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We Still Need More Female Leaders In Health Tech

Posted on July 12, 2016 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. Contact her at @ziegerhealth on Twitter or visit her site at Zieger Healthcare.

Despite the looming presence of Epic’s Judy Faulkner, women are still underrepresented in the boardrooms of health tech companies. This point was underscored a recent article in Healthegy News, which offered a bracing reminder of the need for better gender balance in the industry, especially at the top.

As the article points out, women are grossly underrepresented within digital health, arguably the least traditional niche within the business, running only 6% of these ventures. I don’t know what the stats are for health IT at large but I can’t imagine the ratio is any better (and it may be worse).

And as writer Kirti Patel notes, it’s probably not a coincidence that only 6% of venture capitalists are female. Patel cites stats suggesting that VC teams with women on them are twice as likely to invest in management teams that include women, and three times more likely to invest in companies with female CEOs.

Of course, Faulkner isn’t the only woman to hold a powerful position in the health IT world. Female influencers and leaders in U.S. healthcare industry range from Nancy Ham, CEO of Medicity to Carla Kriwet, CEO of Patient Care and Monitoring Solutions at Phillips to AHIMA CEO Lynne Thomas Gordon. Other standouts include Deborah DiSanzo, General Manager of IBM Watson Health and of course Karen DeSalvo, Acting Assistant Secretary for Health at ONC. But numbers-wise, women with top roles in health IT are still in the minority.

To be fair, the lack of women in the health IT boardroom reflects the larger technology industry. Research suggests that only 25% of professional computing physicians in the 2015 U.S. workforce were held by women, and that just 17% of Fortune 500 CIO positions were held by women that year. This dovetails with other trends, such as the fact that only 15% of 2014 computer science bachelor’s degree recipients at major research universities were women.

Still, even given these statistics, I’d argue that we all know incredible women in health IT who might be capable of far more, including top leadership roles, if they had the opportunity. And while I’m not suggesting that conscious discrimination is going on, gender bias pops up in ways that people don’t always recognize.

The problem is so pervasive, in part, because it extends beyond technical positions to healthcare as a whole. According to statistics from a couple of years ago, women made up 80% of the healthcare workforce, but just 40% of the leadership roles in the industry.

Health IT faces too many challenges to pass over anyone who might have good solutions to offer. Health IT organizations should do everything they can to be sure that unseen gender bias in preventing them from moving the industry forward.

The Journey to Perfection

Posted on December 28, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

One of the reoccurring learnings I’ve had this year revolves around judging something new against perfection as opposed to comparing something new against the status quo. I see this over and over in the EHR and Healthcare IT world.

Pairing this idea with the idea in the tweet, I wonder if too often we’re found trying to achieve perfection in healthcare that we are afraid to take the journey to perfection.

I’m chewing on this idea this weekend. What are you thinking about this weekend?

Keeping Your Head Above Water

Posted on December 26, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

This Holiday season my wife and I decided to visit my in-laws in the frozen tundra of upstate NY with our 4 children. Why we would leave the beautiful Las Vegas winter for upstate NY can only be explained by love. Although, we’ve been richly blessed since the weather in Las Vegas has been colder than upstate NY. Someone’s watching out for us. However, you can imagine that a trip with 4 children between the ages of 2-10 is a non-stop experience.

As I thought over what the holidays are like with 4 children in someone else’s house over the holidays, I could see a lot of parallels with health IT leadership. Having 4 kids during the holidays really means that you’re always on edge watching and waiting for the next fire. Yes, I often feel like a fireman that’s in charge of putting out lots of fires created by the children. Although, sometimes it takes the form of chief hostage negotiator as you try and negotiate something with a 5 year old. It’s an all encompassing experience that doesn’t leave much time for sitting back and enjoying the holidays.

Most people I know in healthcare IT are in a similar situation. They’re so overwhelmed by the number of large projects they have on their plate that they don’t have even a second to sit back and survey their work. There are so many fires to put out that they don’t have time to really find the root cause of the fire so they can put it out. The idea of sitting back and surveying and appreciating the journey seems out of the question.

Much like with my children, if I don’t take any time to really understand what’s happening, it’s going to lead to a bad place. You have to take time to evaluate what’s happened and figure out the best way forward. If you don’t, your life will be miserable.

I’ve also learned with my family that it’s important to rely on others. In my family’s case, sometimes this is my wife. Other times my in-laws or a trusted babysitter. In the work environment, you need to have people you trust to “babysit” your projects while you take some time off. Sometimes that’s time off to set the strategic direction for your organization. Other times it’s time off to just have a break from work so you can return back with fresh eyes and a renewed soul.

Another lesson learned is to keep things in perspective. It’s easy to go off on my kids when they do something wrong. However, that easy knee jerk reaction is often detrimental to them and to me. Keeping the impact of what they did in perspective is vital to getting ahead of the curve. The same is true in health IT leadership. Make sure you really understand the impact of someone’s actions or decisions before you make your decision. Blowing up on someone over something trivial just creates a culture that is afraid to do anything. That paralyzes the organization and leads to major problems.

Those are a few of the lessons I’ve been thinking about this holiday season. The great part is that I love my children and really have an amazing opportunity to impact their life for good. Turns out that we have that same opportunity in healthcare as well. We just have to stop frantically trying to keep our head above water and instead relax and devise a thoughtful go-forward strategy.

Creating Amazing Connections with People

Posted on April 18, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

I’m not sure why, but lately I’ve been thinking a lot about creating deep personal connections with the people I meet. If you remember my HIMSS post, I talked a lot about trying to do this at the HIMSS conference. It wasn’t necessarily a strategy that I’d thought out, but just a reflection of what I’d found most interesting and valuable from past conferences. There’s something valuable and beautiful about making a personal connection with someone. I think in the end it leads to great business results as well, but that’s really not the point. Life is so much better when you really connect with someone.

This concept was reinforced when I was reading Ed Marx post about taking pictures with Disney princesses. For those who don’t read the post, each Disney Princess would take a picture with him and then look him in the eyes and have a short personal discussion with him that made him feel special. I was especially intrigued by this since yesterday I took my family to Disneyland.

While at Disneyland, my 10 year old son had saved up all his money and had finally decided to buy this sword that lit up. It was his money, so I basically let him to go up with his wallet and his money and figure out how to buy the sword. I figured it was a good learning experience. He got to learn about tax and the 10 dollar sword cost him $12. He handed the cashier a $20 bill and I asked him how much change he should receive. Happily his math skills were in place and he said he should get $8 back. What happened next was a bit surprising.

The cashier said, “That’s right, but what do you think if I give you back the whole $20 and you get the sword for free?” My son was so excited. You’d think he’d won the lottery. You could see the wheels in his head churning as he pondered the fact that he got a sword and still had all his money. I think he was trying to figure out what to buy next. I suggested that when he got home he could blog about the experience (yes, my 10 year old has a blog). The cashiers were excited that he had a blog as well and asked him to write down the address so they could check it out. When they comment on his blog, I think that might get him even more excited than the free sword.

While I wonder if my son will now expect free stuff when he shops (which should get resolved when he doesn’t get free stuff the next few times he shops), this experience no doubt left a big impression on my son. My cousin who was with us messaged her friend that worked at Disney World said that this was part of the Disney “Magical Memories” program. Cashiers could give away so much free stuff. She said they’d also go out to people buying passes to the park and give away free passes. This reminds me of the Zappos Free Pizza experience that I wrote about on Sunday.

One of the big takeaways from the Health IT Marketing and PR Conference was the need to create Human 2 Human (H2H) connections (Note: The videos from the conference should be posted soon). While this is true in marketing, it’s also true throughout all parts of life. Think about how connecting with your coworkers can benefit your work life. This is particularly true if your a healthcare IT leader in your organization. Imagine the benefits to your personal life if you have hundreds of people you’ve connected with more than just the casual “Hi, how are you?”

What’s really amazing is that creating magical experiences with someone doesn’t take much. In fact, it doesn’t have to cost you anything other than a desire to connect, a change in approach, or a little creativity. Although, the most important thing you need is a sincere and heartfelt concern for others. The magic might not happen immediately, but these efforts over time will create surprising results.

What We Can Health IT Learn From Dancing with the Stars

Posted on March 18, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

A lot of my readers probably don’t know that along with creating the Healthcare Scene blog network, I also have a network of talent reality TV blogs. For some reason, people don’t understand how a techguy could start a health IT blog network and also cover shows like Dancing with the Stars and So You Think You Can Dance. There’s so much synergy between the two networks. Ok, not really, but I’m always surprised how many people in healthcare IT watch these shows as well.

Since last night was the premiere of Dancing with the Stars, I thought I’d apply some of the things I’ve seen in Dancing with the Stars (DWTS) to healthcare. For those not that familiar with the show, this is the 18th season of DWTS and that’s a great run for any show. However, the ratings have slowly started to dip for the show. DWTS has always done well when it came to total viewers (10+ million), but has always had issues attracting the viewers advertisers want to pay for (adults 18–49). The past couple seasons they’ve made some tweaks to the show, but this season they’ve made quite a few major changes to the show to try and engage a new audience and reach that special adults 18–49 demographic.

Now let’s compare this to healthcare IT. How many healthcare organizations are found doing a balancing act between the younger tech savvy crowd and the more risk averse older crowd? I think a lot of them are and more will be doing so in the future. On the one hand you have the doctor who is ready to retire early because she doesn’t want anything to do with EHR and health IT. On the other hand you have the resident who hates going to a practice that doesn’t have an EHR because he can type faster than he writes.

Much like in DWTS, if you cater to the one, you alienate the other. It’s a tough balance. Last night on the premiere of DWTS the show made a number of major changes to try and cater to the younger demographic. I have dozens of emails from the older demographic complaining about the changes. Most are crying for the good old days when they had something that was familiar and the way they liked the show to be. Many of them felt alienated and wondered if the show cared about them.

Does this sound a bit like what some of the health IT therapists (sometimes called CMIOs) feel when they’re talking with some of their older colleagues? They feel alienated by the new technology and long for the good old days. I’ll never forget the nurse who told me she hated EMR because she couldn’t draw the male and female gender symbols. For some reason it was so much better than the Male/Female drop down box (which is ironic because I’m not sure how she drew Male to Female Transgender, but the dropbox handled it just fine).

Much like Dancing with the Stars, there comes a point where you have to do some things that will alienate some of your most ardent fans in order to grow and continue to be viable. Finding the balance between too much alienation and too much catering to the new crowd is a very tough challenge. However, every organization needs to take these risks.

The key to all these changes is creating a culture around change at your organization. Most organizations try the big bang style of healthcare IT implementation. Sometimes it’s necessary, but it’s not the best way. The better way is to create a culture where the organization takes a thoughtful approach to implementing great technology as part of the normal business method. Make sure that whatever changes are implemented have a purpose and it’s communicated well. The combination of multiple small changes made in your organization can accomplish far more in your organization than the big bang IT implementation. Plus, all those small changes add up to a big change for your organization without the same end user alienation.

Debating Gender’s Role in Healthcare Leadership

Posted on August 17, 2012 I Written By

As Social Marketing Director at Billian, Jennifer Dennard is responsible for the continuing development and implementation of the company's social media strategies for Billian's HealthDATA and Porter Research. She is a regular contributor to a number of healthcare blogs and currently manages social marketing channels for the Health IT Leadership Summit and Technology Association of Georgia’s Health Society. You can find her on Twitter @JennDennard.

Some of you may have noticed a new hash tag popping up in healthcare’s tweet stream – #HITChicks was coined earlier this summer by Julie Moffitt, Regional Affairs Coordinator at HIMSS and @HIEChick on Twitter. To me, it was a fun and playful way of bringing together women who actively tweet about various aspects of healthcare.

Men, or #HITDudes, if you will, also joined the conversation:

And let’s not forget:

The article that Michael Gaspar references above, “Healthcare Lacks Female Execs,” pulls stats from a RockHealth report (whose founder, by the way, is a woman), which relates that women account for 73 percent of medical and health services managers, but only 4 percent of healthcare organization CEOs and 18 percent of hospital CEOs. According to the 100 women surveyed for the report, we lack enough self-confidence and simply don’t have enough time to take on executive roles.

Is self-confidence really that much of an issue that it would prevent a woman from taking on a leadership position? I find that particular statistic very surprising, especially considering the number of female healthcare executives in my home state of Georgia – Donna Hyland of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, Dee Cantrell of Emory Healthcare, Gretchen Tegethoff of Athens Regional Medical Center, Deborah Cancilla of Grady Health System, Carol Burrell of Northeast Georgia Health System …. We certainly aren’t experiencing a dearth down here.

Of course, anytime you have an article (or a hash tag) that differentiates women from men, you have to consider whether you’re promoting a “problem” that doesn’t really exist anymore. Do we really even need to make distinctions between male and female when it comes to climbing the corporate ladder? Do we owe it to young women to ensure that they have proper role models to look up to – and do those role models have to be the same gender?

It’s a loaded question that I’ll put to you, dear readers. Should we continue to point out the differences between men and women in healthcare leadership positions? Why or why not? Please discuss amongst yourselves in the comments section below.