URMC's dual approach to optimize EMR usability: Q&A with CIO Tom Barnett

Tom Barnett brings more than 20 years of health IT leadership experience to his role as CIO at University of Rochester (N.Y.) Medical Center.

Prior to joining URMC in 2016, Mr. Barnett served as vice president of health IT at NorthShore University Health System in Evanston, Ill., where he oversaw initiatives including EMR and revenue cycle systems deployment as well as digital health capabilities.

Mr. Barnett earned both his bachelor's degree in management information systems and a masters of business administration from Oakland University in Troy, Mich.

Here, Mr. Barnett discusses how URMC promotes EMR usability and which technology initiative has generated the greatest return on investment.

Editor's note: Responses have been lightly edited for clarity and length.

Question: What is the tech initiative where your health system has seen the biggest ROI?

Tom Barnett: URMC has had excellent response and success with our application of patient reported outcomes measurement information system in partnership with National Institutes of Health. With the system, David Mitten, MD, orthopedics professor at URMC, has been able to integrate patient generated data with our EMR and provide early predictors to patients potentially needing some type of intervention. Dr Mitten refers to this as almost like a 'human check engine light.' I love that way of describing it; it's used in our orthopedics department and is being integrated into how care is delivered within the program. It is a fantastic tool that includes the patient in their own care.

Q: What initiatives have you taken to improve EMR usability?

TB: We have taken a two-fold approach at URMC. The first is to ensure that we are current and using all the latest software releases, technologies and best practices from our EMR vendor Epic.

The second is that we have implemented an EMR optimization team, which focuses largely on provider workflow. This team comprises several analysts and a couple of training team members. They work to streamline areas where providers believe their workflow could be improved, or where data indicates potential opportunities. Harmonizing industry leading software flow with our internal workflow is typically the right balance point to make some tangible improvements for the providers.

Q: What has been one of your most memorable moments as CIO?

TB: When a large project is successful; it takes so many different folks to make that happen. Collaboration between operations and IT is truly a sight to behold! It is not unlike a championship team winning the national title or your favorite musical ensemble finding that unmistakable groove together.

To participate in future Becker's Q&As, contact Jackie Drees at jdrees@beckershealthcare.com.

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