A Physician Informaticist

My interest originated with my fascination with technology in the late 1990’s.  I started wondering what technology can do to help me take care of patients.  Within a few years, I was at an organization where they were choosing their first integrated electronic medical record. I was involved in the physician advisory group for that initiative and that was the beginning.  I have been in various roles in three major EMR implementations in three different organizations since – including roles of physician advisor, clinical informaticist, and Chief Medical Informatics Officer.  After ten years of informatics experience, I was sure that clinical informatics was going to be my career.  I went on to complete a graduate certification in biomedical informatics and achieve board specialty certification in clinical informatics in 2015.  

In my current role as one of the associate chief medical informatics officers at the University of Virginia Health System, I am primarily functioning as a physician informaticist as part of a multidisciplinary informatics team – alongside nurse and pharmacist informaticists.  As a team and in collaboration with clinical leaders, we improve care processes by understanding the current processes and flaws, identifying the needs of our clinicians, and providing informatics tools to enable more reliable and effective processes.   Beyond this core practice of clinical informatics, my organization is beginning to leverage the massive amount of health care data for research, predictive modeling, and data-driven clinical decision support.  Though we will always have the need to implement and optimize clinical information systems, I believe the true transformative power of clinical informatics is to intelligently and reliably meet clinicians’ informational needs at the point of care.  

The biggest lesson that I have learned is that technology is nothing more than a tool that supports people and processes; clinical informatics is the critical expertise that blends process, systems and people together coherently and seamlessly to provide better and more reliable care.  It is still a constant challenge to help my clinical colleagues to understand the difference between information technology and clinical informatics – of which information technology is only one part.  They still believe in the illusion of that ‘easy button’ - that new technology that will ‘solve’ clinical problems without the alignment of all three domains. I am looking forward to our very first clinical informatics fellow this July.  Having a specialty fellow affords me ample opportunities to expound on the uniqueness and the importance of our field with clinicians.   

About the Contributor

David Yu-Kwong Ling, MD, is Associate Chief Medical Information Officer at University of Virginia Health System and a current member of the HIMSS Physician Committee.