Meet Our Members: Karen R. Clark, MBA, CPHIMS

Karen R. Clark, MBA, CPHIMS, chief information officer  for OrthoTennessee, one of the largest private orthopedic practices in the U.S., is the chair of the Meaningful Use Center of Excellence Task Force. She received her MBA in finance from Fordham University in Bronx, N.Y., and has worked in the IT field for more than 20 years.

The Meaningful Use Center of Excellence Task Force is a subcommittee of the HIMSS Ambulatory Information Systems Committee. The goal of this group is to advance HIMSS goals for accelerating health IT adoption by engaging ambulatory healthcare givers, health IT-related product and service suppliers, and healthcare consumers to identify and demonstrate how health IT use in ambulatory care settings can improve healthcare quality and value, improve health outcomes, and promote workforce vitality.

HIMSS: How did you become involved with HIMSS?

Clark: When I began working at OrthoTennessee, our chief executive officer suggested  I might find attending the HIMSS annual conference beneficial. I attended HIMSS04 in Orlando, and immediately saw  HIMSS offered an astonishing amount of information useful to our organization. After attending the conference for several years, and benefiting tremendously from the work done by the HIMSS staff and volunteers, I decided it was time to give back. I talked with Mary Griskewicz, senior director, health information systems, in 2010 and asked to work on the Ambulatory Committee.

HIMSS: What has been the most rewarding aspect of your involvement with HIMSS?

Clark: Serving on the HIMSS Ambulatory Committee and now chairing the Meaningful Use Center of Excellence Task Force has, without question, been one of the most rewarding aspects of my overall career. It is a privilege to work with such an outstanding group of professionals who share my passion for excellence in medicine and the technologies that make it possible. I am constantly humbled by the depth of this group's knowledge and commitment.

HIMSS: Please describe some of the milestone events in your career.

Clark: Attaining my MBA from Fordham University in 1984 really set the stage for my career.  I have found a solid understanding of financial operations has made it much easier for me to talk with CEOs and CFOs and explain technology in a way that is meaningful for them. Being named CIO of OrthoTennessee last year is a recent milestone, and the related responsibilities are both satisfying and inspiring. This year, I earned a CPHIMS certification.

HIMSS: What are the most notable changes you’ve seen in the field of health IT over the course of your career?

Clark: The movement of technology from the back office to the clinical floor is, without a doubt, the most significant change.  This has had a tremendous impact, not only on clinicians, but on the policies and procedures of IT departments, as the criticality and up-time requirements of health IT systems have changed completely. Professionals in health IT now have a direct impact on patient care.

HIMSS: What goals do you have as chair of the Ambulatory Meaningful Use Task Force in the coming year?

Clark: I plan to distill the tremendous volume of information into accurate, usable "field guides" that ambulatory providers can rely on to maximize their use of health IT, stay in compliance with standards and regulations, and improve patient care. Also, I will provide guidance and resource materials that IT managers of ambulatory practices can use while talking with their physicians.

HIMSS: What advice would you give professionals just entering the healthcare or IT field?

Clark: It is vital you understand what happens on the clinical floor, not just what happens in the server room.  Spending time with clinicians will allow you to understand the complexity and time pressure of their work, and will inform the decisions you make in the technology implementations you participate in. Technology adoption is all about the human factor.  Building trust with your end-users, and truly understanding their work, will increase your credibility and level of success.