May 26, 2011

FCC official gets firsthand look at VUMC’s informatics capabilities

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During a recent tour, Neal Patel, M.D., MPH, left, discusses Vanderbilt’s health information systems with Mignon Clyburn, a commissioner with the Federal Communications Commission, right, David Grimaldi, her chief of staff, and former FCC commissioner Deborah Taylor Tate. (photo by Anne Rayner)

FCC official gets firsthand look at VUMC's informatics capabilities

A U.S. communications regulator visited Vanderbilt last week to learn how the nation might emulate the Medical Center’s successful use of electronic health information systems.

Mignon Clyburn, a commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission, met with informatics leaders at Vanderbilt to see how the hospital uses informatics to engage patients directly in their own care, and to support team communications. Informatics is the science of how information is acquired, structured and used.

Clyburn was accompanied by Nashville native and former FCC commissioner Deborah Taylor Tate during her visit, which included a tour of the Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt.

The FCC plays an important role in the development of national health care information systems, such as one like Vanderbilt’s MyHealth online records portal and Star Panel’s patient database. Members of the commission control the spectrum of bandwidth (capacity) on the Internet that is needed to handle such complex communications tools.

“To do what we are able to do in this hospital, as a country, means that we have to have national bandwidth where we have quality assurance,” said William Stead, M.D., associate vice chancellor for Health Affairs and chief Strategy and Information Officer.

“The computational techniques we use require minimal delay or error rate on the network. Within Vanderbilt’s space, we can pretty much guarantee that because we have physical control of the network.”

He said as medicine has become more complex, doctors and nurses need systems to help them apply evidence-based practices to patient care.

“Informatics is absolutely critical to allowing a team to work together and communicate with each other and to help each of us to make the right decisions the first time,” Stead said.

Clyburn said she looked forward to seeing what the FCC could do from a policymaking standpoint to further patient engagement.

“This visit has reaffirmed how important and how vital and how much of a positive it would be for patients, family members and those who care about them to have information at their fingertips to be able to better manage their care for greater outcomes,” Clyburn said. “That’s Nirvana by way of empowerment.”

Clyburn also met Jim Jirjis, M.D., chief medical information officer for Outpatient Services and medical director of the Adult Primary Care Center, to hear a presentation on MyHealth at Vandy.

Following the presentation, the commissioner toured the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, where she saw a demonstration of Star Panel from Neal Patel, M.D., chief medical information officer for Inpatient Services and co-medical director of Pediatric Critical Care Services.