Meet our Member: Michael H. Zaroukian, MD, PhD, MACP, FHIMSS

Michael H.
Vice President & CMIO at Sparrow Health System and Professor of Medicine at Michigan State University (MSU)

Michael H. Zaroukian, MD, PhD, MACP, FHIMSS, newly appointed chair of the HIMSS North America Board of Directors answers the HIMSS IHeartHIT question.

What do I love about Health IT?

When I think of love, I think of people rather than things. Having said that, I am gratified to join HIMSS North America vice-chair Beth Casey Halley and my fellow board colleagues in supporting the HIMSS community of professionals dedicating their time and energy to create, implement and improve health IT to advance the health and well-being of patients, families and communities. The HIMSS vision of “better health through information technology” drives us to achieve the transformational potential of health IT to improve quality, advance population health and lower per capita healthcare costs (Triple Aim).   

As a practicing general internist and primary care physician, I see the benefits of health IT every day. Health IT gives me instant access to patient data and clinical decision support that informs better decisions and relieves patient concerns, whether by sharing a test result, incorporating an external consultant’s input, avoiding a potentially hazardous drug interaction, getting the right prescription to the right pharmacy in seconds, or securely sharing a patient-specific educational video. Descriptive data analytics help me know how my colleagues and I are doing, while predictive analytics helps us anticipate and meet the needs of our patients and fellow health professionals to deliver better care at lower cost.

While Health IT system design and use must be improved with a focus on quality, safety and usability, the benefits far outweigh the limitations compared to paper-based systems I used earlier in my medical career.  I appreciate it when health IT shows me trends and relationships I cannot otherwise see. My patients appreciate it when health IT improves their access (online scheduling, e-visits, video visits), convenience (online bill payment), ability to communicate (secure messaging), or share information (patient-generated data). They also appreciate it when health IT helps keep them safe by alerting me to key information I might have otherwise forgotten (preventive care reminders, drug-disease interactions). We both appreciate it when health IT identifies patient education resources that makes counseling more effective and efficient. 

While health IT has great potential, workforce vitality and prevention of health professional burnout will require additional innovations.  It will also be important to continue redesigning care delivery systems and move away from existing Evaluation and Management (E&M) requirements that contribute to physician dissatisfaction and bloated clinician notes that support coding and billing more than quality.  Physician satisfaction and effectiveness in health IT use will improve as they are allowed to focus away from documentation for coding and billing and toward the recording of data that informs improvements in quality and communication of essential information to the rest of the care team. 

When I think of love, I think of my loved ones. So, I just checked in on my 89 year-old father and World War II veteran who is 100 miles away using a secure remote video monitoring app we set up to help make sure he is safe in his home.  I’m pleased to report he is happily watching TV.  Maybe I do love health IT, after all.

Learn more about the new members of the HIMSS North America board of directors