Population and Public Health

Black History Month Member Spotlight: Burgess Harrison

We celebrate Black History Month

HIMSS is celebrating Black History Month by spotlighting HIMSS members who are making a difference for underrepresented minority communities. HIMSS has supported its members in initiatives to remedy racial and ethnic disparities in healthcare like the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act of 2021, the annual Global Health Equity Week, and celebrating black excellence at the HIMSS Global Conference & Exhibition.  

Today, HIMSS is highlighting Burgess Harrison. Burgess is the executive director at the National Minority Health Association. 

What inspired you to pursue a career in health IT, and how has your journey contributed to advancements in the field, particularly for underrepresented communities? 

My journey in health IT began in the 1990s with a vision to address fraud, waste, and abuse in homecare through an automated system known then as telephony, now referred to as Electronic Visit Verification (EVV). This innovation, now mandated by Congress since 2016, replaced outdated paper processes, ensuring accurate and fair payroll for homecare workers and patients and in particular underserved populations. According to a 2021 report by UCSF Health Workforce Research Center on Long-Term Care, EVV has significantly impacted personal care services.  EVV has been crucial in modernizing healthcare administration, saving millions of dollars and administrative hours, thus allowing better focus on care. 

Can you share a specific initiative or project you've been involved in within the industry that has positively impacted addressing health disparities or improving healthcare access for marginalized populations? 

In 2021, I led an initiative at the National Minority Health Association funded by an $11 million HRSA grant, aimed at increasing COVID-19 vaccine accessibility in hesitant and underserved communities. This project involved collaborating with nearly 2,000 home health and homecare agencies across the United States. Originally operational in 12 states, the program's success led to its expansion to all 50 states. We developed a custom AWS database in just six weeks to manage security, verify vaccinations, facilitate incentives, and gather responses to 29 required HRSA survey questions for each participant. Our efforts met the grant's objectives and significantly enhanced vaccine access for marginalized populations.  We were told that we were one of HRSA’s most innovative COVID19 grants. 

How do you envision the future of healthcare technology playing a role in promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion within the industry? Are there specific areas where you see opportunities for positive change? 

Healthcare technology is poised to significantly enhance healthcare delivery, particularly for marginalized and underserved populations, by improving efficiency and reducing costs. However, challenges such as the risk of implicit bias in AI highlight the need for careful refinement and structured guidelines. Our initiatives like "Operation Healthy™ You" aim to curate health apps and services to provide greater access and optimize health outcomes. Additionally, our "Equityville™" program is designed to bridge the technological gap for these populations, transitioning from traditional web interfaces to immersive experiences like web 3.0, AR, and VR. With our Memory Impairment Engagement Framework (MI-EF) we've proposed utilizes AI and ML to improve care for individuals with memory impairments, emphasizing inclusivity, data privacy, and collaborative management. These developments underscore our commitment to leveraging technology for greater equity and inclusion in healthcare. 

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