Meet Our Member: Elizabeth Regan, PhD, MA, BS, AS

Dept. Of Integrated Information Technology, University of South Carolina

Elizabeth Regan, PhD, MA, BS, AS, is chair of the Department of Integrated Information Technology (IIT) and associate professor of health information technology at the University of South Carolina (USC).  She is also an adjunct professor in USC’s Arnold School of Public Health. A major focus has been launching USC’s new master of Health Information Technology degree program, a joint offering of the Department of IIT and the Arnold School of Public Health.  She was recently appointed to the HIMSS Innovation Committee.

Before joining USC in July 2011, Regan served as chair of the department of information Systems at Morehead State University, Ky., for 11 years, and as the Elmer and Donna Smith Endowed chair in Health Systems Management for two years. She serves on the board of directors for the Northeast Kentucky Regional Health Information Organization (NeKY RHIO), of which she is a founding member and served as the first board chair. The RHIO also operates as the regional extension center for eastern Kentucky. Regan served five years on the coordinating council for the Kentucky State Health Information Exchange and on the faculty of the University of Kentucky Medical School Rural Physician Leadership program. 

Regan brings to the classroom 16 years of IT management experience in industry, where she was responsible for many projects involving system design and implementation, end-user computing, knowledge management, and organizational transformation. She is the lead author on two college texts on end-user information systems and has published and presented her research in numerous national and international forums.  She has an article coming out in the January edition of JHIM titled, Meaningful Use of IT to Transform Healthcare:  What Differentiates Success from Failure?

HIMSS: How did you become involved with HIMSS?
Regan: I first became involved with HIMSS in 2008 when I was at Morehead State University, and began collaborating with the medical community of eastern Kentucky to establish the Northeast Kentucky Regional Health Information Organization (NeKY RHIO).  I was working with Randy McCleese, currently on the board of CHIME; Trudy Matthews and Keith Hepp at HealthBridge; and Carolyn Steltenkamp, CMIO at University of Kentucky Medical Center, and the former HIMSS vice chair. Randy McCleese and the CMIO at St. Claire Regional Medical Center invited me to join them that year in attending HIMSS, and we drove together to the meeting in Atlanta. The CMIO and I attended what I think was the first pre-conference workshop on health information exchange.

On the drive back to Kentucky, I remember commenting that attending this event with 25,000 plus attendees and hundreds of sessions, pre-conference workshops, and over a thousand exhibitions was like “taking a sip from a fire hose.” I’ve attended every year since. During past two years, the University of South Carolina has had a booth on University Row at the HIMSS Annual Conference & Exhibition. I’m now also an active member of the South Carolina HIMSS chapter.

HIMSS: What has been the most rewarding aspect of your involvement with HIMSS?
Regan: It has been very helpful to be part of an organization on the front lines of healthcare transformation. HIMSS brings together leaders from every perspective of healthcare. The dynamic of being exposed to so many topics and viewpoints in such a concentrated period of time is powerful. It has been fascinating to see the change from year to year. The tone has evolved from still questioning whether the transition to health IT was the right direction, to focusing on how to get the job done, to now focusing on achieving the value of our investments in health IT, and from whether information should be shared to how can we make systems more interoperable and facilitate sharing. 

HIMSS: What is a challenge you face as program chair and professor at the University of South Carolina?
Regan: The biggest challenge probably has been designing a health IT degree that prepares students to be leaders capable of taking healthcare into the future rather than focusing on past practice. This is where organizations like HIMSS have been so valuable. We have become members of the new HIMSS’ Academic Organizational Affiliates program and take advantage of the resources it makes available to our students. Also, the local South Carolina HIMSS chapter allows students to join for free. The other challenge in designing the program was in providing the dual focus on both healthcare and technology, and helping students gain the ability to make the handshake between the two. I know this is a common complaint in health IT, in that the IT designers don’t truly understand the practice side of healthcare and consequently systems fall short of fully meeting the needs on the frontline. 

HIMSS: What do you hope to accomplish, as a member of the HIMSS Innovation Committee?
Regan: I am excited about being appointed to the HIMSS Innovation Committee, and am looking forward to the opportunity to work with national leaders at the forefront of promoting and supporting healthcare innovation. My passion around technology has always been with new opportunities to improve the way things are done and to do new things. I hope to be able to use my experience with implementing major change initiatives in a range of contexts to help advance HIMSS initiatives in promoting and supporting healthcare innovation. I’ve learned a lot from the frontlines of change initiatives about what works and what does not. Some of my current research has been specifically looking at health IT implementation. Questions include:                           

  • What organizations do differently that might account for the wide divergence in reported results?
  • Why some institutions achieving significant value from their investments in health IT (achieving meaningful use) while others are not?
  • Is there some set of identifiable critical factors that differentiate success from failure?

HIMSS: What advice would you give professionals just entering the healthcare or IT field?
Regan: This is something I do every day with our new Master of Health Information Technology students at USC. I tell them that health IT is an exciting and challenging place to be. It offers unprecedented opportunities to have an impact. However, it’s a changing, dynamic environment with many challenges.

Our student population is very diverse from physician, pharmacists, and nurses, to behavioral health, administrators, public agency personnel, information technology and business professionals.. Their interest and enthusiasm around the possibilities of making a difference in healthcare is refreshing. Rosabeth Moss Kanter, in her book on change, “The Change Masters,” likens managing in an environment of constant change to “improvisational theater.”  We need to be flexible and open-minded and prepared to make it up as we go.