Guerra On Healthcare: Do More With Less Time

Why people with the most responsibility often have the most free time -- and how you can, too.

In my line of work, I often ask hospital CIOs if they'd like to blog on my site or submit a contributed article. Most of the time, I get a positive, at worst neutral, response. Most people say, "That sounds interesting. Let me give it some thought. "

Occasionally, however, I hear, "Are you kidding me? I'm so buried right now under all this work that I can't even consider sitting down to write an article. Sure, I love the concept of sharing with my peers, but I just can't do it. No way, no how."

After speaking with hundreds of CIOs, I am convinced that those working the "hardest" are getting the least done. Those moving at a frenzied pace usually don't know which way they're going and, more often than not, have taken on too much tactical work because they either don't trust their employees to execute properly, fear losing power by empowering others, or simply don't know how to delegate.

I got to thinking about this the other day, when good friend Scott MacLean, CIO of Newton-Wellesley Hospital (part of Partners Healthcare), sent me an amazing article he'd just written. The article was stunning for a few reasons -- first off, it was clean as a whistle, not one typo anywhere. Second, it was extensive, detailed, and thoughtful, containing practical advice for how to be an effective CIO. Most impressively, the article ticked off just how many projects, educational programs, and responsibilities MacLean was handling.

Considering all of that, it's remarkable MacLean had the time to sit down and put his thoughts on paper (and proofread it more than once, I'm sure). Such a display of freedom gets one to thinking about why some people just seem to have more time than others. I'm pretty sure if I was the CIO of a major hospital -- and a corporate officer in that hospital's overarching health system -- I wouldn't have time to breathe, let alone write. I founded and run an e-magazine, and I can barely tell if I'm coming or going.

But people like MacLean have the secrets, and I think they revolve around the concepts of focusing on a few core strategic tasks; hiring and retaining excellent staff (then mentoring and empowering them); and blocking out time for family, exercise, and other relaxing activities (necessary to rejuvenate the soul and keep top performers on top of their games). My guess is any of us with mile-long to-do lists and those skipping family events, workouts, and other times set aside for relaxation just to "get on top of my e-mail" are not functioning as effectively as we could if we stepped back and recalculated our priorities and time allocation.

With HITECH Stage 1 requirements about to drop like a ton of bricks on every CIO in healthcare, it's a good time to refocus on what's important. I'm going to give it a shot. How about you?

Anthony Guerra is the founder and editor of, a site dedicated to serving the strategic information needs of healthcare CIOs. He can be reached at [email protected]

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