CIO Straight Talk - Issue 4 - 60
What are you trying to achieve by blogging?
Generally, the CIO is not the most popular guy. He or she
is the person who says no or the person who, apparently,
is so under-resourced and over stressed that something
simple like, "Oh, we can get it at the Apple store,"
becomes a big production for the organization.
CIOs have a bad rap. By blogging, you hope that
people see that you are human and that you suffer the
same challenges as everybody else. I bring my family and
my personal challenges into my blog so that people can
relate and say, "Well, maybe I did not get what I wanted
from IT, but I believe in the process and I see that the
CIO is basically a good guy, a person I can relate to."
It is somewhat unusual for a CIO to be publicly visible.
You also speak at conferences and serve on public
service committees, and you write quite a lot about
your personal life. Is this something that you think is
important for a CIO to do?
Being a CIO is not a job - it is a lifestyle. You would love
to believe that you can just check in at nine, leave at five,
do the work, and then it is done. That is just not true. In
some ways, as you suggest, I do not really separate my
work life, my personal life, my international life, and my
conference life. It is all part of one life. Engaging in
constant communication through social media is truly a
part of that combined lifestyle.
What made you decide, when you started writing the
blog, to report on all dimensions of your life, not just
I guess my role is to try to serve multiple constituencies
with multiple purposes. I use the blog as a mechanism for
sharing: Here are the experiences of a fifty-one-year-old,
who is in the sandwich generation, the kind of person
dealing with those you manage above - your parents -
and those you manage below - your children. I sometimes look at particular incidents in life, even serious
ones like my wife's breast cancer or my father's death,
with an IT perspective. What was it that IT did, or should
have done, that it did not? That, in some ways, becomes
part of the important information-sharing role as we
create policy. The Health IT Standards Committee has
been working on end-of-life-care preference standards. I
am driving that, in part, based on my experience with my
father. Sometimes the personal is just meant as "get to
know me," and sometimes it's a means to drive policy.
64 CIO Straight Talk
If I am a CIO who is not contributing to the national
health care debate but am working for, let's say, a
trucking company, is there a reason for me to blog
the way you do?
As I mentioned, CIOs have to say no a lot. Everyone
internal to your organization or in the companies associated with your organization - the business partners, the
vendors, the customers, and all the rest - may know you
as the guy who says no. Your blog may help explain that
it is not that you want to say no; it is the nature of the job
that forces you to make these kinds of decisions. What I
find is that when you communicate, when you get people
together in a room, when you take them out to dinner -
or when you blog - the tensions and sometimes the
animosity just disappear. If there is anything that I have
learned from my blog, it is that being extremely public
with my professional and personal issues, and sharing
my highs and my lows, has really decreased the animosity that people may have toward me, either inside or
outside the workplace.
So would you recommend that other CIOs engage in
Absolutely. Of course you have to do it carefully. You will
notice in my blog that I do not specifically endorse a
vendor. I may say, "I tried this, and it worked," or, "I had
a unique problem to solve, and here is how I approached
it," but I do not say, "Buy this. It's $49.95." Or, if I serve
on the board of directors of a company, I wouldn't
highlight its products as important or revolutionary. I
stay away from things that people might perceive as a
conflict of interest.
Speaking about evaluating products, I'm writing a
blog post about my experience with Google Glass. The
idea is that an emergency physician can walk into the
room and immediately see a heads-up display of all
relevant documentation, the vital signs, and any diagnostic tests on the patient he is about to see.
And how would this be different from the doctor
looking at his cell phone?
The advantage to using Google Glass is that you can
actually put eyes on the patient while looking at the data.
We will have to experiment with a number of user
interfaces, but with Jester and Touch, you could imagine
being able to look at the patient and then to instantly
inquire about the data on the body part you are looking
at. It is an interesting paradigm. Patients do not particularly appreciate when you are staring at a keyboard
instead of at them, and I have a feeling that in the emergency department, Google Glass may very well provide
the best of both worlds: the ability to interact with the
patient while consuming data, and to do it at a very fast
pace. Just as the iPad has become the chosen form factor