Jenny Sabol, project manager at Highmark Inc., shares her experience as a young professional in the field of health IT.
What inspired you to join the field of health IT?
I served as president of the health IT club at Heinz College, my graduate school at Carnegie Mellon University. The club was new to the school, and the field of health IT was under the radar. We brought in speakers from the Western Pennsylvania HIMSS Chapter to a meeting to help members learn more about the field, as well as discuss career paths.
Many of my classmates and I joined HIMSS from there, and I ended up leading a group of 15 students to the HIMSS Annual Conference and Exhibition in 2012. The conference showed me the different opportunities available in the field, and that health IT can make a difference. From there, I knew this was a field that I wanted to pursue.
After receiving a Bachelor of Science degree in Rehabilitation Science from the University of Pittsburgh and a Master of Science degree in Health Care Policy and Management from Carnegie Mellon University's Heinz College
I ran for the Western PA HIMSS board of directors, and have been on the board ever since. I have held the president position since July 2015.
What challenges have you encountered?
In my short career, I’ve been lucky enough to have worked on both the provider and payer side, as well as both an internal employee and an external consultant. Across all entities, the biggest challenge I’ve encountered is resistance to change. People tend to see IT as more of a problem than a benefit; it is seen as more training, more work, and more likely to cause problems. It can be so difficult to relay the message that the changes you’re making will overall improve the patients’ health and care.
What successes have you had?
I’ve been privileged to work on projects where I can witness how IT will ultimately affect a patient in a positive way. I’ve been part of teams that perform the data analytics to help identify patients or conditions that have significant room for improvement. I’ve been involved in the decision support process to integrate the knowledge into the care delivery systems. I’ve participated in member outreach and engagement campaigns to show the patients the value of the technology. It is so rewarding (and cool!) to know that I’m helping the patients from the non-clinical side.
What are your personal long-term goals?
I want to increase awareness of health IT, letting people know that there are so many more aspects to it than just implementing and maintaining an EHR or processing claims or coding. Since I am still in the early stages of my career, I want to learn more about many of those aspects in health IT. I want to be considered one of the “experts” in health IT.
And since I was introduced to the field of health IT as a student, my ongoing goal has been to gain students’ and young professionals’ interest and involvement in health IT. We are the future of health IT #GenY4HIT
What would you like to see change in the field of health IT?
I am very passionate about living a healthy lifestyle, and I also work part-time as a cycling and aerobics instructor and personal trainer. From personal tracking devices to large-scale systems, advances in health IT are helping to make people more aware of how their choices impact their health. I hope that health IT will continue to drive the mindset shift to have more people improving their health and taking better care of themselves. So many apps exist to help track food intake, exercise, sleep habits, steps, time being sedentary, blood sugar levels, and more. I believe that the more aware people can be of their health status, the more likely they are to make healthy choices.