Working With Your IT Department
Carolyn A. Silzle, MS, MBA, RD, LD
After 20+ years as a clinical registered dietitian, I switched to a job as a clinical informatics specialist within our hospital’s Information Technology (IT) Department, where I support and build our electronic health records (EHRs). Here are some suggestions to make your work with your own IT department more productive.
Get to know your IT people
Make an effort to get to know the IT people you work with. We are all willing to go that extra mile when we have a relationship with someone. While you do not have to become Facebook friends, I would recommend attending any meetings where your IT department is demonstrating a system or asking for feedback regarding enhancements.
Volunteer to test the system
This is a great way to better understand what the IT department is trying to do.
Educate your IT Department
Spend time explaining what you do and how you do it. Most IT people have not interacted with registered dietitians before and have no clue of how they spend their day or use the computer system. They are not interested in diet advice, but they are interested in workflow. Get ready to explain how you are notified of new orders and what you do once you have an order. Show examples of notes and other ways that you document in the chart. Make sure to include information that you regularly use from other parts of the chart, such as heights, weights, current medications, and reasons for admissions. Also discuss any other programs that you use to do your work. Do you have a food service system that needs to know admissions and discharges, as well as diet orders? Would you like the ability to print documents or labels?
Discuss where your team works
Does your team cover clinics and multidisciplinary procedures (such as swallow studies), see outpatients, and/or cover employee wellness initiatives? Your IT Department needs to know it all, in order to see the big picture.
Ask about optimization
After using a system for a while, you may find that what looked great on paper and/or during testing is not working in daily use. Even if it is not possible to do something immediately, asking about optimization puts your request on the radar as updates come in from the vendor, which might fix the problem. Invite a member of your IT team to a meeting where you can show them real-world examples of what you are trying to do and the roadblocks you are experiencing.
Learn a bit about informatics
I am currently taking the American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA)/Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics 10x10 Class. While I already know a bit about the day-to-day workings of EHRs, this is giving me the background and terminology to discuss trends and the future of electronic health care. This also is providing me with a greater appreciation of the work that the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is doing to work with world informatics groups and our government, so that nutrition and dietetics are included in legislation and standards for future EHRs.