The “Most Influential Women in Health IT” Share Words of Wisdom and Issue a Call to Action | Heather Landi | Healthcare Blogs Skip to content Skip to navigation

The “Most Influential Women in Health IT” Share Words of Wisdom and Issue a Call to Action

March 29, 2017
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Receiving an award is often a recognition of past accomplishments and achievements, but several leading women in the health IT industry see their recent award recognition as a call to action and an expectation to continue their work to solve big problems in healthcare through the use of technology.

On Tuesday, I attended a webinar sponsored by the Chicago-based Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) highlighting the inaugural recipients of the HIMSS’s Most Influential Women in Health IT Award. It was an inspiring, thought-provoking panel discussion about leadership, specifically within the health IT world, and how to champion and equip the next generation of leaders. Several of the award recipients shared their insights about solving problems and sharing ideas as well as how they transformed from mentees to mentors, and then leaders.

HIMSS announced the award recipients in December and they were honored during an event at HIMSS17 in Orlando in February. The inaugural group of recipients represent a diverse group of leaders at various stages in their careers—Shareefa Al Abulmonem, head of eServices, King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Center, Saudi Arabia; Marion J. Ball, Ed.D, senior advisor, IBM-Center for Computational Health; Rachelle Blake, CEO and managing director, Omni Med Solutions, Germany; Christina Caraballo, senior healthcare strategist, Get Real Health; Karen DeSalvo, M.D., acting assistant secretary of health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Karen Guice, M.D., acting assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, U.S. Department of Defense and Lisa Stump, chief information officer, Yale New Haven Health and Yale School of Medicine.

Carla Smith, HIMSS executive vice president, pointed out that the award does not focus solely on leaders in senior roles. “HIMSS believes women can be influential at any stage in their career,” she said when opening up on the panel discussion during the webinar.

And, while many of these names were already familiar to me, it was insightful to hear about their unique journeys of transformational change and innovation in the health sector. And, to me, it’s exciting that the awards not only acknowledge the difference women are making in this industry, but also to recognize how each of these leaders is profoundly transforming healthcare through IT.

As an example, Smith pointed out that Marion Ball, considered to be a “senior stateswoman” in the health IT sector, is known as an educator, leader, mentor and champion with a “tremendous body of knowledge and expertise.” Ball, who is on the editorial board at Healthcare Informatics, has been recognized for 30 years of service and major contributions to the field of healthcare informatics, and she has authored/edited 30 books and published more than 250 papers.

“When she got started, the opportunities for women were far less than they are today, and it’s because of women like Marion, that women like me have opportunities today,” Smith said.

Ball started her career as a math major, she said during the webinar, and a first step into health IT was being in charge of installing a system to automate a pathology lab which led to becoming the director of computing as she continued to work with hospital and financial systems.

Asked for her advice on professional development in the health IT industry, Ball said, “I’m a big believer in apprenticeship programs, and life-long learning.” She added, “Without the knowledge of how to use technology and bring it to the bedside and to the research bench, we cannot proceed. Women are playing a huge role in not only in learning but also the training,” she said.

Throughout her years in health IT, Ball said one foundational element still holds true—technology should be built to enable providers to do their jobs better. “Unfortunately, [today] we’re serving the computer rather than the computer serving us,” she said.

Stump, the CIO at Yale New Haven Health and Yale School of Medicine, said that the HIMSS award inspired her to focus on future achievement rather than just recognize past accomplishments. “This award was wisely named ‘most influential women,’ and that’s incredibly smart because it’s not just about accomplishments that have already been achieved, but really a call to action around what is next, an expectation that we will continue to influence the way that technology is used to the benefit of patients. This is one award I think about every day,” she said.

Blake, CEO and managing director, Omni Med Solutions, agreed, saying “This is not just retrospective, but something that is an expectation. How do I continue to be influential and how do I help those that are coming after me as well to be influential? This is a great way to really underscore not only what we’ve done but what we need to do. This is not about how old you are or how senior you are, but what you can achieve.”

I had previously profiled Stump last May after she gave a presentation detailing how the health system is using data and health IT to drive value to patients. In an interview, Stump, then interim CIO, drilled down into the health system’s health IT strategy as it continues its journey to value-based care. A pharmacist by training, Stump has had a unique journey to the CIO role, but key to that journey, she said during the webinar, was thinking as a clinician first, and leveraging technology resources and data to drive health care. “I wasn’t traditionally trained in healthcare IT, or IT, per se, but I was asking the right questions about why can’t the technology do what we need it to do? And that opened those doors, it’s about not being afraid to ask those questions or being afraid that you might look silly, and recognizing the talent of people around you to answer those questions and that creates empowerment to solve big problems. And we still have big problems in healthcare and I encourage everyone to think that way, to think outside the box.”

And while I think it’s definitely worth listening to the entire webinar, the award recipients shared some words of wisdom about leadership that I think bear repeating here:

“’Keep your head down and do the job.’ I took me a few years to take the advice and appreciate it. And what means is, don’t be distracted, by politics, by other people’s competing priorities, by naysayers, but to really focus on the goals, focus on what’s important, on the people who could help you advance those goals. The more you do that and build your credibility and reputation, the path before you becomes open.” – Lisa Stump

“Change management lies in opportunity conversion. My mentors said, ‘When you can change a challenge into an opportunity that is when you will succeed.’” –Rachelle Blake

 “The advice that was given to me, ‘Don’t bring me a problem without bringing me a solution.” –Karen Guice, M.D.

“Education is important; learn the tools of the trade, the secret is to get the certification, get trained in the language, whatever you’re trying to be good at.”— Guice

Regarding the assets that women bring to the health IT industry: “The inclusion. Women always include everyone, and everyone has a role and is important. We’ll help you achieve your goals.” – Shareefa Al Abulmonem

On measuring the future success in health IT: “Technology has the power to shift the way we look at healthcare. When I look at how we measure success in technology, we need to look at it in a phased approach. We’re making doctors understand technology. As technologists, we get it; doctors went to medical school, we studied information technology. We need to listen to these challenges, such as around workflow. We have a lot of work to do right now, as technologists, delivering these tools in a more practical way.” – Christina Caraballo

Here is a link to the webinar on the HIMSS Learning Center site:



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The Modern Healthcare CIO, CMO, and CTO

December 10, 2018
by Lori Williams, Industry Voice, vice president of fulfillment, Gigster
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Disruption in the healthcare space comes primarily from the expansion of data’s role in the industry, and the healthcare C-suite’s familiarity with that expansion will help drive company and industry success

For the healthcare C-suite executive, the industry has never been more complex—nor has it ever contained so much potential. Emerging technologies mixed with political uncertainty has created an environment where incredible amounts of healthcare data are revolutionizing how patient care is handled, but patients remain uncertain about the future of their own health. With better data and the means to draw insights from it, healthcare CIOs, CMOs and CTOs are in a position to help address patients’ uncertainties and make hospitals and clinics more accessible and effective than ever before.

Here’s a look at how the role of the modern healthcare CIO, CMO and CTO is changing:

The Modern Healthcare CIO
The modern healthcare CIO’s role has evolved to become more innovative. No longer a title reserved strictly for engineers and IT professionals, today’s healthcare CIOs are focused on information science instead of simply setting up network infrastructure or providing back-end support. The trend towards a more data-centric role began as hospitals rolled out electronic health records, equipping individuals with better access to healthcare provider data. Through enterprise data warehousing, CIOs are becoming masters of data management, governance and predictive analytics, and passing along the many benefits of those knowledge bases to patients.

The Modern Healthcare CMO
The confusing healthcare landscape makes the role of a healthcare CMO more necessary than ever before. Thanks to ongoing regulatory changes, uncertainty surrounding the Affordable Care Act, and shifting consumer expectations for on-demand services, healthcare CMOs are responsible for helping patients navigate their way through a complex and opaque industry. As patients continue to assume the role of consumers, carrying out comparison shopping as they would for any other industry, CMOs must be adept in crafting a healthcare provider’s brand and messaging.

At the same time, CMOs must also ensure that healthcare providers offer a modern online experience, ensuring websites are mobile-optimized and social media accounts are generating engagement. This also means CMOs need to help move marketing efforts into the 21st century, transitioning away from direct mail or billboards towards digital marketing and CRM tools. Because if they don’t, there are plenty of med tech startups that will promptly eat into their market share.

The Modern Healthcare CTO
Unlike healthcare CTOs of the past who remained siloed off from the rest of the organization, today’s modern healthcare CTO is fully engaged with healthcare providers and their technology stacks, utilizing new software and hardware to improve daily workflows. The CTO is enabling the transition to patient-oriented self-service operations, enabling patients to carry out administrative tasks like scheduling appointments or refilling prescriptions over the internet. Because medical data is often stored in a variety of different sources, it’s critical for the CTO to be able to keep these systems interoperable with one another. For hospitals riddled with legacy software, CTOs should expect to continue employing middleware solutions to bridge the gap between old and new.

Members of the healthcare industry C-suite have the power to transform lives, and the CIO, CMO and CTO have roles that directly affect a provider’s ability to carry out positive change. With better data from the CTO’s tech stack, the CIO can use better analytics to help providers determine the best solutions for their patients, marketed to consumers by the CMO through modern platforms in clear, easy-to-understand language.

Lori Williams currently serves as Gigster’s vice president of fulfillment. Prior to joining Gigster, Lori was the general manager for Appririo.

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What Does Your Magnum Opus Look Like? A Few Operatic Thoughts

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I was given the privilege and pleasure recently of presenting, for the second year in a row, a lecture on Richard Wagner’s “Ring” cycle, as the leading opera company in my city, a world-class opera house, has been putting on, in yearly succession, the four operas of the “Ring of the Nibelung” cycle by German composer Richard Wagner (1813-1883). Last year, the second opera in the tetratology, “Die Walküre,” was performed; this year, the third opera, “Siegfried.” After the concluding opera, “Götterdämmerung,” is performed, the entire cycle will be presented in festival format, always a major cultural event. I spoke on “Siegfried.”

I’ve been fortunate to have seen six complete “Ring” cycles in live opera houses in different cities, and I can tell you, it’s a life-changing experience, as this four-opera work (16 hours of music altogether), sits at the absolute summit of western art. Richard Wagner was a hideous human being himself, but spent numerous years working on something that changed the course of classical music and redefined opera.

What’s more, from the summer of 1848, when Wagner wrote a first sketch of the libretti, or texts, of the operas, until their true compositional completion in 1871, more than 23 years were to pass; and it would be another five years before the tetralogy was fully presented, in a purpose-built new opera house in the Bavarian town of Bayreuth. It was a herculean feat to create the entire text of these four long operas, and compose 16 hours of music that would completely redefine the concept of opera. Indeed, when the crowned heads of Europe, the great living composers, and the 19th-century European intelligentsia and glitterati, gathered at the new Festspielhaus in Bayreuth in 1876, many were so overwhelmed by what they saw and heard, that they were rendered speechless. Even now, 142 years later, first time Ring-goers are overwhelmed by the breadth and sweep, the musical and dramatic audacity, and uniqueness of the “Ring” operas, with their story of gods, giants, dwarves, flying Valkyries, Rhinemaidens, one huge dragon, humans, gold mined from a river, magic swords and spears, and of course, a gold ring whose possessor can control the world and its fate.

Even just looking at the third opera, “Siegfried,” Wagner struggled mightily. For one thing, being essentially a grifter and a cad, Wagner borrowed/took money from everyone who would lend/give it, and often had affairs with the wives of the patrons bankrolling his compositional work, leaving his life in constant chaos, as he fled from one city to the next. One such wife, Mathilde Wesendonck, inspired the opera “Tristan und Isolde,” groundbreaking operas that Wagner wrote during a 12-year hiatus in his composition of “Siegfried.” And “Tristan” itself changed the entirety of classical music, its tonality-challenging chromaticism.

Well, no one is expecting anyone to match the unique creativity of Wagner’s “Ring” cycle. But the leaders of U.S. patient care organizations are doing a lot of important things these days, including using formal continuous improvement methodologies to rework core patient care delivery processes in order to transition into value-based healthcare. What’s more, as our Special Report on Leadership outlines, the entire role of the CIO is being rethought now, as the demands for leadership and strategic capabilities are catapulting that role forward; and patient care organizations are beginning to make real headway in advancing equality for women and people of color among the ranks of healthcare IT leaders and managers.

So while no one is expecting anyone to create an operatic tetralogy that will change the face of music, there are plenty of heroic endeavors open to anyone willing to envision the healthcare system of the future. The opportunities are as limitless as the imagination.

Related Insights For: Leadership


Using Performance Management to Scale

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Performance management is so much more than just a year-end performance review
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Performance management and goal setting have always been part of my DNA. It’s like a compass that tells us we are steering the ship in the right direction or gives us a chance to course correct if we wander off track. It’s hard for any organization to determine how they are doing unless there are clear measurable objectives. CIOs and their leaders need monthly, quarterly and annual goals to measure how you and your team are doing against the plan. I also firmly believe they should be S.M.A.R.T. goals: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-based.

Once the goals have been established, you need a written plan. I like three-year rolling plans so you can look into the future and describe your vision of what your organization will look like 36 months out. Then you can work back to the second year, and eventually the first year, to give you the framework for what you need to accomplish in the next 12 months. I suggest you do it with your managers. It makes them accountable to the organization since they are involved in the formation of the plan.

Your plan must be a living document to be used frequently during team meetings throughout the year to see how you are performing as a team and individually. This is not a process you invest in to review at year-end to see how you performed. By then it’s too late. It must be reviewed on a consistent basis to make sure everyone is on track. Performance management is so much more than just a year-end performance review. If there are individuals who are not performing against the plan, you can use the plan as a tool to performance manage them to re-engage as an important member of the team. 

I just returned from the Scale-up Conference in Denver and learned so much about taking goal setting and performance management to a whole new level by adopting the "Rockefeller Habits," as written by Verne Harnish. After reading the book, everything changed for me in the way we will be doing our planning, goal setting and performance management forever. It’s so brilliant and easy to understand. Here they are:

Rockefeller Habit #1: The executive team is healthy and aligned

Rockefeller Habit #2: Everyone is aligned with the #1 thing that needs to be accomplished this quarter to move the organization forward

Rockefeller Habit #3: Communication rhythm is established and information moves through the organization accurately and quickly

Rockefeller Habit #4: Every facet of the organization has a person assigned with accountability for ensuring goals are met

Rockefeller Habit #5: Ongoing employee input is collected to identify obstacles and opportunities

Rockefeller Habit #6: Reporting and analysis of customer feedback data is as frequent and accurate as financial data

Rockefeller Habit #7: Core values and purpose are “alive” in the organization

Rockefeller Habit #8: Employees can articulate the key components of the company’s strategy accurately

Rockefeller Habit #9: All employees can answer quantitatively whether they had a good day or week

Rockefeller Habit #10: The company’s plans and performance are visible to everyone

Accountability is no longer hard to measure since the entire plan is visible to everyone throughout the organization. Each part of your team should have key people accountable for every functional part of your organization. No more guessing is required. I’ve read countless books about leadership, performance management and goal setting, as I’ve been an avid student on the subject for decades.

These ten habits, once adopted and measured regularly, can change any organization that wants to grow and scale, and keep everyone accountable along the way.

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