Interview with Dr. Beck of Mercy Health Partners

CMIO Magazine: How has the Physician Informatics role evolved for you?

Dr. Beck:  There weren’t too many computers to go around when I was attending medical school so I can’t give credit to my medical school days!  However, as I began to practice medicine in a Multi-Specialty Group practice, I participated in a system selection for an EMR solution.  I joined that committee and stayed on throughout the life cycle of the implementation.  I truly enjoyed the experience and was able to add value to the team.  I also ended up owning many of the administrative responsibilities.   My title during that time was “Physician Champion” which, after some time, I endorsed and changed to “Physician Consultant, Medical Informatics”.  I thought that was more representative of my role and responsibility at that time.  I also don’t recall reading about the CMIO role until later on in my career.  Along the way, I became involved with HIMSS on a regional and national level, became one of the first physicians to earn the CPHIMS designation, and eventually became a Fellow which certainly supported my education around HealthCare IT.  I also began working outside of my health system on external consulting work.  I was approached by a consulting firm to work with the Military (non VA) as an adjunct to other IT staff as a physician trainer and supporter of their EMR implementation.  To fast forward to my current role, I work as a Physician Informaticist for Mercy Health Partners, part of the Catholic Health Partner system. While our organization does not currently have a CMIO, I take on many of those responsibilities at the regional level.  I still spend 25% of my time practicing medicine.  I find it necessary to gain my peer’s respect!  

CMIO Magazine:  How would you categorize your current roles and responsibilities?

Dr. Beck:  Given the aggressive EMR implementation plan at our facilities, I am spending the majority of my time with the implementation team, assisting with clinical content development, physician training, and support.  As you can imagine, I also wear a variety of hats including advisor to clinical staff and IT, best practice educator, and system implementation support and optimization. 

CMIO Magazine:  Who do you report to?

Dr. Beck:  I report to our regional CIO who has a nursing background.

CMIO Magazine:  What would you describe as key factors for success in your role?

Dr. Beck: Having inter-personal skills has been key for me.  In my role, I have to be a diplomat and listen well to all parties involved in our discussions.  Leadership skills are also very important as well as solid understanding of Information Systems.  As I mentioned before, my involvement with HIMSS and becoming CPHIMS certified has helped strengthen the knowledge and tools required to perform my job effectively.  The support from management and the ability to talk at the MD level have also been crucial to my success. 

CMIO Magazine:  If the CIO is clinical, is there a need for a CMIO?

Dr. Beck:  Yes, there is a large amount of work to be done by a CMIO that can’t be delegated to a typical CIO.  I can’t imagine CIOs [with a clinical background] facilitating EMR design and implementation discussions with as much precision and detail as a CMIO.  The need around good clinical data, ways to capture that data at the point of care, applying best practices along the way, and ensuring the EMR system is built to sound specification…that’s a lot of work for a CIO to do by themselves!   These roles work very well together, and complement one another in most organizations.

CMIO Magazine: from a CPOE perspective, do you see a value behind it?

Dr. Beck: There is tremendous value behind CPOE.  It eliminates or minimizes common errors that can be generated by traditional processes.  Decision support will give significant added value that until now, we, the clinical community didn’t have access to.  And ultimately, with a sound CPOE system, we provide better care to our patients.

CMIO Magazine: Any closing remarks?

Dr. Beck:  The collaboration through HIMSS and AMDIS has been very useful to me in my Informatics roles.  Sharing information and tools and assuring that other organizations can utilize those resources is a significant advantage.  My fear is not enough knowledge sharing is taking place and many organizations are reinventing the wheel, or experiencing the same pitfalls.  We need to leverage our collective knowledge in a more effective ways.