As a woman in health IT who helped usher in the initial waves of digital health innovation, I’ve witnessed an incredible amount of transformative change throughout my career. Even as a veteran in the field, the notion of constant change in your industry can still feel overwhelming; I can only imagine how it feels for those just getting started.
When I received the Most Influential Women in Health IT Award at the HIMSS18 Global Conference & Exhibition, it reminded me of my own journey and the many influential mentors I met along the way.
I recalled the first IT professional I had the chance to work with, who helped answer the basic questions like, what is project management, what is cybersecurity, why do we have a computer room behind locked doors?
Sometimes when you’re involved in certain projects, you’re so engrossed in its details that you’re not stepping back and looking at the organizing frameworks to see the bigger picture. This mentor helped me do that, which led to the development of my earliest technical knowledge and experience in my profession.
Later on, I met another influential mentor in the field who showed me how to apply that technical knowledge to a healthcare setting. I remember how excited my colleagues were when they told me: “There’s another IT nurse in the community that you have to meet!” We met, and since then, our friendship and collegiality have spanned over the course of many years. This ‘IT nurse’ shared invaluable insights with me stemming from her education in industrial engineering, which shares many of the core concepts of our work with informatics and workflow redesign. Her insights gave me a clearer vision into all of the working parts of our profession.
She also showed me the importance of engaging with your profession outside of regular work hours. With her encouragement, I began getting involved with organizations like HIMSS – doing more committee work, running for boards, coordinating events and embracing the overall organizational aspect of health IT with other like-minded individuals.
Among all of the topics driving transformative change in health IT, I think artificial intelligence (AI) is one solution that I would be most excited to learn about as an early careerist. Cognitive computing really takes what we’re doing with our data to new heights; it looks for correlations and pulls things together we might not have otherwise seen. It doesn’t magically make a diagnosis; it simply points that information back to the researcher or clinician as an observation that may not be immediately visible to us. And we’re then able to use that data to determine the fundamental differences within patient groups, based on criteria, like risk factors and other data pulled from electronic health records. This is yet another example of transformative solutions that have us speeding into the next frontier of health information and technology.
It’s no simple task to help mentor and prepare another person for a field that experiences so much change; especially when the right answer today could be a different one tomorrow. But when you’re truly passionate about health IT, you eventually learn to ebb and flow with these changes – and appreciate them, because they illustrate the transformative power of our work.
It sometimes can feel like a race with no finish line, but you learn to just run with it – because you’re in the business of saving lives. And what’s more gratifying than that?
Help address the gender gap in health IT and the need for more community, resources and recognition of women in the industry by joining the HIMSS Women in Health IT Community.
The views and opinions expressed in this blog or by commenters are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of HIMSS or its affiliates
Originally published April 5, 2018, updated July 17, 2018