Medical Informatics: Good Health IT, Bad Health IT, and Common Examples of Healthcare IT Difficulties
Problems of basic leadership: dangers of incorrect CIO choices

Problems of basic leadership: dangers of incorrect CIO choices

A large hospital in the United States hired a new president who had quite limited knowledge of computers. This hospital had previously tried unsuccessfully to implement a hospital information system (HIS). The new president set the HIS area as a top priority and hired a friend and former colleague whom he trusted as his chief information officer (CIO). This colleague had no background in medicine or healthcare. A flamboyant character to say the least, this new CIO swept into the organization, loudly announcing that he had come to bring enlightenment to the technological barbarians.

At the more personal level, he often lamented loudly and long to anyone who would listen about the horrors of living amid provincials, far from his beloved and sophisticated home.

After considerable deliberation, the CIO selected a system from a new division of an established older company that had no experience in the health care industry. Further, the decision was made with little or no user input and with limited inputs from the managers of the other major systems with which the HIS had to connect.

The hospital president strongly supported his CIO's choice, and millions of dollars were spent on the new system. The systems people were never able to get this system to work. One disastrous crash followed another. Finally, the hardware was sold for pennies on the dollar, and the CIO rode off into the sunrise toward his beloved home.

Incidentally, the same hospital then selected another person to head its computer efforts and settled for much more modest goals. Instead of an HIS, the hospital implemented a basic hospital accounting system that satisfied its administrative needs. However, the clinical staff, with hopes raised by previous wild promises, was left unsatisfied and frustrated.
[from Organizational Aspects of Health Informatics, Nancy Lorenzi and Robert Riley, Springer-Verlag, 1995.]