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Live from Ojai: The Warrior Chiefs of AMDIS

July 14, 2010
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The timing of this year’s AMDIS Physician-Computer Connection Symposium in Ojai, California seems almost cosmic. On Tuesday, as I was preparing to fly out to California from Chicago, I listened on my smartphone (from O'Hare Airport) to the HHS press conference at which the details of the final rule on meaningful use were announced by HHS Secretary Kathleen Sibelius, newly minted CMS Administrator Dr. Don Berwick, Surgeon General Dr. Regina Benjamin, and National Coordinator for HIT Dr. David Blumenthal.

Meanwhile, many others attending AMDIS, the annual gathering of the nation’s CMIOs, were also traveling west (or east, south, or even north), for the meeting, and at the opening reception Tuesday evening, many still hadn’t been able to get online to read all the details of the stage 1 final rule. On Wednesday, of course, whatever the formally announced session topic, discussion of the final rule dominated conversation and debate at the symposium.

But what struck me most was how those CMIO presenters whose work in a variety of critical areas has been the deepest, broadest, and most strategic, have been naturally aligned with all the things that need to be done going forward, not only under meaningful use, but more generally across the U.S. healthcare system. This thought was most top-of-mind on Wednesday afternoon, during the presentation of Christopher Longhurst, M.D., CMIO at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford, and Jim Levin, M.D., Ph.D., CMIO at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, part of the vast UPMC health system. I’ve known Dr. Levin for a while now, and the work that he, CIO Jacque Dailey, and other leaders at Pittsburgh Children’s have done to leverage clinical IT to improve patient care quality and patient safety has been widely covered in this magazine’s pages, and deservedly so. I’ve just met Dr. Longhurst for the first time, but his decisive leadership at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital is also pushing the envelope in terms of using clinical IT to leverage care improvements.

In both cases, Levin, Longhurst, and their colleagues at their respective institutions have forged ahead and done groundbreaking work not only to do that kind of leveraging, but also to document the value of CPOE and other systems to reduce mortality in children’s hospitals. Both hospitals have in fact achieved and documented double-digit decreases in mortality rates through clinical transformation work facilitated by CPOE.

Not surprisingly, their organizations are very well-placed to achieve meaningful use and obtain the federal stimulus funds. But is it any surprise that their organizations are thus positioned? The whole point, of course, of the federal government’s use of the stimulus funding has been and will be to compel our industry forward to improve patient care, after all. Equally unsurprisingly, Levin and Longhurst received the most energetic and sustained applause for their presentation during the symposium, so far.

Fundamentally, AMDIS’s members understand that they, the CMIOs, are going to be the change agents, the innovation champions, who will be among the most important in leading their organizations forward not only towards fulfilling the requirements of meaningful use, but towards transforming healthcare in the second decade of the twenty-first century. The sense of timeliness, of being a part of something much bigger than individual people and institutions, pervades this gathering, as it should. Of course, no one knew that the AMDIS symposium would end up taking place within one day of the release of the stage 1 final rule. But somehow, it all fits—really, almost cosmically—in the broader scheme of things.

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