Healthcare Business News

ER doc makes fast IT transition

By Joseph Conn
Posted: June 22, 2013 - 12:01 am ET

Time isn't always on Dr. Ryun Harper's side.

The physician informaticist and emergency medicine specialist began his health information technology career under minor duress at 323-bed St. Francis Medical Center in Lynwood, Calif., and then things really sped up.

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Harper, now 39, was the youngest person in his emergency medicine group working at the hospital in 2004 when it planned to implement an electronic health-record system in the ED, complete with computerized physician order entry. The leadership of the group looked around for someone to head up the implementation. When their eyes turned to Harper, it was time to learn IT—fast.

“I didn't even like computers to begin with,” concedes the winner of a 2013 AMDIS Award from the Association of Medical Directors of Information Systems. “I was the youngest person in the group, and I was up for partner and so I didn't have a choice. I took on the responsibility.”

A few years later, leaders of the Daughters of Charity Health System, the six-hospital group that operates St. Francis, came calling. Noting his past success in the ED, “They asked if I would assist them in implementing an EHR they selected for all of their hospitals.”

“I wish I had had more input in the selection,” he says, “but my role was to really help them once they made the selection and get the physicians involved.”

He also wished he would have had more time to implement it. St. Francis was the first hospital to “go live”—on June 9, 2012. That meant they had to achieve 90 days of “meaningful use” of the new EHR before the fiscal year ran out Sept. 30. “We had to be ready to report July 1,” he recalls. “You basically had three weeks to start reporting everything.”

Health IT work is often like that in the emergency department, he says. “You don't have a lot of time for trial and error,” but, “everybody stepped up to the plate and did what they needed to do.”

Harper says he brings an emergency physician's mindset to his IT work. “It gives you a slight advantage for two reasons,” he says. “You deal with life-threatening stress on a daily basis and, you have to develop problem-solving skills. You have to deal with this problem now, and then you work with your vendor to come up with a long-term solution.”

Follow Joseph Conn on Twitter: @MHJConn

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