Be­yond the data

Inaugural ros­ter of the Top 25 Clin­i­cal In­for­mati­cists high­lights the ris­ing pro­file and in­flu­ence of these health­care pro­fes­sion­als

Modern Healthcare - - Special Feature - Mau­reen McKin­ney

Once thought of as an ad­vi­sory post best-suited for “techie” physi­cians, the role of clin­i­cal in­for­mati­cist is quickly evolv­ing into one that in­volves high-level de­ci­sion­mak­ing and care­ful con­sid­er­a­tion of clin­i­cal cul­ture and work­flow.

And within the con­text of new fed­eral pro­grams that in­cen­tivize health in­for­ma­tion­tech­nol­ogy adop­tion and use of clin­i­cal in­for­ma­tion for qual­ity im­prove­ment, clin­i­cal in­for­mati­cists are grow­ing fast in both promi­nence and preva­lence.

“This used to be the role for a geek doc­tor, but re­cently there’s been much more of an un­der­stand­ing that these po­si­tions re­quire ex­per­tise in change man­age­ment and lead­er­ship,” says Christo­pher Longhurst, chief med­i­cal in­for­ma­tion of­fi­cer at 272-bed Lu­cile Packard Chil­dren’s Hos­pi­tal at Stan­ford Uni­ver­sity, Palo Alto, Calif. “And the in­tro­duc­tion of HITECH and mean­ing­ful use have also el­e­vated the role of CMIO be­cause health IT is now a source of rev­enue.” HITECH refers to the Health In­for­ma­tion Technology for Eco­nomic and Clin­i­cal Health Act, which is part of the stim­u­lus law en­acted in 2009.

Longhurst spear­headed Lu­cile Packard’s im­ple­men­ta­tion of a com­put­er­ized physi­cianorder en­try sys­tem and, ear­lier this year, he coau­thored a study in the jour­nal Pe­di­atrics that demon­strated the first-ever as­so­ci­a­tion be­tween CPOE im­ple­men­ta­tion and a sub­se­quent re­duc­tion in mor­tal­ity.

Those achieve­ments earned Longhurst a spot on Mod­ern Health­care’s inaugural list of Top 25 Clin­i­cal In­for­mati­cists, a list that rec­og­nizes health­care pro­fes­sion­als who have suc­cess­fully used clin­i­cal data to im­prove per­for­mance while serv­ing as a crit­i­cal bridge be­tween IT staff and clin­i­cians.

In­deed, the pro­vi­sions of HITECH have ce­mented clin­i­cal in­for­mat­ics as an es­sen­tial com­po­nent of a health­care or­ga­ni­za­tion’s over­all strate­gic plan­ning, says Khiet Trinh, as­so­ci­ate vice pres­i­dent for med­i­cal af­fairs and the first- ever CMIO for 138-bed Ephrata (Pa.) Com­mu­nity Hos­pi­tal, an­other of this year’s Top 25 Clin­i­cal In­for­mati­cists.

“We’re gain­ing re­spect as full-fledged hos­pi­tal ex­ec­u­tives, and I think most hos­pi­tals are be­gin­ning to see CMIOs as vi­tally im­por­tant,” says Trinh, who led Ephrata Com­mu­nity’s adop­tion of an elec­tronic health record. “It’s not about lov­ing com­put­ers. It’s about shar­ing the vi­sion of im­prov­ing pa­tient care.”

And as the du­ties of clin­i­cal in­for­mati­cists have changed, the peo­ple who hold those roles have been able to un­der­take ever­more chal­leng­ing projects. At 13-hos­pi­tal Texas Health Re­sources, for in­stance, Fer­di­nand Ve­lasco, vice pres­i­dent and CMIO, has led the sys­tem through a $200 mil­lion EHR im­ple­men­ta­tion. Ve­lasco is an­other hon­oree among the Top 25.

That’s a far cry from a decade ago, says Ve­lasco, when CMIOs mostly sat on physi­cian steer­ing com­mit­tees and ad­vised the hos­pi­tal’s chief in­for­ma­tion of­fi­cer. “It’s a much more proac­tive role now, and one that is nec­es­sary as we pre­pare for new mod­els of care de­liv­ery.”

Not only have re­cent pol­icy changes made clin­i­cal in­for­mat­ics more rel­e­vant to ad­min­is­tra-

tors, they’ve also made clin­i­cal prac­tice more ap­peal­ing to in­for­mati­cists.

Richard Snow, med­i­cal di­rec­tor of per­for­mance im­prove­ment at 191-bed Doc­tors Hos­pi­tal, Colum­bus, Ohio, stopped prac­tic­ing fam­ily medicine in 2005 so he would have enough time to de­vote to clin­i­cal in­for­mat­ics projects.

But re­cent trends—such as the growth of pa­tient-cen­tered med­i­cal homes and new ways of man­ag­ing chronic dis­eases—have con­vinced Snow, who also made this year’s list, that now is the right time to re­turn to di­rect pa­tient care.

“Sev­eral fac­tors con­spired to make pri­mary care more in­ter­est­ing, and I wanted to be a part of it,” says Snow, who says he will see pa­tients part-time. He also plans to work with a fam­i­lyprac­tice clinic to de­velop teach­ing tools that use health IT. “To me, clin­i­cal in­for­mat­ics is like a candy store. There is so much op­por­tu­nity as we re­shape the way we pro­vide care and the way we pay for it.”

This year’s hon­orees say their clin­i­cal back-

Top 25

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