Christie Bartels, MD, MS, has been active with ACR committees for more than seven years. With a special interest in implementation science and health information technology (IT), Dr. Bartels, Rheumatology Division Chief and associate professor in the Department of Medicine, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health in Madison, will share her interest in health IT while serving as chair of the Committee on Registries & Health Information Technology (RHIT). Here, Dr. Bartels shares her ACR committee work background with The Rheumatologist.
The Rheumatologist (TR): Could you explain what the RHIT does?
Dr. Bartels: RHIT works to advance health IT in rheumatology toward safe, efficient, effective, equitable, patient-centered care. We oversee the Rheumatology Informatics System for Effectiveness (RISE) registry for quality improvement and research, which also informs rheumatology data standards and value-based payment innovation. RISE data helped validate all 25-plus ACR quality measures, supporting the work of the ACR Quality Measures Subcommittee (QMS) and practices. RISE data also helped inform the first ACR lupus quality measures we published in 2023 through a Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) grant. Moreover, RHIT members are working with electronic health records (EHR) vendors and technology partners through projects like RheumCode, seeking data standardization for care and quality reporting to improve the lives of patients and providers.
TR: What prompted your interest in becoming chair of RHIT?
Dr. Bartels: I originally joined RHIT in 2016 under chairs Dino Kazi, MD, and Jinoos Yazdany, MD, MPH. I also served as the QMS liaison, joined the RHIT Research & Publications Subcommittee in 2019 and became chair of that group from 2020–2023. Given my background in health services and implementation science research using EHR and big data to improve preventive care, RHIT and its subcommittees resonated with my love of learning and interest in improving rheumatology care delivery at scale.
More broadly, active involvement in ACR committees offered me opportunities to network with inspiring peers, like Drs. Kazi and Yazdany through RHIT and Lisa Suter, MD, through the QMS, to work toward improving care and outcomes for patients nationally. Working with such incredibly talented volunteers and dedicated ACR staff has been icing on the cake.
TR: Could you say a little about your work with the ACR Quality Measures Subcommittee and other subcommittees and how that work supports your upcoming role with RHIT?
Dr. Bartels: In 2021, Dr. Yazdany invited me to co-chair the ACR’s CDC-funded project to identify lupus quality measures and patient-reported outcomes (PRO). Working with Patti Katz, PhD, April Jorge, MD, and ACR staff, we convened a Delphi committee to derive longitudinal lupus quality measures, a PRO working group and a national patient advisory group. Seeing how the ACR RISE registry supports 25 current measures as well as robust processes for developing new, meaningful, rheumatology-specific measures has inspired me as we define the next chapter. Moreover, that project inspired me to partner with other ACR volunteers to develop a quality and equity roadmap along with QMS and the Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Committee, recognizing that there is no quality without equity, nor equity without quality.
TR: What plans and goals do you have for the RHIT Committee after the next year or so?
Dr. Bartels: Beyond current initiatives to investigate and improve quality and equity using RISE, ACR’s RHIT team is in the process of defining an operational and strategic roadmap for registry administration, finance and strategic priorities in the years to come. I am excited to help lead that work with Tracy Johansson (senior director of RISE for the ACR) and to invite others to dive in with us, imagining how to advance quality and equity and support ACR members in even more specialty-specific, value-based care, research and practice innovation facilitation.
TR: What originally prompted your interest in rheumatology?
Dr. Bartels: My paternal grandma, Doris, was a hilarious, feisty mother of three sons who helped on the family farm despite suffering for years before her rheumatoid arthritis was diagnosed. Getting a proper diagnosis and treatment changed her life. It has been my absolute pleasure working with patients over the years to likewise help get them back to what they love. I enjoy diagnostic sleuthing in rheumatology, and I love the longitudinal relationships.
TR: Anything else you’d like fellow ACR members to know?
My favorite non-big data EHR use is that I have been known to exchange poems and book titles with patients in the patient portal. I am grateful to care for patients and to use big data to improve care at scale, and I cherish connections with patients and colleagues in the ACR that add meaning to amplify this work and our universal connectedness.
Vanessa Caceres is a medical writer in Bradenton, Fla.