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2017 Most Influential Women in Health IT: My Journey in Healthcare Transformation

Submitted by Christina Caraballo, MBA, director of healthcare transformation, Get Real Health

Recipient of the 2017 HIMSS Most Influential Women in Health IT Awards

 

With the world focusing on ways to address the growing cost of healthcare, shortages of providers, patients’ ability to access care, and major gaps in who has access to healthcare based on socioeconomic factors, it is essential for the health IT community to play a role in shifting these trends.

My Springboard into Health IT: Early Career and Education

My position at Get Real Health has afforded me the opportunity to participate in global discussions on these topics. I’ve found that despite our varying healthcare delivery systems, we all see consumer/patient/citizen engagement as a way to achieve the Triple Aim – better care, healthier populations and reduced costs.

But the truth is, health IT was not always on my radar. When I was working on my MBA, I enrolled in a health IT class because schedule-wise,' it was the best fit. To my surprise, I had that ‘aha’ moment - I knew this was it. I suddenly saw health IT as the way to solve some of healthcare’s greatest challenges. As someone who is always up for a new adventure, I jumped in with both feet and soon immersed myself in the health IT arena. Fortunately, this was during a time when the industry saw the value in the investment of educating the workforce, and I was able to pursue a graduate degree in health information technology.

 

One of the big draws for me in this industry is its ability to improve people’s lives on a large scale. This is particularly true in the area of legislation, which I personally love dissecting. It leads me to question where we can make the biggest impact, identify gaps, and focus on bridging them. And most importantly, I honestly think reading regulations is fun. I know, I am a hopeless self-proclaimed policy geek. However, this helped me as I carved out my role to help shape health IT initiatives centered on consumer/patient engagement.

When I was hired at Get Real Health, we did not have a person focused solely on the regulatory side of healthcare. Meaningful Use Stage 2 was all the buzz, so naturally I wanted to read the full document, not the cliff notes, and identify Get Real Health’s play in the market.

 

Once I gained a deeper understanding of the consumer engagement pieces of Meaningful Use, I realized my potential to contribute to broader conversations. Beyond just guiding my company and clients to achieve this initiative, I wanted to share ideas with other like-minded individuals to shape the national and global changes on the horizon.

How HIMSS Took My Career to New Heights

Although Get Real Health is a worldwide leader in consumer engagement platforms, we were still a smaller tech shop in regards to number of employees. As the designated policy expert, I was lacking co-workers who were in the trenches with me. So, I started attending as many events as possible and talking to as many people as I could. I joined my local HIMSS chapter and became a regular face in the crowd. HIMSS felt like home right away, I had found my people!

 

HIMSS and its amazing staff have played a significant role in my ability to navigate the health IT industry. They pushed me to delve into the intricacies of policy, not just the surface; particularly in the early days of leading Get Real Health’s certification. Originally, I read the regulations, identified what we needed to do and passed it off to the tech team to run with. That lasted about two days before I found myself managing the whole certification process, including translating what we needed to do from a technical perspective. You don’t have to write code to know what will and will not work. I’m not one for checking a box and moving on so I wanted to understand the “why” behind the certification and how it works in reality.

 

Although we were one of the first modular certified products under the 2014 Edition Certification, I recognized that this certification was designed and written for traditional EHR vendors. During our original certification process, I wouldn’t be surprised if the ONC team tried to run the other way when they saw me coming. I was constantly talking about things that could be done to make it better and addressing head-on things that needed to be fixed. In large part, my association with HIMSS gave me the confidence to insert myself.

 

A perfect example of a needed fix was the “transmit” part of View, Download and Transmit (VDT) for Meaningful Use. For those who don’t remember, a group of public and private stakeholders within the Standards & Interoperability Framework was working on Blue Button Plus (now governed by the National Association for Trusted Exchange), which was basically designed to automate the “transmit” in VDT and create a trust framework for consumer-mediated data exchange. The reality is, providers didn’t have to send data to it, so they didn’t. So, we regrouped and moved onto FHIR. I think FHIR is great and I look forward to the promise it brings in allowing data to be accessed and shared. However, I fear this is more two steps forward and one step back, because we still need to establish trust and create a way for consumers to find their information in the first place.

 

Such is the way in the policy world.

 

Fueled by the certification experience, I took the leap and applied to be a member of the HIMSS Connected Health Committee. I am in my fourth year on the Committee and serve as the current Chair. I’m looking forward to continue helping HIMSS play a leadership role in bringing together thought leaders to take consumer engagement to the next level.

 

I’ve also been unofficially involved with the HIMSS government relations team on many fronts. Through it I have gained the ability to best approach the advancement of consumer engagement and interoperability. Most importantly, I also have a venue to share my thoughts on what it should look like and partake in healthy debate and deeper dialogue.

My Ongoing Contributions in Health IT

My involvement at HIMSS led to many invitations for speaking engagements for me. I’ll never forget the first time I was invited to speak about cool consumer engagement tools at a conference. It was the beginning of a long line of invitations to speak about consumer engagement and Meaningful Use. Presenting is one of my favorite parts of the job because I am touching decision makers in real time. I can see them nodding and taking notes, and I then love having the opportunity for continued open dialogue to expand upon concepts afterwards. The more we can get folks on the same page, the more quickly we will see change.

 

I am really hopeful about the contributions I made during my tenure on the Federal Advisory Committee’s Interoperability Standards Advisory Task Force. I was brought in to represent consumers and help create a clear path for including a consumer/patient focus in the Interoperability Standards Advisory. During this time, we also collaboratively agreed that the Interoperability Standards Advisory needs to expand to be more inclusive of those outside of the Meaningful Use program, such as long-term and post-acute care (LTPACs), behavioral health, research organizations, and patient focused nonprofits.

 

I’m driven by the bigger picture and love connecting people and ideas to solve problems. The direction the task force took was that we can’t forget to pay attention to what’s going on in other arenas by focusing solely on our own backyard.

 

It might surprise some people to know that I don’t really care about the percentage of patients that actually view, download or transmit their health information. I do care that 100% of patients have electronic access to that health information, know it is their right to access it, know how to access it, and can easily do so. We need to get away from the notion that patient data is an asset of a hospital or doctor. When you begin with this mindset, it is just a matter of taking the steps needed to achieve this shift in ideology.

I am working hard to balance the here and now and parlay it into policy that works for the future. My positions within HIMSS allow me to be more than a bystander as we churn out solutions that empower patients. I am grateful that this industry values the female voice and gives weight to our words. I am not naïve, I understand that, even today, this is not the case in every business scenario.

My Recognition at the Most Influential Women in Health IT 2017 Awards

I certainly did not set out to become one of the Most Influential Women in Health IT, but being honored in 2016 tells me that my work matters. I believe that each of us has the power to positively impact our communities if we have the will and courage to try.

I’m not sure what the future of health IT holds for our community, but it is a sea of opportunity for us all to play a role. See, the unknown is part of what makes it so exciting, and I plan on continuing to be in the thick of it wherever it takes me.

 

Know someone like Christina?

Nominate them for the HIMSS Most Influential Women in Health IT Awards.

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