Research Informatics is a Team Sport

Earlier in my career, I became intrigued with electronic medical records as a way to accelerate sharing information among health care providers.  As much as I love pediatric rheumatology, I had been thinking of balancing my clinical activities with administrative work, to me another way of contributing to patients’ health.  Volunteering to work on some committees led to the opportunity to be Medical Director of Informatics, reporting directly to the CIO.  I learned a lot about clinical informatics by helping with our first EMR “go live” in one of our subspecialty clinics.  I learned more about EMR modifications through chairing the Medical Records Committee.  Fascination with EMR data extraction I needed for my research got me interested in how best to use hospital data sources for research in general.  I consulted with our Research Institute on this, eventually becoming Director of Research Informatics.

Research Informatics is a team sport, involving connecting people from research and hospital operations administration.  We work on strategy for growth as well as specific projects. Daily activities include approving research requests for data extraction and working with colleagues in defining infrastructural needs to support clinical research.  Our hospital’s move to the medical school campus in 2012 spurred a focus on growing informatics infrastructure to leverage research with academic collaborators. 

I have learned many lessons along the way, thanks to physician and administrative colleagues.  My best accomplishments have come from my being as good a team player as possible.  I find it important to identify stakeholders and their major concerns.  To get buy in for projects requires balancing patience with maintaining momentum and also being a diagnostician of organizational culture and subcultures.  It is important to respect widely varying perspectives on given issues, facilitated by learning the nuts and bolts of communication and conflict resolution (I recommend an excellent book, Crucial Conversations by Kerry Patterson et al).  Self-evaluation is also important, as is feedback from others.  I strongly recommend finding “personal consultants” – qualified friends outside of your institution, who can give advice on complex situations, and give needed criticism in a friendly way.  One of the most important lessons I still am learning is how best to manage my time - I constantly tinker with refining approaches. 

I continue to enjoy my journey - it has been a tremendous privilege to work in a brand new subfield of informatics – Research Informatics. 

About the Contributor

Michael Miller, M.D. is the Director of Research Informatics at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago.  Dr. Miller is also Chair, Health Information Management Committee (formerly called Medical Records Committee).  He served from 2012-2013 as Interim Deputy Director of Research for Clinical Sciences at Lurie Children’s Hospital.  A graduate of the Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, Chicago, IL, Dr. Miller is Professor of Pediatrics at that school.  A board certified pediatric rheumatologist, Dr. Miller actively practices as a member of the Division of Rheumatology at Lurie Children’s Hospital.  Via mmiller@luriechildrens.org, he welcomes discussions and questions about Research Informatics and related topics.