Happy Clinician

Service-Oriented IT Leads to Happier Clinicians

Participants in KLAS’ Arch Collaborative have learned that a healthcare organization’s culture has even greater sway on employees’ satisfaction with the EMR than the actual EMR in use. So when 50 health systems participating in the Collaborative gathered at the Arch Collaborative Summit in Salt Lake City, various aspects of culture were discussed in depth.

One breakout session was facilitated by John Muir Health’s Steven Schlossberg. He recounted his organization’s efforts to create a service-oriented informatics culture and led a dialogue about how such efforts can empower physicians and ultimately lead to improved tools and attitudes. Representatives from other health systems chimed in with their own ideas. The conversation eventually settled into three categories: expectations, communication, and collaboration.


Schlossberg started the discussion by describing John Muir Health’s decision to improve their governance, particularly in terms of change management, by redefining roles. The organization realized that, if oriented correctly, their informatics team could serve as a bridge between the operations and IT teams. But that ideal would require some significant changes.

John Muir Health’s leaders understood that clinicians respond best to people they trust. To build trust, the leaders decided they would need to shift their informaticists’ focus. So they changed the job description for their current and future informaticists. Instead of being expected to work as systems analysts in IT and focus on information systems, the informatics team was asked to become a customer service team for the clinicians.

Other Summit attendees were interested to hear how the informaticists felt about the mandate to build relationships and trust with clinicians. Schlossberg cheerfully reported that members of the informatics team actually liked the culture change and enjoyed the chance to talk with the clinicians. The inter-team bonds that had been built also served as a foundation for the next step: communicating about service requests.


One participant in the breakout discussion was quick to note that too many health systems kid themselves by thinking of a ticketing system as a method of communication. A support ticket is nothing more than a way to track work. After all, as a leader from Mayo Clinic pointed out in another breakout session, communication requires an opportunity for each side to give feedback.

Friendships between physicians and informaticists can certainly encourage reasonable dialogue about problems or requests. For instance, understanding individual clinicians well enough to communicate clearly with them can help informaticists explain pragmatic realities that may prevent them from filling certain requests. In turn, camaraderie and an understanding of informaticists’ limits can prevent physicians from taking on a “doctors versus IT” mentality when their requests aren’t realistic.

Schlossberg then brought up how John Muir Health incorporates clinician-IT communication into their change management. Their steering committee includes both physicians and nonphysicians who identify which changes would be useful to end users and then help prioritize the change requests accordingly. This forum for communication helps members of the IT team in their mission to please. They can become solution providers instead of just order takers and be prepared to truly collaborate with the clinicians.


Leaders in every industry understand the importance of collaboration. One attendee of the Summit noted early in our breakout discussion that problems don’t get solved in silos or when only members of HIT leadership are talking. However, someone else countered that involving too many people in change management can slow things down. The room agreed that good collaboration is enabled, not through involving as many people as possible, but through involving the right people.

For John Muir Health, the “right people” come from different teams and levels. Schlossberg explained that their multidisciplinary workgroups are each led jointly by a physician and a nonphysician. These workgroups also include members of both the clinical and operational staff. This allows for several points of view without mucking up the water to the point of inaction.

Several participants in the discussion were interested to hear about other organizations’ experiences with involving more clinicians in change management meetings. One person testified that at their health system, the first few meetings to which they’d invited several clinicians were far from perfect (“squirrelly” was the exact description). However, the organization patiently insisted that this collaboration continue, and its leaders witnessed that most of the clinicians’ ideas went in good directions when given enough time.

The success stories shared in this breakout session of the Arch Collaborative Summit serve as proof: when health systems set the right expectations, facilitate effective communication, and require cross-team collaboration, IT teams can begin to truly serve clinicians. This service will become realistic and physician-centered improvements to the EMR and other systems. Ultimately, physician satisfaction—with both the IT team and the EMR—will soar.

If the highlights of this breakout session have you begging for more, stay tuned! KLAS will continue to publish insights from the Arch Collaborative Summit in future blog posts. If you’d like to take things a step further, join the Arch Collaborative and get access to published case studies from dozens of health systems. You’ll learn more than you could have anticipated.