Why healthcare systems need to improve system usability: Q&A with U of Iowa Health Care CMIO Dr. Maia Hightower

Maia Hightower, MD, chief medical information officer at Iowa City-based University of Iowa Health Care, shares how she keeps the health system's clinical informatics accountable and transparent as well as healthcare's biggest need for innovation.

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. Maia Hightower: My No. 1 priority is obtaining value from our healthcare IT systems to enable our care teams to do what they do best, which is to provide outstanding, high-value care for our patients and community. Caregiver engagement with the EHR and our IT tools is vital to ensure that the system is designed and used effectively and efficiently. Therefore, I focus my priorities on creating a social network of informatics specialists and super users of physicians, nurses, advance practice providers, pharmacists and other care team members.

Recently, I've implemented a digital adoption score to measure adoption of priority functionality that supports institutional strategies in patient engagement, clinical quality and transitions of care.

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

MH: My early leadership experience was in quality, initially as a committee member on my local [independent physician association]'s quality, utilization and peer review subcommittees. I later became an associate medical director, responsible for quality and clinical transformation, including partnering with our IT teams in implementing the EHR.

My expertise was far more firmly rooted in a traditional physician leadership role. Because of my background and basic implementation experience, I was asked to consider a CMIO role. My first year as CMIO was dedicated to learning all the technical and informatics skills. Arguably, the leadership skills and servant leadership are still my go-to skill set to engage our care teams in change and technology.

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

MH: My vision aligns with the University of Iowa Health Care CMIO Division Vision Statement, which is: 'The CMIO division will be accessible to all those we serve delivering best practices and reducing variation with compassion and integrity, focusing on safety and quality; bringing forth innovative efforts as a result of our collaboration with all members of the [University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics] community.'

Our values include:

Service. Our purpose is to support all members of our UIHC community to adapt to change in healthcare, technology and medicine.

Compassion. We understand that change and digital transformation can be challenging. We treat all those we serve with compassion and kindness.

Collaboration. Epic and our IT systems are foundational and interdependent to what we do. We work together always with everyone.

Best Practice. We use research and insight to make better decisions, reduce variation and increase efficiency, while preserving work and life balance and building solutions that promote all team members work to the top of his or her license and training.

Innovation. We find practical solutions to complex problems, enhancing clinical workflows with information technology.

I share our vision and values frequently, including in recruiting efforts. I find that we can attract a broader, more diverse group of applicants to clinical informatics. Being transparent helps to keep us accountable.

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

MH: The biggest need for innovation continues to be in the challenging area of usability. We need systems that aggregate and meaningfully present disparate data and information at the right time in workflow, separating the signal from the noise, for care providers and patients to enable effective pro-health behaviors.

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 jdrees@beckershealthcare.com.

More articles on health IT:
How Seattle Children's Hospital CMIO Dr. Rod Tarrago aims to improve clinician satisfaction and reduce burnout
BayCare rolls out retail locations that will sell healthcare wearables
WakeMed CMIO Dr. Neal Chawla's team goals for 2019: Training, analytics & patient functionality

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