Informatics is a Team Sport

By Michael Pfeffer, MD, FACP   

What most attracted me to the profession of medicine was the people aspect—helping patients achieve health, working with smart colleagues on complex, medical issues, and being part of multidisciplinary care teams. As an undergraduate in chemical engineering, I spent years learning process design and how to interface this with technology, often as part of a team. Informatics became the catalyst for me to bring together my love of medicine, process design, and technology with the goal of using health IT to improve the lives of our patients. And the best part—informatics is a team sport!

I had the opportunity to get involved in informatics when the health system I worked for as a Hospitalist, made the decision to implement an enterprise-wide electronic health record that would span all aspects of care and operations—inpatient, ambulatory, scheduling, revenue cycle, etc. I joined an incredible team of passionate people determined to successfully implement what would turn out to be one of the largest transformations ever to occur at my health system. I had the opportunity to grow as an informaticist during this project and then afterwards to ultimately become the Chief Information Officer.

All throughout this journey, I worked as a member of many different teams both within IT and with the business, and I learned an incredible amount from my teammates and teams in general. I always keep these key principles I learned in mind when working with teams in informatics:

  • Team diversity is critical to get the best ideas on the table to achieve the best results.
  • Listen more than talk—ask questions, as those who don’t always speak up can have the best ideas.
  • Relationships are key—have fun, care deeply about your teammates, and always work on improving team dynamics. These principles help me drive towards the culture I think is necessary for a dynamic health IT organization.

As the CIO, I have the honor to serve as the conductor of a highly-skilled “informatics orchestra,” capable of innovating with and delivering health IT to improve the lives of our patients. Each member of this IT orchestra contributes their unique knowledge and experiences to the team, and only through this level of teamwork and collaboration can we be successful in the highly complex field of health informatics. I look forward to leading and supporting teams that will continue to tackle the challenges of healthcare, such that we can achieve significant advances in the usability, safety, quality, and efficiency of health IT.

About the Contributor

Michael Pfeffer, MD, FACP serves as the Assistant Vice Chancellor and Chief Information Officer for UCLA Health Sciences, which is comprised of the UCLA Hospital System, the UCLA Faculty Practice Group, and the David Geffen School of Medicine. Michael is responsible for the development and operations of the information and telecommunication systems, including CareConnect, UCLA Health’s enterprise-wide electronic health record (EHR), the health IT strategic plan, and the implementation of transformative and innovative technologies while focusing on value. UCLA Health’s unprecedented initial EHR “Big Bang” go-live in March 2013 was the largest of its time.

Michael served as the lead physician for this project encompassing over 26,000 users, subsequently becoming the first Chief Medical Informatics Officer for UCLA Health before transitioning into the Chief Information Officer position.