As I’ve gotten to know clinical informaticists and clinical informaticist teams better in the past several years, a clear pattern has emerged for me in my research, interviewing, and reporting. And that pattern has become increasingly pronounced in the past two years, since the passage of the HITECH Act and the initiation of the meaningful use process. And that is that every patient care organization that has made real, sustainable headway not only on meaningful use, but on clinical IT implementation in general, and in leveraging clinical IT to support patient safety, care quality, and effectiveness initiatives, has built its success to a significant extent on the formation, nurturing, and success of teams of clinician informaticists.
In fact, it’s far from coincidental that the pioneering patient care organizations in terms of patient safety, care quality, and clinician effectiveness improvement initiatives, also tend to be the ones that have put in place and nurtured teams of crack clinical informaticists. Fundamentally, the two go together, as Anne Searle, senior vice president and CIO of the 244-bed Holy Redeemer Health System, based in the Philadelphia suburb of Meadowbrook, Pa., told me, for our July 2010 cover story on teams. “The number-one critical success factor” in making clinical informaticist teams work, and creating successful clinical IT implementations, “is commitment to change, because the change involved is difficult,” Searle said.
What’s more, I’ve come across numerous examples in the past several years of organizations that have made a clear commitment to fundamental change in care delivery processes, recognizing that leveraging clinical IT is an essential element in creating care delivery change, and that in order to achieve that leveraging, teams of clinical informaticists are key. One such organization is the 20-hospital University of Pittsburgh Medical Center health system. I’ve not yet come across any hospital organization in the U.S. with a more dedicated, visionary group of clinical informaticists, who have been working assiduously with clinician leaders and with IT executives for years to effect true clinical transformation in their organization. And at the apex of this clinical transformation work has been G. Daniel Martich, M.D., UPMC’s visionary CMIO. Dr. Martich and his team have an incredibly focused, purposeful attitude towards their work, which is reflected in the many clinical IT successes the UPMC organization has had in the past decade and continues to rack up every day.
What’s more, the UPMC folks have “cracked the code” in understanding the vital need for a truly collaborative, multidisciplinary approach to all this, with the voices—and participation—of nurse and pharmacist informaticists being equally important to those of physician informaticists. As Marianne McConnell, R.N., UPMC’s executive director, clinical and operational informatics, told me for the July cover story, regarding the success of their team, “We feed off each other, and are very reliant on each others’ overlapping skills and knowledge. Each of us brings something unique to the table, and we all appreciate that. It’s a synergy that’s hard to put into words, but you know when you have it.”
The success of UPMC’s clinical informaticist team development in leveraging significant clinical transformation within that organization is the reason why we invited Dr. Martich to lead a panel discussion on building clinical informaticist teams at the Healthcare Informatics Executive Summit, to be held in San Francisco, May 11-13 .
In that regard, we also have committed to identifying more success stories around clinical informaticist teams, which is why we are presenting the IT Innovation Advocate Award, in cooperation with AMDIS, at the Summit. I firmly believe that the more light that can be shed on successful models of clinical informaticist team-building, the more examples the leaders of patient care organizations from across the country will have, as they tackle the tremendous challenges—and opportunities—of meaningful use, healthcare reform, and clinical transformation.