Pamela Arora has been selected as the 2016 John E. Gall Jr. CIO of the Year, with the selection jointly made by the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society and the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives, which sponsor the recognition program.

Arora is senior vice president and CIO at Children’s Health System of Texas. Last year, she also was named to the inaugural class of Health Data Management’s Most Powerful Women in Healthcare IT recognition program.

HIMSS and CHIME co-sponsor the CIO of the Year recognition program to recognize healthcare IT executives who have made significant contributions to their organizations and demonstrated innovative leadership through the effective use of information technology; the boards of directors for both organizations annually select the recipient.

Also See: New cybersecurity program targets small practices

The award, which is named in honor of the late John E. Gall Jr., who pioneered implementation of the first fully integrated medical information system in the world at California's El Camino Hospital in the 1960s. Arora will receive the award February 21 at the HIMSS Annual Conference & Exhibition in Orlando, Fla.

Under her leadership, Dallas-based Children’s Health has bolstered information sharing by hosting electronic medical records for physician practices and other providers. The health system also forged strong partnerships with regional health information exchange programs. Through a 2013 pilot with the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, Children’s Health became one of the first health systems in the nation to give parents untethered access to their children’s health information.

Other innovations at Children’s Health extend beyond the hospital walls. For example, a telemedicine program enables nurses at nearly 100 schools to conduct virtual consultations with hospital-based clinicians.

“IT has been able to provide the tools and infrastructure necessary to support our organization’s reach outside of our walls,” Arora said. “Because our team members and clinicians are eager adopters of technology, we are typically able to gain buy-in for technology initiatives that will allow our providers to care for patients in new and innovative ways.”

Also See: The most powerful women in healthcare I.T.: CIOs-IT execs

As healthcare organizations improve information sharing though, new vulnerabilities arise. Cyber criminals are increasingly targeting healthcare with sophisticated attacks. Recognizing that smaller provider settings don’t always have the resources to bolster their security systems, Children’s Health has championed a HITRUST program called CyberAid that enables small practices to find cost-effective cybersecurity solutions.

In 2013, Children’s Medical Center won a 2013 Enterprise HIMSS Davies Award of Excellence for use of health information technology, particularly electronic health records. At the time, with 595 licensed beds, Children’s Medical Center had almost 700,000 admission and visits annually at two campuses and 16 primary care centers. Its Epic EHR has embedded clinical pathways to guide treatment of numerous conditions such as bronchiolitis, asthma and appendicitis, significantly improving outcomes, according to the hospital’s application.

The facility also was the first in the state to achieve HIMSS Stage 7 designation on the HIMSS Analytics EMRAM scale, and it has been named several times to the InformationWeek 500 and received a Most Wired designation.

Before coming to Children’s Health, Arora was senior vice president and CIO at UMass Memorial Health Care, and also served at Perot Systems and Electronic Data Systems.

“This recognition reaffirms that, though technology may not always be visible, the work we are doing is making a difference in the lives of patients — in our case, we’re delivering on our mission of making life better for children,” she says.

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