Clinical Informatics: How IT Clinical Champions Support the Care Team

As of 2018, nearly every Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) (99%) reported using Electronic Health Records (EHR). There is no question that the use of EHRs has greatly strengthened the way care teams function and provide, monitor, assess, and report patient care.

But no EHR is perfect. Using the software correctly, consistently, and efficiently as well as adapting to system updates does take time and effort for care teams. The additional work needed to enter and manage patient data can be significantly challenging and can lead to staff burnout, stress, frustration, and longer workdays.

That’s where the role of the “IT Clinical Champion” comes in. An IT Clinical Champion can be a physician or a member of the quality improvement team. They work very closely with clinical care teams to improve the clinicians’ user experience with the health center’s EHR and can help address and provide solutions for challenges that arise.

As a bridge between care teams and the quality team, IT Clinical Champions understand each team’s needs and when there is a break down in a process or gap in data that needs to be addressed. They work with both teams to figure out a solution, whether it is clearer instructions for the care team on how and where to enter data, the need for a new EHR template, or a change in the process for gathering certain patient information more efficiently.

IT Clinical Champions–Helping Health Centers Use EHRs to Provide High Quality Care

“IT Clinical Champions are change agents,” says Lisa Masinter, MD, MPH, MS, Senior Director of Research, AllianceChicago, a health center-controlled network and practice-based research network linking more than 50 organizations serving health center patients across Illinois and 19 other states. “They can help create change in the EHR that can support the care teams, and they also inform changes and updates for the health center and EHR vendor. Their communication to care team members not only helps disseminate new information about the EHR, but also helps to generate buy-in for implementation.”

Helping care teams more fully optimize their use of the EHR is another important role IT Clinical Champions play. “I try to help to make our EHR less cumbersome for providers, meaning less clicks and time to get to an outcome,” says Carolina Saldarriaga Perez, MD, FAAP, a pediatrician at Neighborhood Health, Alexandria, VA, who also serves as the health center’s IT Clinical Champion.

How IT Clinical Champions Support Care Teams

IT Clinical Champions help support care teams by

  • creating short cuts for using the EHR and developing dot-phrases (commonly used medical terms) and instructions
  • staying on top of new EHR updates while sharing updates with clear and simple guidance
  • working with EHR client support teams to address provider questions, request new templates, or follow-up on help tickets
  • troubleshooting provider challenges and helping to find solutions

“Nothing can be improved upon unless you measure it in the health center,” explains Tiffany White, MPH, Director of Quality Improvement, Ohio Association of Community Health Centers (OACHC). OACHC works with health centers throughout Ohio to improve patient care services and quality of care that Ohioans receive.

At Neighborhood Health, for example, Dr. Perez learned that many of the providers regularly spent several minutes trying to send e-prescriptions, which should only require a few clicks. Providers often had to locate the correct pharmacy because the information was not already in the EHR, and patients were not always sure which pharmacy they used. Dr. Perez identified the break in the process and worked with the front desk staff to make sure pharmacy information was entered during check-in and registration, well before the provider would see the patient. The result: Providers had more time to focus on their patients and spent less time on sending electronic prescriptions, and patients were happy because they received their medications more quickly.

Check out the Clinical Informatics Section on NACHC Website to see how NACHC helps health centers expand the use of data and technology.