Comment: How the UK can learn from the US approach to healthcare IT

Dr Sean Kelly, chief medical officer at healthcare and security expert, Imprivata, is a believer in the idea that UK organisations need clinical IT practitioners to make IT implementations economical and efficient

Dr Sean Kelly believes that Lifespan Health System’s Dr Eric Alper is a great example of a medical director of information services, and in this article, Dr Alper speaks about how chief clinical information officers in the UK can learn lessons from the experiences of their US counterparts.

Like any clinician, my number one priority is patient care. Today, most of my time is spent enabling IT systems to improve the care we provide to patients, and about 20% of my time is spent doing it the old fashioned way as a practising physician.

Technology is already radically changing the way healthcare is delivered and this is set to accelerate as business intelligence, decision support and analytics offer greater insight into the way patients are treated and the success of that treatment

Creating an inextricable link between IT and quality care has never been more important to convince clinicians to invest time in adopting and using new technology. As we see solutions like EMRs and e-Prescribing playing a bigger role in how we operate, it’s simply not an option for information systems to sit in the background. IT should be hardwired into the care we provide and it should be made clear to clinicians how technology can help them to provide an excellent standard of service to their patients.

Importantly, connecting the dots between IT and what we do as care providers is not a one man task. Making technology usable for those in a number of different departments, who all use IT in different ways, works best when those users are all represented in project planning.

To make that possible at Lifespan we host monthly clinician advisory committee meetings led by one of our chief medical officers. Departments and user groups all have different challenges when it comes to technology, and this meeting offers the opportunity to discuss our ongoing and upcoming deployments. What works for one group doesn’t always work for the other, which is why this overall picture is so important. Surgeons, nurses, and obstetricians, for instance, can voice their own needs and concerns, and hearing all their different perspectives helps me to represent the clinical requirements to IT.

Making technology usable for those in a number of different departments, who all use IT in different ways, works best when those users are all represented in project planning

In addition to these monthly discussions, I work closely with other clinical IT staff at the organisation day to day. For example, I speak with Sue Whetstone, director of inpatient surgical services and nursing informatics at Rhode Island Hospital, to learn more specifically about how nursing staff are benefitting or indeed struggling with the IT systems we’re using. Nurses and physicians don’t necessarily use technology in the same way and having this relationship with Sue really allows me, as a practicing physician, to have a better understanding of an area that I wouldn’t otherwise have a great insight into.

I think that our way of working really helps us to integrate IT into clinical workflows, allowing providers to improve the quality of care and ultimately shape the way that healthcare is delivered. Technology is already radically changing the way healthcare is delivered and this is set to accelerate as business intelligence, decision support and analytics offer greater insight into the way patients are treated and the success of that treatment. With so much riding on getting technology right for users and patients alike, having a clinically experienced IT team is really a necessity.

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