MD needed? More on health CIO qualifications

A couple of issues ago, I wrote about the increasing demands being placed on the CIO role in healthcare organizations-and speculated as to whether non-doctors were being squeezed out of health IT leadership roles.  I also asked whether you felt, in essence, that it's better for non-clinical IT leaders to be phased out of the business.

In response, I heard from several of you, who all seemed to feel that well-trained IT executives without a medical or nursing degree are not only useful, but actually serve as a useful counterbalance to assumptions made by clinical professionals:
"In reality, it is actually beneficial to have non-clinical people involved in IT projects as long as they understand the workflow and communication dynamics. Groups that are too homogenous sometimes lose the ability to think creatively. There is a tendency for groups made up entirely of clinical people to attempt to make IT systems fit current work practices without taking time to ask whether or not there might be a better way to perform the task. The IT system can be a powerful method for improving processes if it is appropriately designed. Non-clinical people are good at asking 'why' since they are not locked into the way it has always been done." - EMR trainer

"One of the dangers of relying on a person at the top who 'knows it all' is that he may in fact NOT know it all, but thinks he does, whereas a non-clinician at the top knows he must rely on the expertise and input of many other people.  Such a network of reliance surely strengthens an organization and the decisions it makes, and can even infuse a greater amount of creativity into them.  It takes into consideration small but crucial process and workflow details that a CIO simply cannot be aware of." - Programmer analyst, health system

Another reader, meanwhile, made a point which I should have addressed in my original column, which was that it's not just the CIO's training or talents that matter in how much they can contribute:

"Success or failure of IT still has a lot to do with the interest and capabilities of the CEO and his/her management style. Therefore, I think the qualifications for a successful CIO will vary considerably, and no single organizational model will emerge." - Healthcare consultant

The obvious gap in these responses is that I didn't hear from any physicians, who might have a different take on whether their clinical training is critical to HIT successes. (Physicians, what do you think?) But still, it seems to me that I've gotten an answer to my questions. For the time being, if my correspondents are any indication, the non-clinical IT manager isn't going anywhere soon. - Anne