| El Camino Hospital is ramping up its efforts to stay cutting-edge, adding a new position to its administrative staff to oversee the hospital's information and technology interests.
Eric Pifer, M.D., was hired last week as the hospital's chief medical information officer, the first person to inhabit the newly created vice-president-level position.
Pifer is scheduled to begin at the hospital on Sept. 4. He will be a member of the medical staff and report to hospital CEO Ken Graham.
The hospital reported that Pifer's salary will be $375,000 a year.
As chief medical information officer, Pifer will oversee the hospital's technology functions, with particular regard to quality, he said.
"The hospital not only wants all of its systems to run properly, but wants those systems to actually improve patient care," Pifer said.
Pifer said he was well aware of the turbulent road El Camino traveled when implementing its online information system, called El Camino Hospital Online, or ECHO.
The computerized records system, which is used daily by medical staff to place orders for medicines and tests and to track patient records, was considered difficult to use by many and caused disruptions in pharmaceutical services.
Avoiding a future situation like the one caused by the transition to ECHO "was one of the incentives" for creating the position, Pifer said.
"They've worked with software they've bought off the shelf, and they had issues getting the technology to do what they want it to do," he said. "They need to make sure all the clinical systems hum."
Graham had a pivotal role in bringing Pifer onboard. "Study after study," he said, has shown that one of the best ways to reduce errors is to "give doctors better real-time access to medical records and critical patient information."
"Physicians do their best when they have all the information necessary to support timely, accurate treatment decisions," Graham said.
As the assistant professor of medicine and chief medical information officer at the University of Pennsylvania Health System, where he worked since 1998, Pifer has specialized in implementing and customizing clinical information systems. He also has maintained a medical practice, and had teaching responsibilities at the university.
He is widely published on the subject of health care "informatics," and in 2006 received the American Medical Director of Information Systems Award for Excellence.
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