Fickenscher hopes to accelerate the application of informatics from theoretical concepts of academia to real-world medical practice and bridge gaps between the two realms. "There's going to be very significant growth on the applied side," Fickenscher told InformationWeek Healthcare.
Fickenscher does have a background in academic medicine and is a leader in large integrated health systems, but he has been a health IT consultant for the last several years. He founded consulting firm CREO Strategic Solutions last year after serving as chief strategy and development officer for Dell Healthcare Services. Fickenscher joined Dell in 2009 when the company took over his previous employer, Perot Systems.
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He previously served as chief medical officer at Catholic Healthcare West--now known as Dignity Health--and earlier for Milwaukee-based Aurora Health Care. Earlier, Fickenscher was an assistant dean at Michigan State University and at the University of North Dakota.
"I think there's been a splintering within the IT community," said Fickenscher, who joined AMIA Monday, though he does not become president and CEO until April 1. He is replacing Dr. Edward H. Shortliffe, who has held the top job at AMIA since longtime CEO Dr. Don Detmer retired in 2009.
Fickenscher believes IT professionals in healthcare need to put aside their differences and turf battles to work more closely together. He believes health informatics is about three things: increasing quality of care; reducing costs; and enhancing service to clinicians and patients alike.
"We have made, in this country in particular, major investments in health IT," Fickenscher noted. Someone will need to manage all the new information that this massive investment is producing. AMIA has been active over the years in promoting health IT workforce development programs. "There is ongoing need in the workforce," Fickenscher said.
"The answer for informatics is not just physicians or nurses," Fickenscher added, noting that non-clinicians have important roles to play. "AMIA can bring all of these people together," he said. Fickenscher would like to collaborate more closely with other health IT groups, including the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME), the Association of Medical Directors of Information Systems (AMDIS), and the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS).
AMIA dropped its full name--preferring to be known only by an acronym--last year as a way of demonstrating that its mission and focus is broader than just physicians and that the role of physicians in informatics is evolving.
"I do believe that the whole notion of how we practice medicine is going to change," Fickenscher said. There will be less touching of patients, he believes, as hands-on medicine gives way to telehealth under many circumstances. "This might change the notion of licensure," according to Fickenscher, as physicians push for states to recognize medical licenses issued elsewhere. Currently, most states require telehealth providers to be licensed in the state where the patient is located.
Policy regarding privacy and security of health information is changing as well. "We are going to take a really hard look at HIPAA," Fickenscher said, referring to the privacy and security regulations under the 1996 Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). "Social media is undoing a lot of what HIPAA was built for."
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