Alozie TX TechDr. Ogechika Alozie, of Texas Tech University Health Science Center El Paso, met with PHIX for a heart to heart conversation about his experiences in Nigeria and the impact it had on his perspective on health care, his thoughts as Chief Health Informatics Officer on the future of interoperability and health care, and Star Wars characters.

1. Tell us about yourself and your different roles.

At Texas Tech, I am now the Chief Health Informatics Officer (CHIO). My title changed from Chief Medical Information Officer (CMIO) recently to encompass the more global role that I have not just at the medical school and the faculty practice, but with projects at the nursing school and with some of our partnerships in the community.

Those partnerships include a role that I play with The Hospitals of Providence as their Director of Digital Health, where I help to get provider alignment on technology. I also serve as a physician champion at University Medical Center for their implementation and upgrade of their electronic medical record (EMR).

Those are the three main things that I do from a digital health standpoint. Then I have had my own personal clinic in the community called Sunset ID Care since January of 2015.

2. How does your experience in Nigeria impact your perspective on health care?

Going to medical school in Nigeria was interesting because it prepared me for a lot of frustrations around diagnostics. There were a lot of the things that we knew how to do but just didn’t have the technology in place. A lot of our medicine was based on clinical examination and the core tenets of medicine, which are great. But it is not how we practice in the US.

My medical school default was to be more public health oriented and be more focused on the patients and their visit initially as opposed to the technology that gets you there, which is kind of weird now given that I am essentially the technology guy.

3. What sparked your interest in health IT?

At my core I have always been a nerd. I have always liked machines and cool technologies. I was a Star Wars, Star Trek, and Battlestar Galactica kid.

The secondary part of it was that when I started my residency at Hennepin County Medical Center (HCMC), they were moving from a homegrown EMR system to Epic. I learned a lot through that process of implementation and change management.

Then when I went to the University of Minnesota for my Infectious Disease Fellowship, they were using Allscripts and then they eventually converted to Epic. Being part of all those EMR processes got me intrigued.

4. What role can HIEs play in health care?

I think that it is twofold. There is that initial toe dipping in the water phase, and now there is a growth phase which is a pivot to doing a little bit more. Initially, HIEs were essentially connecting people together. They were trying to perform that initial Montbell approach, which is: you have a phone here, you have a phone here, and we are going to connect you together.

HIEs that are really trying to be future thinking are thinking about where they can add value going forward. For example, independent providers might not have the resources to do the analytics or emergency room notifications that they need to get their care managers engaged. Those are the next generation phases of the HIE that I think continue to add even more value as our healthcare system evolves.

5. As an infectious disease specialist, how do you think physicians and patients will respond to HIEs?

If you are a physician, whether you are here in El Paso or elsewhere in the country, one of the largest frustrations is having a patient go to an emergency room or a hospital and having them sent back to you because you are in “charge” of their care, and yet having no information on what happened to them over the last month. You don’t have the consult notes, you don’t have the labs, and you don’t have the imaging. Now, obviously you can get that information, but the reality is that that takes an extra 20-30 hours plus. It’s just an inefficient cluster.

Anything that we can do to ensure that the information is in front of you and the information is accessible improves care. The overall value, to not just the patients but also to the system, is immense.

6. As CHIO, what do you see as the future of interoperability and health care?

I really do believe that a lot of the struggles that we have presently in the health care space will evolve like they have in other industries. If you go to an ATM, you can withdraw money even if the ATM is not for your bank.

There is a focus in health care around getting organizations that exchange health information to get on one standard or a set of standards that are a lot easier to navigate. I also think that the fact that companies like Samsung, Apple, and Fitbit getting into health care leaves room for innovation.

7. If there was a movie produced about your life, who would play you?

I used to think it was Will Smith, but I didn’t like his Nigerian accent in Concussion. I would either go Chiwetel Ejiofor or Don Cheadle.

8. Who is your favorite Star Wars character?

When I was a kid, it was Luke Skywalker. As I have gotten older, it has changed. I kind of like Jar Jar Binks, but my kids would give you a different answer.