Thomas Vincent

Making the most of medical records

It isn’t often that the President of the United States asks for your help to further your profession. But that’s exactly what happened to Thomas Vincent, a recent graduate of the HITECH program at JCCC, and he happily accepted. 

Vincent attended a White House discussion on the future of electronic medical records (EMR). The goal was to provide feedback on how health information technology can help improve the quality of patient care and how that improved quality can lead to better patient health. 

Vincent received his certificate from JCCC in Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) during the program’s first phase in 2010. Even though he already had a bachelor’s degree in computer systems and a master’s degree in management of information systems, he went back to JCCC to explore career options in health care. 

“I had been looking into health care for some time, and after doing some research, health care seemed to be the growing field,” Vincent said. 

One reason for the field’s expansive growth is the HITECH Act of 2009. The act mandated that every American have an electronic medical record by 2014, and those records needed to maintain a “meaningful use” in the health care system. 

Helping doctors in 78 different family practices achieve that “meaningful use” is now Vincent’s career. He was hired by the Kansas Foundation for Medical Care (KFMC), a quality improvement organization with contracts from health care companies, the Department of Health and Human Services and the State of Kansas. 

While the career switch to health care was deliberate for Vincent, ““the road to the White House totally caught me off guard,” he said. 

Deb Elder, HIT grant program director, nominated Vincent for event. Organizers were looking for a former student who had been hired into health information technology (HIT) to represent the Midwest. 

“I certainly felt excited, privileged and honored to be nominated for the honor,” Vincent said. 

In Washington D.C., participants heard Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of Health and Human Services and former Kansas governor, speak of the successes and challenges of electronic medical records. Then they attended breakout sessions focusing on different aspects of health information. 

The organizers asked the invited professionals to share what had worked and to provide suggestions on how the government might better be a resource for change. 

“It was phenomenal. I heard doctors in urban communities [and] from rural areas talk about how they managed the challenge of not having the resources they needed” while still accomplishing their goals, Vincent said. 

Energized from the exchange of ideas, Vincent returned to work and suggested to KFMC an in-service presented by a consultant specializing in change, paired with a physician who had successfully adopted the EMR process. 

It was an idea he had considered before the D.C. trip, but one that became all the more plausible and necessary after his return. 

“What makes EMR successful is the human factor,” Vincent said. “We need to address that.” 

He said he loves the empowerment KFMC has given him to try out new ideas. 

“It’s fun; it’s challenging; it’s a blank slate,” Vincent said. “We get to create and be the pioneers.”