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Bridge panelist: Roni Amiel

As a part of our Bridge Panel series, Roni Amiel, Chief Information Officer, Blythedale Children’s Hospital offers his thoughts on the current state of healthcare IT education, advice for C-suite executives when dealing with newly graduated students and the importance of string interpersonal skills when dealing with healthcare IT. 

(Editor’s note: To hear audio excerpts of this interview, click on the media player buttons that run throughout this article.)

Mallory: From your perspective, what are the attributes does a professional need in order to effective members of our industry? 

Roni Amiel, Chief Information Officer, Blythedale Children's Hospital
Roni Amiel, Chief Information Officer, Blythedale Children’s Hospital

Amiel:  I am very glad you ask this question because beyond what I do here at Blythedale Children’s Hospital, I am also a student. I am enrolled in the Masters in Biomedical Informatics program at Rutger’s University, concentrating in nano technology. I can clearly see both sides of the spectrum.

What skills do individuals need to have? I think generally, passion to do better you know just as human beings. The notion that you come to work every day, day in and day out or you come to class with the passion to learn more, to do better is basic.

I think this generation is much better equipped than we are in terms of interpersonal skills because they are much more resourceful which is a needed skill in healthcare technology these days. There is no way one can know everything, but if you are resourceful, you can go far. I think this generation is definitely resourceful and has the skills to do the upcoming jobs well.

The ability to ask questions is going to probably make the differences between success and failure in many of those innovative programs that they have been involved. Ultimately, the most important is the ability to innovate or dream and not assume there are limits to what you can do. That kind of passion is what got us to the great places we are today.

I don’t think those are skills are hard to acquire and, if you have a passion for your work,  you certainly can find success.

Mallory: Some members of both the academic and professional areas of healthcare IT see a disconnection between the attitudes, knowledge and skills being taught and the attitudes, knowledge and skills that are currently expected in the workplace.  It has even been said that some C-suite executives do not fully appreciate some of the latest ideas being brought to them by their newly hired employees.  Do you feel these opinions have any validity?

Amiel: Yes. I completely see it. In fact, I experienced it personally here at Blythedale and previous positions. My biggest challenge in most of the jobs I have worked in the past 15 years has not been technology, nor human beings, nor the policies or the procedures. It is really to educate and build the awareness about what technology can do.

Not so much as, what a fast computer I can get you. Well, yeah, but what can the information I gather do for you, and building that awareness and transforming the mindset of individuals not only the C-suite but those staff members on the floor. I have found that sometimes its easier to start the revolution not with the C-suite, but with the folks using the technology day to day..

As a newbie in every organization that I came to, even as a CIO, I had to understand that I was still the new guy. Students should understand that even with a great background, you are still the new guy. Yes. You are able to do a lot of things, but your organization still has the same faithful soldiers on the floor who they know very well and respect a great deal.

In hospitals and the healthcare environment in general, there is still very rooted culture and I believe this is especially true in the C-suite.

I often find ways to either move forward with my ideas through the folks on the floor while at the same time, I start making small steps with the C-suite. You win some. You lose some, but in the past four years when I look at what have we actually achieved at our hospital, we have achieved a lot more than the number of times we didn’t. I have even found that someimes, when you don’t actually get your way, it makes you more creative in dealing with challenges which can be a very good thing. 

That being said, I really echo the notion that there is a bit of a divide between the profession and academics. I don’t know if I am putting too much weight on the hands of the CIO’s and technologies, but I think today’s CIOs have to be just that, and not just technologists.

Mallory: As both a student and a CIO, what do you as being the core area of need  for young professionals to develop to be effective members of the field?

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 Amiel: So, you know we talked about skills a minute ago. The interpersonal skills of individuals, just as human beings first, before you are colleagues, before you work on the same committee, before you have the same goal, the interpersonal skills and the relationships that you build are going to drive your level of success.

I try and find ways to emphasize this point whenever I can. Our jobs truly come down to us working one human being to another, talking about issues. Much in the same way you would sit in a bar and talking with someone, knowing that sometimes you don’t agree, but you respectfully continue the conversation. Some days are better than others, but if you have been long enough in this field, you know that is just the way it is, and it is no different in any other field. 

For the youngsters, it is a bit of a learning curve, but it is no different from the same learning curve we had. Today, students have an edge in terms of the skills they bring right off the bat and I think that will play a big role. I also believe that in 10 years, we are going to see fantastic advancements coming from the new generation of professionals that we didn’t even think are possible today. While we are thinking about recognizing clinical indicators and outcomes and actionable data, the next generation is going to say forget the electronic medical record (EMR). Put the data in the EMR and I will do the rest for you. And, I will do the rest means everything. The patients will get the best patient care, not because the doctor will do magic in the EMR, but because the doctor will spend a lot more time with the patient than they are doing so today.

We are far from being there, but we are certainly heading in the right direction.