Improving interactions between healthcare workers & information systems: Q&A with Mercy Health CMIO Dr. Michael Olgren

Michael Olgren, MD, chief medical information officer at Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Mercy Health, discusses good health IT habits and why he advises aspiring CMIOs to develop strong clinical backgrounds.

Responses are lightly edited for clarity and length.

Question: What do you consider your No. 1 priority as CMIO? How do you ensure you're successful?

Dr. Michael Olgren: I see my No. 1 priority as improving the interaction between healthcare workers and information systems. Our providers and staff can deliver better patient care when technology presents appropriate information in a more efficient manner. We measure success with metrics such as decrease wait times and lengths of stay, as well as with feedback from the front-line users, who are often quick to tell us what works and what doesn't.

Q: How did you become a CMIO? What is your background and what advice do you have for aspiring CMIOs?

MO: I have always enjoyed using technology. As an emergency physician in 2003, I read the user manuals to train myself for our move from paper to an EMR. I prepared for my move into the CMIO role by obtaining a master's degree in medical informatics and then becoming board certified in the field.

I recommend that aspiring CMIOs first develop a strong clinical background, so that they never lose sight of what it's like to be on the front lines, so that they never utter, "It's just one more click." Also, all physician leaders must be continual learners, reading not only within their field but other material that will broaden their wisdom.

Q: What is the vision for your team in 2019? How will you approach your role and meeting your goals?

MO: Our institution happens to be converting from one EMR vendor to another, so 2019's vision is focused on that transition. I feel my role is to prepare our healthcare team by encouraging the development of flexibility and rapid adaptation. Practicing the good habits of lean documentation, a maintained problem list and reconciled medication list will go a long way to smoothing our transition.

Q: Where do you see the biggest need for innovation to improve the healthcare system in the future?

MO: I would broadly characterize our biggest need as simplification. We collect too much data in the hope that we will "use it someday." We need to give our providers and clinicians "permission" to document less and tell them it is ok to rely on data recorded elsewhere in the chart. Natural language processing must step up to find and present this information automatically. Machine learning must group and allow easy elimination of duplicate information.

To learn more about clinical informatics and health IT, register for the Becker's Hospital Review 2nd Annual Health IT + Clinical Leadership Conference May 2-4, 2019 in Chicago. Click here to learn more and register.

To participate in future Becker's Q&As, contact Jackie Drees at 

More articles on health IT:
Asante CMIO Dr. Lee Milligan's top priority for 2019 + the biggest need for innovation in healthcare delivery
The shift to value in a CMIO's role: Q&A with Bronson Healthcare CMIO Dr. Ash Goel
Penn Medicine wants to transform EHRs: 4 things to know

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