Who's qualified to be CIO?

Ladies and gentleman, when it comes to managing health information today, it clearly pays to be well-rounded.

As a case in point, I give you the terrifyingly accomplished Dr. John Halamka, CIO for Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School, whose resume boasts not only a Stanford undergrad degree in medical microbiology and public policy (where he served as a research assistant to Milton Friedman), but also a graduate degree in bioengineering and of course, an MD. Oh, and did I mention that he built and sold a successful software development consulting firm in the midst of all of this?

Of course, it's always taken both clinical insight and IT chops to become a healthcare CIO, but in recent times, the amount a functioning CIO needs to know about medicine and HIT has grown. As the development of genetically-based medicine, the proliferation of EMRs and other trends continue to emerge, multi-talented pros like Dr. Halamka are taking center stage. 

The thing is, what happens to the HIT execs who aren't doctors, nurses or scientists?  After all, there's lots of IT execs with solid management and technology experience in the healthcare industry who aren't and never will be clinicians--call them a "traditional" or "corporate" CIO. They're grey-hairs with lots of healed battle scars. While they may boast an MBA and/or decades in progressively responsible HIT management gigs, they don't have direct clinical experience and probably never will. Are such managers becoming obsolete?

So, what do you think? Can IT execs who've come up on the technology side of the house compete? Does the growing acceptance of clinical automation call for a complete restructuring of the whole health IT function, with clinical systems going down a completely independent path at some point in the future?  What key problems will health organizations face as they struggle with transitions like these?  Write to me and give me your thoughts. - Anne