Are you a PIGlet? Someone interested in the field of medical informatics? One of our newest informaticists coined the term PIGlet (Physician Informatics Group member). Cute. Increasingly I’m meeting with medical students, medical residents, and now physicians as well as allied health persons (nurses, physical therapists) interested in the field, and unsure how to get started.
First, let’s address some of the misconceptions.
Fallacy #1: Informatics is about designing computer screens and talking with vendors about features and screen design.
Fallacy #2: Informatics is about going into a dark room, creating a fantastic tool, launching it into the public, and collecting all the acclaim from coworkers who instantly understand why you are requiring more clicks and typing to complete your amazing new software package.
Fallacy #3: Informatics is about being smarter than everyone else and just knowing the solution you cooked up in your head is going to work for everyone — if only they did things the right way, like you.
Instead, informatics is about creating a vision of what healthcare could be, empowered with knowledge. This is a team sport. It is about collaboration: collecting everyone’s best ideas, developing consensus, trying a bunch of things in small batches, seeing what works, and then making a big bet, measuring outcomes, and diving back in for the next cycle of improvement.
Done well, informatics is design thinking and teamwork, and the “information technology” is just how it is implemented. This is completely the opposite of what many think informatics is.
They’re … wrong.
Here are some ideas for getting started. A fair number of these are associated with a TED talk or other online video summaries.
Read about informatics (but only after reading about leadership and organizational change):
- Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association
- Managing Technological Change (Lorenzi & Riley)
- The Design of Everyday Things (Norman)
- Nudge (Thaler)
- The Glass Cage (Carr)
Books about leadership and culture change:
- Leading Change (Kotter)
- Good to Great (Collins)
- Death by Meeting (Lencioni)
- Delivering Happiness (Hsieh)
- Tribal Leadership (Logan)
Books on self-improvement:
- Getting Things Done (Allen)
- Deep Work (Newport)
- The ONE Thing (Keller)
- Atomic Habits (Clear)
- The Practicing Mind (Sterner)
There are also several blogs on this topic, including this one (of course), and KevinMD, which provides a platform for physicians, advanced practitioners, nurses, medical students, and patients to share insights.
Above all, be curious, be useful, pace yourself, and take care of yourself so that when opportunities arise, you can sprint into action. Create learning habits to stay abreast of changes that affect your clinical practice and that of your colleagues. Read broadly about other industries unrelated to your own, and how problems are solved elsewhere.
CMIO’s take? Informatics has become a crucial part of medical training. The most commonly used (and often hated) tool for physicians today is the EHR; more common than the Yankauer, the retractor, the scalpel — even the stethoscope. Why not develop exceptional skills with this tool? Until it matures into a self-aware entity (which will be covered in a later post), it is on us to shape it into a useful tool.
This piece was originally published on The Undiscovered Country, a blog written by CT Lin, MD, CMIO at University of Colorado Health and professor at University of Colorado School of Medicine. To follow him on Twitter, click here.
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