Jack Wolf, the CIO at Montefiore Medical Center, likes to share one story of customer appreciation--even a decade after it happened. Back in 2001, Wolf had led the charge for the deployment of an interactive bedside system at Bronx, N.Y.-based Montefiore's newly built children's hospital.

The bedside system included 42-inch plasma monitors with Internet connectivity, and gave access to games and other content, plus it enabled the patients to connect to the Starbright Foundation's national network devoted to socially connecting seriously ill youngsters. "It was state of the art," Wolf says, recalling how he visited the hospital's dialysis center one day to see how the system was working. "There were three kids there playing videos," he says. "And the nurse introduced me as 'Here's Mr. Wolf, who put this system in place.' The kids started clapping for me. It brought tears to my eyes."

A decade later, Wolf is spearheading an upgrade to the technology, adding a system from GetWellNetwork that will offer not only a host of online diversions, but provide links to other hospital systems as well. Using interactive monitors at the bedside, patients can order meals, request housekeeping visits and even record their patient satisfaction scores.

Upgrades aside, for Wolf, the encounter remains an indelible reminder of the delicate nature of health care. "This is God's work," he says, adding that he was glad to have an opportunity to help deploy technology that helped take the young patients' minds off their illness--"a big part of the healing process."

CIOs may not be direct caregivers. But for many, the opportunity to work in a health care setting has offered rewards well beyond bragging rights about installing the latest and greatest versions of software. Serving in an executive leadership capacity in the I.T. arena can be a life-changing event. But for every noble tale, lurks a shadow story of system failures, career downturns and sometimes even death itself. In February's Health Data Management, health care executives share the good, bad and ugly experiences of their careers.

--Gary Baldwin


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