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Q&A: Concord Hospital’s new chief medical information officer explains clinical informatics

Clark

Clark

Concord Hospital’s new chief medical information officer is not one of a kind. Dr. Paul Clark is one of 400, actually.

That’s how many doctors from across the country recently received certification in clinical informatics from the American Board of Preventive Medicine.

Clinical informatics is the newest medical specialty, the only new specialty to be established in the past 20 years.

But Clark is no newcomer to medicine, or to informatics. He explained what his new job and certification mean.

So, can you define informatics for us, before we get into this?

It’s an overlap of information science, information technology and management; basically, it’s trying to use systems to improve work.

Everybody thinks it’s all techie stuff, but I’m not that techie. It’s not about the newest app for your iPad. It’s about taking the systems you have and optimizing the use to deliver better patient care.

If you have the greatest system in the world, but no one has been trained to use it properly, it’s not going to deliver the best care.

Not being very “techie,” what interests you about this?

When I started doing this, I didn’t realize medical informatics was a specialty. I was just trying to use the electronic medical record in practice with patients and improve it. I was struggling to make the system support patient care in the way I wanted to do it. The forms were inefficient and weren’t capturing the information I really wanted. My interest was really in trying to work with the electronic medical record to make it better for me.

Do you think something about your other specialties, geriatric and internal medicine, made you uniquely positioned to see the problems with record systems?

I think primary care in general, we’re tracking so many data points: immunizations, cancer screenings, diabetes care. There are so many pieces of information you’re trying to track in the primary care field that electronic medical records seemed to be something we just had to go to.

I’ve been practicing for about 30 years, and I was always impressed by how difficult it was to get information out of a paper system. If I had been seeing a patient for years, they’d be on their fourth or fifth volume of paper records. It’s impossible to find anything in that, but it was clear to me that it’s all about information.

Are you still on the floor seeing patients and using the electronic records systems?

I see patients two afternoons a week, and I rotate seeing hospital patients on the weekend. Every time I see patients, I think about if the system can be enhanced. And I can be frustrated like everyone else when the system isn’t working. . . . I was seeing a patient with asthma, and I wanted to order some medication for the patient. But I had to go to a different part of the system to order it. We were able later to enhance the form so you could order the medication from the same screen. It made it a lot simpler and more efficient.

Where will informatics be taking health care in the future?

I think this whole concept of population management is really where things are heading. In the past, it was all about the person in front of me at the moment. Now it’s about, “Am I providing the best care for all my diabetes patients? Are we making sure we’re preventing readmissions? Are we taking care of everyone’s hypertension?” Systems need to be made to account for those population measurements.

I don’t know many people who enjoy having their computer programs changed. Are you a popular guy at the hospital?

That depends on the day. It’s no secret that all over the country, doctors have struggled with using electronic medical records. The trick is to make them more usable, more efficient, to support the work flow better. If you can deliver a product that does that, you can be very popular.

(Sarah Palermo can be reached at 369-3322 or spalermo@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @SPalermoNews.)

Congrats to Dr. Clark for his certification and new appointment. I think it is great that the medical providers in these hospitals also have authority in other areas of the hospital to affect change and improve quality of care. As Dr. Clark mentioned, he was able to use his post as CMIO to address some functionality issues within their electronic system that allowed staff easily usability. More hospitals should be looking in this direction, or at the very least, solicit the opinions of the medical staff on a regular basis!

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