St. Claire Regional Medical Center in Morehead, Ky., wanted to put in an electronic health record system, and CIO Randy McCleese drafted family physician Will Melahn, M.D., to be its physician champion.

It wasn't just that he tended to be up on the latest technologies (although he does have an active Twitter account, and had already been through an EHR implementation in his own office). He also had pushed for a combined inpatient/outpatient record, feeling hobbled by the lack of complete information when he made his hospital rounds, and he went to the trouble of educating himself about how the records were kept and how they could be integrated. "He knows so much more than I do that I can't keep up with him," McCleese says.

It turned out to be a canny choice. Within 10 days of the new system going live, Melahn had gotten 100 percent of the medical staff to sign their charts electronically. "We were ecstatic," McCleese says. Melahn is now the hospital's chief medical officer, and its de facto chief medical information officer.

Melahn's secret? After boiling the list of possible products down to three, he insisted that the physicians make the final choice. They created their own evaluation process, saw demos, made site visits, and devised an assessment questionnaire to help them choose. The answers pointed very strongly to one of the three. While the administration had valid business reasons to pick either of the other two-one was offered by one of its existing I.T. vendors, and the other was used at another hospital to which St. Claire made many referrals-it bowed to the will of the medical staff. "That's where the battle was won," Melahn says. "They picked it, so they had to be willing to use it."

"Finding the Leader," a feature story in the August issue of Health Data Management, explores how changing times are bringing a new breed of physician champions to lead providers' information technology initiatives.


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