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Scott MacLean, the chief information officer at Newton Wellesley Hospital, has a bird’s eye view of what it really means to comply with the “Meaningful Use” guidelines the federal government has established to determine whether or not hospitals and doctors will be eligible for financial incentives tied to electronic health records initiatives. He is the CIO of a community hospital, but it’s part of the largest health-care delivery system in the state, Partners HealthCare, which also owns large teaching hospitals Massachusetts General Hospital and the Brigham and Women’s Hospital. He spoke to Mass High Tech about where the rubber meets the road, in trying to move from gathering health data, to using that data to improve quality and reducing costs.

MHT: The Economist magazine recently surveyed 100 American CIOs and found that many felt their role was changing: more than just the computer guy, they said they had more of a strategic role concerning cost and quality of health care. Do you find that your role is changing?

MacLean: The truth of the matter is that I don’t feel that either the hospital administration or the physician leaders view IT as a strategic asset yet, it’s still viewed as more of a support function. The discussion we had today for instance was, is “Meaningful Use” a compliance issue or is it something that we’re really going to engage in to make clinical care better and have incentives for it. I think we’re on the verge of talking about how we might use technology to make work flows better and make us more competitive with patient portals and those kinds of things.

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