Back to the Future

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In the publisher’s message for the inaugural issue of a new magazine, I wrote, in September 1987, “It will come as no surprise to you, an information leader, that the age of information has arrived bearing a new set of problems impacting business and industry. The main problem that has developed is how to demystify high technology and transform information resources into corporate assets and tools with which to achieve competitive advantage.” Twenty-two years ago, I had the idea that the emerging leader just starting to be known as the chief information officer would be someone who would reach the top of the management/leadership ladder. I had read a book by William R. Synnott, then senior director with The Yankee Group in Boston, who actually coined the term CIO. I flew to Boston to meet with him about the idea for the magazine, and he agreed to be the chair of my editorial advisory board. CIO Monthly was launched that year, and the Simon & Schuster publishing division that I managed at the time became an early herald of the increasingly influential role that these top information executives were beginning to have within their respective enterprises. We did, in fact, become a “friend, forum, and adviser for CIOs.” Fast forward to 2009, and here we are, writing about the practice CIO performing a fully mature IT function that has truly begun to leave its influential mark on radiology practices of all shapes and sizes. To be without a top-level CIO in this age of RIS, PACS, electronic medical records, hospital information systems, computerized physician order entry, and decision support is to be at a significant competitive disadvantage. As someone who has been discussing the issues related to healthcare IT for many years, I am very gratified to know that those who have risen to assume the mantle of CIO within the medical imaging profession are actually driving innovation within their organizations. Innovation will be the primary determinant of tomorrow’s successful imaging providers, and CIOs such as those interviewed within this issue’s cover story are charged with divining a path through the complex health care forntier occupied by the role-model practices they represent. When interoperability becomes a reality, it will no doubt be because enterprising and innovative CIOs have found a way to make it happen. When Cheryl Proval and I created the editorial prospectus for RBJ, we both felt that a very strong emphasis on imaging informatics would be a regular requirement in order for us to provide our high-level readers with information that would help them run busy and diverse practices and centers. Since we publish a practice-centered journal, it is important for us to focus on all aspects of contemporary practice, no matter the setting (private, hospital, or outpatient imaging center), and informatics is clearly at the apex of today’s practice-success formula. It is especially incumbent upon the practice CIO to find ways to “transform information resources into corporate assets and tools with which to achieve competitive advantage.”