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The Value of the Physician Champion

Posted Dec 08 2008 7:59pm

An article in American Medical News (Dec 8, 2008) describes the value of the Physician Champion through the eyes of a couple of physicians who have taken on this role.

'A physician champion can play a key role in the success of any technology implementation. But the process can be long, and the job will demand much more than cheerleading. Gavin Parisi, MD, doesn't consider himself a computer geek. But he is definitely into technology. So when he took a job as an emergency physician at Banner Estrella and Banner Good Samaritan medical centers in Phoenix, he was excited that the hospitals were already paperless and planning an electronic documentation system. When implementation began, Dr. Parisi volunteered to become the "physician champion." "We needed a voice to be able to communicate with the IT people to see how [physicians] wanted to design things. I decided that's what I would be the best at," he said. Experts agree physician champions are a key component to any tech implementation project. And, like Dr. Parisi, many physicians can assume this role just by asking. The champion need not even be the most tech-savvy physician on staff.'

iHealthbeat (referencing the same article) quotes:

'Acting as a physician champion is "being the doctor who is convinced the product is a good idea and needs to convince others that it is," James Slawson, a family and community medicine doctor at the Medical College of Wisconsin, said. Slawson said he served as the physician champion when his practice implemented charge-capture software. Physician champions also often take on the role of liaison between the medical staff and the technology vendor.

Selecting Physician Champions Slawson said that physicians are better suited to serve in the IT advocate role than an IT professional or high-level administrator because they can better anticipate questions from their colleagues. Rosemarie Nelson, a consultant for the MGMA Health Care Consulting Group, said that physicians often assume the unofficial champion role because they are the ones who already are using the technology or excited about the technology. However, Nelson recommends having two physician champions -- one who is tech savvy and one who is not. She explains that technology-reluctant physicians are more likely to be convinced to use a product by someone who also is just learning to use it, while a more technology-savvy physician likely will have a better understanding of the product and be able to answer questions.'

The concept of the Physician Champion is not new and there are strategies underway across Canada to support the development of peer champion networks with funding support provincially and from Canada Health Infoway. However this is not a role that necessarily comes easily to physicians and can be lengthy and time consuming. Physicians function in an environment of quick decision making and in some respects immediate resolution. For example, a patient with a presenting history and a likely diagnosis will undergo a series of well articulated tests and investigations and based on the result(s) will be managed according to a defined set of options. There is very little left to chance and issues are defined and resolved one way or another. Obviously, this does not apply to all conditions, however the role of the physician champion is not always that clear and one needs to sometimes be a better politician vs. diagnostician in order to be a champion.

However, without physicians leading the charge, it is very difficult to engage their fellow clinicians effectively. A passionate physician champion can change a technical design exercise into a true clinical project with buy-in at the care delivery level. That is what we are aiming for!

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