October 6, 2011 – A number of industries have started to create the position of chief knowledge officer, responsible for making good use of the increasing amount of data available.

It’s time for the CKO position to come to health care, with the C-level moniker more than name-only, according to Cindy Zak, director of health information management and privacy officer at Milford (Conn.) Hospital. “The CKO is a change agent, an ambassador using knowledge to bring change to the organization,” she said during a session at the AHIMA 2011 Convention & Exhibit in Salt Lake City. “The CKO needs to report to the CEO.”

And a good place to find the CKO is the HIM department, where the data and information experts are, Zak asserted. The CIO acquires and implements information technology, while the chief knowledge officer shows the organization how to use the information.

A CKO must be able to champion risky initiatives, match new ideas with business needs, and be IT literate, Zak said. He or she must work to drive IT adoption, create a culture of trust and sharing, and encourage research utilization of the data. Information becomes knowledge when shared, when it is understood how data is used, when the data is acted on and applied in new ways. For example, data can help an organization know how each surgeon does the same procedure and why some have higher outcomes.

The need for a CKO is even more acute as patients become more empowered, seek to access and understand their medical records, and even ask for amendments to the records, Zak said. “I’ve never had more requests for amendments than in the past six months.

This story originally appeared in Health Data Management.