Making IT do the right thing
Dr. Carol Steltenkamp is “one of those” physician technology leaders, excelling at many tasks. As an academic, Steltenkamp has served as an associate professor in the division of general pediatrics at the University of Kentucky and as associate chief of staff at Kentucky Hospital and assistant dean for clinical affairs at the university’s College of Medicine.
She started to help advance the medical informatics effort at the University of Kentucky healthcare system when IT leadership positions didn’t come with much in the way of formal titles, first serving on the information systems executive committee in 1998. In 2002, Steltenkamp was named medical director of clinical information systems for UK HealthCare, and then, in 2005, chief medical information officer. In between, she earned an MBA from UK with an emphasis in informatics.
More recently, Steltenkamp has become the primary investigator for the Kentucky health IT regional extension center, a federally funded program under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. And, oh yes, Steltenkamp still sees patients. “I do think it helps keep you grounded,” she says. “It keeps you focused on why you’re doing the IT stuff, because I’m not a technical person. I’m a physician who appreciates the ability of technology to improve patient care.”
As a researcher, Steltenkamp says that while she remains passionate about the use of technology to improve patient care, work also needs to be done to ensure that IT supports the physician’s oath to “First, do no harm.”
“In my mind, there are two sides of using IT,” Steltenkamp says. “You’re moving people forward and doing the right thing for the patients. The flip side is you have to make it very difficult to do that wrong thing. I think we need to spend more time on that side of the coin rather than saying we’re going to get people to do the right things.”
UK was an early adopter of computerized physician order entry systems, Steltenkamp says, and now the university’s healthcare system is leveraging that investment.