Meet our Member: Jorge A. Ferrer MD

Biomedical Informatician
Veterans Health Administration (VHA)

Jorge A. Ferrer MD, MBA, LSA is a biomedical informatician with the Veterans Health Administration (VHA), an adjunct assistant professor at UTHealth School of Biomedical Informatics and a practicing surgeon assistant. He did his postdoctoral fellowship in Medical Informatics at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and is an editor of Aspects of the Computerized Medical Record textbook.

At VHA, he is a technical advisor on user-centered design, usability and applied clinical informatics for the VHA’s electronic health record (EHR); and led a VAi2 innovation project to develop a point-of-care clinical documentation platform.

Ferrer served on the federal steering committee in the Office of the National Coordinator, Strategic Health Information Technology Advanced Research Project, dedicated to patient-centered cognitive support that addresses usability of EHRs. He also was a government staff member on the National Committee on Vital and Health Statistics with VHA and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).

Before joining VHA, he was a medical officer at CMS and served as a technical advisor to the Consolidated Health Informatics eGov initiative to establish federal health information interoperability standards. At CMS, Ferrer led the VistA-Office EHR (VOE) project, which is an ambulatory EHR system developed by CMS, based on the Veterans Health Administration's VistA clinical information system.

HIMSS: Please describe your current involvement with HIMSS and its benefits.
Ferrer: I currently chair the HIMSS Innovation Committee, and I am also a liaison to the HIMSS HIT User Experience Committee.

During the past year as a member of the Innovation Committee, we organized the second innovation symposium at HIMSS15, with nationally recognized leaders in their respective fields and showcased some of the innovative work that is currently happening in the healthcare industry. We held monthly presentations with the innovation community to explore how the industry is solving the problems we face in health IT. We also worked on the HIMSS Innovation Pathways Maturity Model.

With the HIMSS HIT User Experience Committee, we continued the national dialogue on the use of clinical information systems and identified the usability perils that plague users as they become familiarized with the technologies. This effort began as a concerted effort in 2010 with the National Institute of Standards and Technology to sponsor usability meetings, and the efforts of the Office of the National Coordinator on usability have been instrumental in driving the national dialogue from conceptual to real-world clinical deployment.

HIMSS: What do you hope to achieve as the chair of the HIMSS Innovation Committee?
Ferrer: Innovations are the lifeline of creativity and problem solving. In the past year, the committee had a lot of conversations about innovation, but we were mostly talking about ideas or policy directives that had nothing to do with actual innovations. During the last five years, as a result of the meaningful use program, we have seen an increase in clinicians using technologies, particularly EHRs.

Healthcare is an industry that has been slow to innovate, because there are so many competing stakeholders and often the courage, confidence and imagination required to innovate far exceeds the patience required to conceptualize, pilot and deploy projects.

Next-generation EHRs will need to innovate to better serve the needs of the users affected by the technology.  I hope that we can learn from innovators from all over the world who have successfully brought value to the end-users, so that the usability problems often cited with most EHRs will be a discussion of the past.

HIMSS: What do you believe will be possible in healthcare with more innovation in the future?
Ferrer: Innovation has the potential to bring real value to the users affected by the technologies under development today. We need to do a better job at discerning between sustaining innovations and disruptive innovations that solve clinical problems and enhance the user’s performance in daily tasks and activities.

The ability to make this distinction is the bedrock of the pioneers who are leading the transformations that revolutionize industries. The clinician-patient relationship is the foundation of healthcare, and the IT tools must serve both clinicians and patients.

I believe the future will be driven by health information management by capturing the patient’s story and filling in the knowledge gaps. The industry leaders in the next-generation of EHRs will need exceptional talent from clinicians and health IT professionals to solve the problems we are currently experiencing between usability and interoperability.