Throwing My Hat in the Ring for EHRA

By Alise Widmer, RN

Hat on tableBeginning in 2012, and continuing as I transitioned from one EHR company to another, I was a passive member of EHRA workgroups. Listening in on biweekly calls, I became more impressed by the work that so many volunteers do on behalf of EHRA — especially when you consider it’s in addition to their demanding day jobs. 

I’m inspired by what I’ve observed as sincere passion for the greater good of the healthcare community. Yes, there is also robust advocacy on behalf of the EHR vendor community, but the efforts I’ve witnessed go beyond supporting corporate interests to an embrace of patient safety efforts and other demonstrations of a conscientious stewardship of the role of electronic health records in enhancing patient care. I began to want a more involved role in the association (as opposed to the normal ‘multi-tasking’ I would do during workgroup calls), so last year I decided to “throw my hat in the ring,” and was honored to be appointed as vice chair of the Standards & Interoperability Workgroup when that position became vacant mid-term.

Though I was a bit intimidated at first, the vice chair role has been an enormous learning opportunity. Not only has my Chair taught me a ton about facilitating meetings that encourage specific technological feedback, but I’ve been exposed, in many ways, to the inner-workings of HIT policy creation. I’ve also been invited to participate in association events, such as the annual EHRA Government Relations Retreat that included in-person visits with ONC, CMS, and Senate and House aides. 

During the annual HIMSS Conference, I participated in meetings with government healthcare officials, legislators, standards development organizations, journalists and HIT experts. This kind of access and visibility into the federal HIT agenda provides a unique advantage to participants like me. It’s exciting and empowering to join EHRA members of assorted backgrounds and expertise to work alongside federal and state representatives to clear a path forward that is meaningful from all available perspectives. It’s a rewarding experience, however big or small our individual contributions may be.

The Standards & Interoperability Workgroup tends to be more technical than what my clinical training as an RN prepared me for, so I sometimes doubt my ability to provide useful contributions in that area. Thankfully, because my Chair has the technical aspects covered in spades, I believe I bring a unique set of skills that reflect an important non-technical point-of-view. 

For instance, in addition to providing an ambulatory EHR, my company is a Medicare Advantage (MA) plan manager and develops technology for the delivery of value-based care. This positions me to offer an important perspective, especially in light of the recently proposed CMS Interoperability and Patient Access rule requiring MA orgs to implement FHIR-based APIs. The HIT industry is beginning to bridge the interoperability gap by integrating other software solutions with EHRs to facilitate value-based care objectives. This is just one example of how each of us is primed to help guide the EHR community through progressively more uncharted waters.

I encourage EHRA members to join EHRA workgroup and task force calls on topics that interest you. While the association’s workgroups invariably present the opportunity for everyone to contribute their individual expertise, it’s okay to just listen for your first few calls. Later, when you feel inspired by something or someone you hear on a workgroup call, take the plunge and throw your own hat in the ring for a leadership position!  


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