Usability Profile: From Transplant Surgeon to Informaticist

How did you start with your informatics career?

Years ago I started out as a transplant surgeon. Transplantation is one of the most regulated fields of medicine. Patient and graft survival data are publicly available and categorized by region and institution. If any of those numbers are subpar, CMS can proceed with audits and potentially suspend programs that are not providing the highest quality of care. I always wondered why this data is not used for decision support for patients or health plans in some automated fashion. I also wondered why the entire field of medicine is not standardized like transplantation.

I’ve had exposure to EHRs (Electronic Health Records) and clinical decision support as a practicing surgeon. However, formally entering the world of informatics was an eye-opener. The sheer number of existing healthcare tools and services was jaw dropping. Though there was a myriad of available software, all of the IT systems were antiquated which was not what I was expecting. When I entered the informatics field in 2010, my experience was almost anti-Steve Jobs (i.e., complicated, cumbersome, not visually pleasing) but I knew I entered the right field. I can help bring health IT up to speed.

What roles do you play at a health informatics organization?

Transitioning from using health IT during my clinical years to developing analytic solutions, consulting for ACOs, and running a clinical team for an international health plan has taught me a tremendous amount, especially about the business aspects of medicine. In my previous and current roles, I am a subject matter expert in medical affairs. In addition, my in-depth understanding of informatics and global health allows me to help vendors, payers, and providers strategize on product development, clinical policy, and clinical program design.

I handled complex and occasionally heart breaking situations as a clinician. Being an effective and compassionate communicator is crucial. This skill has helped me immensely during presentations for both internal and external constituents. Doctors’ clinical knowledge and experiences always make for a more compelling story.

Where are some key areas you see that vendors, payers, or providers can improve upon?

EHR and HIE (Health Information Exchange) adoption have seen increasing numbers in recent years. Workflows are improved somewhat, yet I still hear physicians complaining about care delivery, workflows, and the systems they have to login or interact with on a daily basis. Usability is the key. In this day and age, usability is all about the end-user experience. 

When I ran a global clinical team, all of the nurses used Google to search for medical conditions, health information, drug-drug interactions, and other health or non-health-related information. Google never asked them how to insert itself into the workflow; it just works and the nurses loved it. Why does healthcare technology have to be different? Simple, elegant, and usable are the cornerstones of technology nowadays and this is what the end-users, including doctors and nurses, expect. Once this is achieved, you can’t stop people from using health IT solutions; incentives and mandatory requirements will no longer be needed for meaningful usage.

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