Something new is happening at this year’s HIMSS: a gathering for our future health IT leaders – Millennials. I know, there are a lot of articles and conversations on Millennials. Too many, some would say.
For me, the conversation is healthy, especially when we talk about the lessons learned from past experiences and discuss the future challenges. However, too many of the articles have been negative stereotyping. Some in the older generations seem to have adopted the persona of the grumpy old uncle or negative aunt. Within this mixed environment, I am excited to see HIMSS embrace Millennials and invite them to connect at the Millennials on a Mission Reception. On Twitter, you can begin to jump into the conversation using #GenY4HIT.
I am honored to serve as a co-chair of this event, along with Jenny Sabol. As we get ready for HIMSS16 and the gathering of future health IT leaders, I called Jenny, a Millennial health IT leader, to ask her a few questions as a warm-up to the upcoming conversations.
Jenny is an associate project manager at Allegheny Health Network and president of the Western PA HIMSS.
Health IT Leader, Jenny Sabol
Jenny: I did my undergrad at Pitt, and my major was in Rehab Science. I was going to go back to nursing school, but I decided that I didn’t want to go into the clinical side of healthcare. I found a program at Carnegie Mellon in Healthcare Policy and Management, and they had a heath IT track. That’s the track I went on. Through this experience, it ended up being a great mix of health IT and operations, and that’s how I got connected with HIMSS.
In grad school, we had some of the HIMSS board members come and talk to our class. I took an interest in the work at HIMSS, and I got involved as a student. After I graduated from grad school, I ran for the Board of Directors of Western PA HIMSS, and after serving in different roles over the past few years, I most recently was elected to serve as president.
In my work experience, I spent a few years in the health IT consulting, and now I’m on the provider side working in the IT department at a large hospital system in Pittsburgh.
Jon: Given your interest in nursing, was there something about the technology part that drew you in?
Jenny: I like how technology is growing and changing. I always tell people I don’t sit still. I like to explore new, challenging fields and ideas every day, so that’s how I got in the IT track of things. Everything in IT seems new every day, and that’s exciting for me.
Jon: Over the last several years, you’ve been involved in a lot of change in health IT and seen a lot of change. What’s kind of the biggest shift you’ve seen in health IT that’s had a positive impact?
Jenny: There are a lot of systems now. At my previous company, we did a lot of implementation projects of the new systems, but now all the health care facilities are looking at how they best use them. It’s more of an efficiency thing rather than being the biggest and best. The question we answer is: How can we best use our health IT tools? That’s the biggest change I’ve seen over the past few years.
Jon: So more of the shift to optimization of systems versus just implementing them?
Jon: Looking ahead to three to five years, what change in health IT would you like to see happen more aggressively?
Jenny: Many would like to see more interoperability between systems. We have a huge go-live here in two weeks and how the systems can talk to each other is critical. Interoperability should be easier.
The other area we need to focus more on is gaining the optimization of the systems. Moving beyond implementation to optimization will generate even more benefits to care providers and patients.
Jon: What change is needed to make interoperability more efficient or happen more easily? In consulting, they always talk about process, technology, and people. For interoperability, which is the primary challenge, or is it all three?
Jenny: I would say it’s a process issue. There are several data flow issues to define and resolve, so people also get intermixed here. It isn’t a people issue necessarily. Getting people on board to make the change that’s needed is essential. Getting the process defined along with the required, supporting patient data flow is first, and then people and technology become the enabling forces.
Jon: Okay, and let’s discuss getting Millennials together at HIMSS16. If you look back over the last three to five years of your career, what leadership skills have helped you the most in navigating change or leading projects?
Jenny: What helped me along the way is getting to know the technology. Getting to know the technology is a continuous learning process. When I came out of grad school, the technology side wasn’t emphasized as much. The terminology and technology go hand-in-hand, and you need to get your hands involved in both.
I’ve had a lot of really good mentorship throughout my past few years, and my career has involved just learning from everyone who is willing to share their experiences and insights. The consulting field helped me to open my eyes to what’s needed in health technology as well as being in different facilities, projects, and systems.
My key advice would be to be open to learning. Be open to making sure you become an expert in what you do because that will get you a long way. It takes time to become an expert but use your resources. Use your mentorship. Talk to people who have been in the field for years and who can help to guide you along the way.
Jon: On the personal health IT side, do you use any apps or other digital health devices in your own personal health tracking?
Jenny: I use my Garmin watch for all of my workouts, and I can sync that with my Garmin Vivofit that is used to track my steps. Everything is uploaded to the app on my phone to track my data. I have MyChart by Epic on my phone, and I can track all of my personal health records here.
Jon: Do you find tracking natural or challenging? What change would you like to see in how health IT impacts you as an individual in taking care of your own personal care and ongoing records?
Jenny: The one thing that is big is interoperability again. I just switched the provider and payer systems when I started my new job this past summer, and none of my records were transferred to my current tracking system. I had to update that all on my own and include all of my records into my new system. Again, if systems could talk to each other and be more integrated, that would be helpful, so people can always have accurate health data.
Jon: Anything that excites you about the future of health IT?
Jenny: With all the tracking and interoperability that is possible now, I hope this will bring a shift in having people improve their health and want to take care of themselves better. I know someone who is diabetic, and she recently got an app where she can track her blood sugar levels at all times. I think that makes people more aware of their health status. For others, it may be the apps that they can track their food intake or exercise. I also work in the fitness industry part-time, so starting to see both of my professions integrate in the end gives me hope that this will push for a healthier population in general and make people more aware of their health status. That’s my hope for the future of health IT.
Millennials on a Mission: Continue the Health IT Conversations
Conversations are where experiences are shared, and this is a key point to remember at HIMSS and in our everyday workplaces. By having the conversations and sharing insights between generations, we will craft a better health IT community and a healthier future.
Remember, start the conversations now on Twitter and use #GenY4HIT. Continue the conversations during and after HIMSS. Enhancing our healthcare system depends on it!
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