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HIT Leader Q&A: Interoperability experts weigh in on career, population health

Recognized as an industry leader in interoperability, UPMC is a healthcare provider and insurer that operates more than 20 hospitals and 500 outpatient sites. A talented UPMC Interoperability team drives the organization’s efforts toward excellence in connectivity.

We recently gleaned some valuable insights from two members of this team, Diane Michalec, RN, MSN, director of interoperability and Amy Urban, DO, MPH , clinical director of interoperability. They shared career advice and their perspectives on population health management:

Tell me a little about your current role and the path you took to get there.

Diane: I am currently the Director of Interoperability at UPMC and have responsibilities for managing the enterprise wide point of care application along with strategic planning and oversight of the interoperability program. I came into my first IT role from a critical care nurse background and have worked on several UPMC EMR systems prior to joining the interoperability team.

Amy: I am the Clinical Director of Interoperability at UPMC as well as a Clinical Advisor at UPMC Enterprises. I joined the interoperability team in 2014 after completing my Masters in Public Health. I currently balance my IT role with that of a practicing neonatologist to keep current with the Health IT challenges facing physicians today.

Why did you choose Health IT as a career?

Diane: I believe the career actually chose me. I enjoyed the challenge of learning a new discipline and Health IT kept me close to the clinical side of patient care. Health IT became the perfect blend of two worlds for me and I have continued to thrive on the challenges and successes throughout my career.

Amy: It was fate for me as well. Having a wide network of colleagues in health care, I was referred to the job opening and a wonderful match was made. It allowed me to blend my passion for delivering quality health care to a wider audience than my direct patient contacts.

Which of your career achievements are most meaningful to you?

Diane: Most meaningful for me is how I transitioned into Health IT. I started in IT from the ground up after spending two decades as a nurse providing direct patient care. Moving into Health IT was a big change in my career that provided a variety of new opportunities to support clinical workflow all the while having a positive impact on the delivery of care.

Amy: The ability to have my decisions bring actionable patient information to the point of care is my most purposeful achievement in Healthcare IT, it provides a way for the right information to be at the right place at the right time. Working as part of a team of Health IT professionals that are dedicated to the mission of interoperability with the patient as our focus allows for us to further our mission.

What advice would you give to people who are just starting a career in Health IT?

Diane: Always continue to learn! Health IT is a rapidly changing environment which requires keeping pace with the latest trends and methodologies to quickly adapt and be effective to achieve better patient outcomes.

Amy: Teamwork is a must! Know your team, your organization and your community.

What are the biggest barriers to effective population health management today?

Diane: Access to patient information and available resources to effectively manage a patient within a population.

Amy: The ability to have ALL the information in one place.

What are best practices that can help overcome these barriers?

Diane: Continue to build a foundation of aggregated and harmonized patient information that supports all aspects of population health.

Amy: Engage the necessary stakeholders and agree on the underlying principles. Focus on what problems we are trying to solve and find the right collection of tools to make it to the finish line.

How are organizations tackling population health management today compared with five years ago?

Diane: In the past population health was much more focused on meeting criteria set forth by regulating bodies which was one of the first waves towards better management of chronic diseases. Today there is a broader focus to move population health from merely a retrospective look at what happened to using analytics to determine what will happen and what we need to do about it.

Amy: Health IT has gone under a rapid explosion in the last five years. We are more connected than ever before and now have a deluge of data waiting to be turned into actionable insights to improve the health of our patients. Organizations are using new and advanced computing tools to help manage events in a predictive fashion.

How do you envision population health management changing in the next five years?

Diane: Patients will increasingly participate in managing their own health and contributing information into their health records, furthering the foundation of information to better identify populations. I believe we will also see a movement towards better managed care across socio-economic groups as the focus of population health continues in the public health arena.

Amy: I believe we will move away from the term “population health management” and focus on personalized care based on both individual and population-based insights.


Editor’s Note: Health Data Management recently named the 2016 Most Powerful Women in Healthcare IT, including Allscripts Analytics Chief Medical Officer Fatima Paruk. We asked several of these women leaders for their insights to these same questions in a blog series, including Kara Marx Kate Pavlovich and Dr. Carol Steltenkamp.

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