Tapping Into Clinical Knowledge
Over the past few decades alone, the healthcare industry has undergone rapid growth and change thanks to new emerging technologies. But few have had as great of an impact on clinical outcomes as our ability to harness data and use it to our patients’ advantage. No one understands this better than Ana Rodriguez, Vice President of IT and Clinical Informatics for Memorial Healthcare System.
For nearly 30 years, Ana has been a part of the Memorial family. Beginning her career as a Pharmacist, she eventually joined our IT team, where she could put her clinical knowledge and skills to use implementing an IT system that would reshape the future of health care at Memorial. But Ana isn’t the only one who shares this unique perspective on IT; her team does as well. “We have a large group of clinicians who are a part of our Clinical Informatics IT team, such as pharmacists, nurses, therapists and doctors who really understand workflow and how to best design our systems,” she says. But their work doesn’t end there, “We also do all of the clinical systems training for clinical areas, for new modules that are implemented and for new employees being on-boarded, our team provides the user training.” This hands-on approach ensures new employees can efficiently utilize our clinical systems to maximize their safety benefits.
We believe that one of the best ways to improve our patient outcomes is by investing in our staff’s development. As Ana says, “We develop our own talent and not just from a technical perspective, but from a professional developmental and leadership perspective. We have one of the best leadership development programs. It has helped retain most of our staff here for many years.” Our focus on internal development provides our staff with a means to advance their career, while providing enhanced value to our organization and our customers.
Learning the Language
Many challenges await anyone trying to break into an IT Clinical Informatics role, especially if they’re new to the System. As Ana puts it, “The hardest part is to learn the language; to learn the technical background. What is an interface? What is a server? What are the various operating systems? You have to be the translator between the vendors and technical folk who speak one language, and the clinical folk who speak the other.” This bridging of “languages” is what allows our IT Clinical Informatics team to work so effectively and create systems that enhance our clinicians’ capabilities.
While it may seem like a tall order, the rewards for achieving that level of proficiency are worth the effort. “You have the opportunity to exercise your creativity. As a clinician you can utilize your background and clinical workflow knowledge to look for solutions to some of our toughest challenges,” says Ana. One such solution was the addition of bar codes when we first introduced our electronic health records. Memorial was one of the first hospitals in South Florida to utilize this technology. Since its implementation, we’ve almost completely eliminated medication errors for our patients. But safety isn’t our only goal; we’re also looking to increase efficiency. By implementing technologies like Smart-ID Pumps, we’ve lightened the load for our nurses. They no longer have to program the pumps themselves as it’s all seamlessly tied into our medical records, and any changes are automatically updated. This has the added benefit of minimizing errors and improving the already exceptional care our patients and their families’ experience.
At Memorial, advancing technology has always been a strategic priority. And as precision medicine, artificial intelligence (AI), and other digital health advances evolve into a reality, you can rest assured that we will be on the cutting-edge of healthcare technology. Technologies like AI will allow us to better manage patient populations in ways that are just not possible right now. “Historically, medicine has focused on treating problems as they’ve arisen, but that’s changing. Now, we’re looking to predict and prevent things from happening so we can keep people healthy,” Ana replies. “We’re really looking to help people own their health. And we’re seeing a shift with Telehealth, remote patient monitoring and wearable biometric devices. Things that didn’t exist when we first started implementing electronic health records and are going to have a huge impact on how we treat patients in the future.”