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Patel to succeed Johnson in Health IT leadership role

Nov. 6, 2018, 11:02 AM

by John Howser

Kevin Johnson, MD, MS, Cornelius Vanderbilt Professor and chair of the Department of Biomedical Informatics (DBMI) and Senior Vice President of Health Information Technology, will step down from his role as leader of Vanderbilt University Medical Center HealthIT on Jan. 1, 2019.

Kevin Johnson, MD, MS

Neal Patel, MD, MPH, professor of Clinical Pediatrics, associate professor of Biomedical Informatics and VUMC’s Chief Health Information Officer, will succeed Johnson in the role of HealthIT leader while Johnson continues to serve as DBMI chair.

Through this leadership change, Patel will now report to John F. Manning Jr., PhD, MBA, Chief Operating Officer and Corporate Chief of Staff.

Johnson, who is also professor of Pediatrics, joined the Vanderbilt faculty in 2002 and has been chair of the DBMI since 2012. Commensurate with increasing roles and responsibilities developing and supporting advancements to serve the Medical Center’s information technology needs, he was named Senior Vice President for Health Information Technology in 2014.

Neal Patel, MD

HealthIT’s responsibilities include informatics support for a broad scope of VUMC’s health system demands. Tools supplied and supported through HealthIT help enable VUMC to achieve its strategic objectives within the clinical, educational and research enterprises.

Under Johnson’s leadership, HealthIT has recruited a new team of executive directors with decades of information technology experience. During his tenure, Johnson served as leader for the multi-year, system-wide effort to replace StarPanel that led to the selection, installation and continuing optimization of VUMC’s new Epic-based clinical platform, eStar, that went live Nov. 2, 2017. Through his guidance, HealthIT has been firmly integrated into both the research infrastructure at VUMC and, through programs such as the physician champions program, the clinical operational fabric.

“We are grateful to Dr. Johnson for his tireless leadership as DBMI chair and with HealthIT. The size and scale of eStar’s implementation represent the most significant organizational change in the Medical Center’s history. Kevin successfully led this effort with a clear vision from the outset,” said Jeff Balser, MD, PhD, President and Chief Executive Officer, and Dean of the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. “Dr. Patel’s many contributions as a clinical IT innovator, along with his thorough understanding of our organizational needs, make him an ideal successor for this role.

Patel joined Johnson as co-lead during eStar’s “Go Live” launch. Since the implementation, Johnson and Patel continued to lead efforts supporting eStar optimization.

“With Dr. Patel succeeding Dr. Johnson in this role there is an assurance of continuity as we move forward. With our Medical Center and health system at an important inflection point, and in a period of significant growth, I want to express my appreciation to Neal for assuming these new responsibilities. I look forward to working closely with him in this new role,” Manning said.

As Patel assumes the leadership role for HealthIT, Johnson looks forward to devoting more time to his commitments as DBMI chair.

“The time was right for this transition,” Johnson said. “Neal has become an amazingly strong leader — both within HealthIT and throughout VUMC. I am confident that HealthIT is ready to carry on the tradition of VUMC’s informatics excellence, working even more closely now with the terrific faculty and staff in DBMI. This transition gives me time I need to help DBMI better align with the evolving role VUMC is playing in our region.”

In addition to creating clinical tools to increase operational efficiencies and improve patient care, including StarPanel’s Outpatient Prescription Writer and the Task List, Johnson’s contributions to his field have focused on integrating science, technology and medicine into a single fabric, seeking new ways for people to communicate and care for each other.

Patel joined the faculty of the Department of Pediatrics in the Division of Pediatric Critical Care in 1997. He was named Chief Medical Informatics Officer in 2006. His responsibilities in this role included leading efforts for translating the Medical Center’s health care delivery, quality and patient safety goals into informatics strategies to optimize the delivery of patient care.

Finding ways to improve systems that facilitate the effective use of technology and its role in the delivery of clinical care has been a consistent theme in Patel’s career. His ability to translate technologic advances into practical application have led to numerous advances in clinical care and documentation throughout the Medical Center.

In addition to his leadership and long-standing commitment to the clinical information systems and clinical workflow, Patel has also spent significant time providing direct clinical leadership in pediatric critical care. In 2005, he was named co-medical director of Pediatric Critical Care Services. Since he has been on faculty, the PCCU has shown tremendous growth. Currently the PCCU admits over 2,500 patients per year across 36 beds.

In 2011, Patel transitioned into the role of medical director of Pediatric Cardiac Intensive Care. From the initial design of the PCCU to the creation of team atmosphere of care in the PCCU, he has provided guidance and leadership to all members of the multidisciplinary team.

As the new leader of HealthIT, Patel will be responsible for the team serving the Medical Center’s information system users, while supporting ongoing advancements to drive continued improvement in clinical safety, quality and cost.

“I have had the privilege working with the highly talented and dedicated professionals in Health IT for many years,” Patel said. “I am honored to lead this team as we work collaboratively with our customers and partners to meet the technological needs of VUMC.”

VUMC’s leadership in health information technology has resulted in the institution being named a recipient of the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives’ “HealthCare’s Most Wired” multiple times based on innovation in patient care and embracing emerging technologies.

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