Mission Health System CMIO Dr. Charles Sawyer: Key opportunities for innovation & technology today

Charles Sawyer, MD, chief medical information officer at Asheville, N.C.-based Mission Health System, discusses his focus of making the "here and now" more efficient while improving physician work flows.

Responses are lightly edited for clarity and length.

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

Charles Sawyer: My background prior to informatics was in clinical operations, running physician departments, etc. However, our EMR teams needed physicians who understood work flows and could marry them up with the functionality of electronic systems. Rather than focus on new functionalities and tools in new software systems, my CMIO focus has been on meeting the needs of practicing clinicians who are just trying to provide excellent care for patients and get through their day. What I particularly enjoy today is developing elegant and clever solutions within electronic systems to solve clinical care and documentation problems.

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

CS: For 2019, there are a few important priorities. In our health system, we have to upgrade several foundational systems. Meeting Meaningful Use [HIMSS EMR Adoption Model] stage three is obviously a priority. We also have a large new hospital where we are attempting to transform care processes. Lastly, we are appropriately focused on population health management as prospective, value-based payments become increasingly important to organizational finances.

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

CS: The number of measures required for various quality reporting programs continues to be a challenge both on the analytic side and for the clinician. The long-awaited simplification and standardization of these measures remains "long awaited," — interoperability remains a challenge.

Q: Which apps and technologies do you find most helpful, and which do you think will be passing fads?

CS: In my view, technologies fall into two categories. The first is the consumer-based applications, both for health maintenance and disease management. The data on the outcome's utility of many of the disease specific applications has been weak. As patients contribute more and more data into their record, the challenge will be to identify those data elements that have real value for making clinical decisions. In other words, increasing the signal-to-noise ratio.

The second group of technologies are those that need to be implemented across the delivery system. These applications tend to be expensive and have long implementation timelines. It is not always easy to determine which new technologies will provide long term value and which will be passing fads. These decisions often involve decisions about hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars.

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.

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