Yavapai Regional Medical Center (YRMC) has a national reputation for being a leader in technological and digital solutions for patient care. Among other distinctions, the American Hospital Association’s Health Forum has recognized YRMC as a Most Wired Hospital on several occasions.

The administration and staff at YRMC want to ensure that its leading-edge technology serves to enhance the compassionate, patient-centered care the hospital is known for. As you might suspect, in our era of ever-increasing technological advances, this requires an ongoing effort.

What role does the technology at YRMC play in day-to-day care? How does it enhance the experience of our patients? What measures continue to be implemented so that technology allows the delivery of care to be seamless, efficient and patient-centered?

These are some of the questions that a very specialized team at YRMC is dedicated to answering.

At the helm is Dr. Ronael Eckman, YRMC Chief Medical Information Officer. Her responsibility is to analyze, design, revise and implement all of the digital systems related to patient care, including YRMC’s Electronic Medical Record (EMR) system.

Eckman was recently awarded Clinical Informaticist certification from the American Board of Preventative Medicine. This is a relatively new field of study, and an impressive distinction, which allows physicians and other clinicians to combine their experience and expertise in patient care with specialized training in the concepts, methodology and usage of digital information and systems.

The goal is twofold: First, to design the day-to-day workflow for physicians, nurses and clinicians so the system is efficient and easy to access, and second, to train and support the practitioners in its usage.

“We want our providers to be able to focus on their patient without the EMR being burdensome or challenging,” says Eckman.

“We work one-on-one with new providers to help them understand the digital systems process. This includes chart review, accessing results, viewing images and data, and entering their own documentation in the chart,” Eckman explains. “We also show them how to place orders and perform diagnostics, referral and follow up, all digitally.”

“Along the way, our team identifies challenges, nuances, and opportunities for redesign. For example, we may add a new section of orders or new procedures for a new specialty.”

According to Eckman, the rigorous preparation and five-hour exam for Clinical Informaticist certification was well worth it.

“In 2011, I joined the first group of physicians at YRMC to help the transition from paper to electronic records,” she explains. “We served as a sort of liaison between the technical and the clinical. When I learned that a certificate for Clinical Informaticist was available, I saw it as a great opportunity to formalize my education and fill any gaps of knowledge I might have.”

“I knew a more well-rounded, formal education would help me do my job better.”

In addition to serving as Chief Medical Information Officer, Eckman has been practicing clinical medicine at YRMC PhysicianCare’s Ponderosa Pediatrics since 2010.

“Through my practice, I have the unique experience of seeing firsthand every day how YRMC’s digital systems work in an ambulatory clinic, as well as in inpatient Pediatrics and Labor and Delivery for newborns in the hospital,” she says. “This working knowledge, as well as the ability to communicate with my colleagues personally about the system, is truly valuable in my Clinical Informaticist role.”

Not surprisingly, education, knowledge and empowerment color everything that Eckman does.

“As a pediatrician, I try to educate and empower parents to have an understanding of their child’s development or condition so that they can be partners in their child’s care,” she says. “I share with them why I am making a certain recommendation, but also include them in the decision making. Education is the key to a child’s health and wellbeing.”

Eckman continues. The most rewarding thing for me is that I can help other physicians offer this same level of involvement to their patients. As a Clinical Informaticist, I can support my colleagues by giving them the proper tools to deliver the best care possible. Optimizing the system to maximize their ability to focus on their patients is why we’re doing what we’re doing.”