Women are responsible for making the health care decisions for their children in 80% of families, according to a 2010 report by the Kaiser Family Foundation. So it’s surprising we women are underrepresented in the world of health IT. We are our society’s de facto health care planners. Yet, we are underrepresented in one of the most important segments of health care, during one of the most important times for change in health care. Since we and our families will be the ones who stand to gain, we should want to play a major role in charting the course of the future of health IT. Below, I list five women who are doing just that.
Regina Holliday – The Patient Rights Advocate
What she does: Regina Holliday advocates for patient rights through art. Inspired by her late husband’s struggle to get appropriate care for kidney cancer, her paintings are designed to provoke thought about the meaning behind changes in the world of health IT. One of her most discussed paintings, “The Menu Set," reflects her thoughts on the Meaningful Use (MU) requirements that doctors must meet to qualify for HITECH Act federal grants. While providers may see these requirements as just another hurdle, Holliday thinks MU requirements have the potential to transform patient treatment. She captures this well in her painting. Why you should know about her: Holliday is known to voice her message at places ranging from the HIMSS12 conference, where she’ll be a keynote speaker, to TEDMED, where she’ll be an on-site artist. An advocate for clear, transparent electronic health records (EHRs) that patients can access and take with them wherever they must, Holliday reminds us: “Timely access to personal health information can make all the difference to patients throughout the world…. the game is not about money. It is about life and death.”
Judith Faulkner – The Old Guard
What she does: In 1979 Faulkner launched the company that eventually became Epic Systems. Epic not only introduced the industry’s first Windows-based EHR, they’re also responsible for developing one of the first web-based health IT systems and one of the first personal health records, MyHealth. Epic is used by Kaiser Permanente, the largest non-governmental health care provider in the country. All this was accomplished with Faulkner firmly in the driver’s seat: she’s still involved in any major company decision. Why you should know about her: With a seat on President Obama’s Health Information Technology Policy Committee, Faulkner appears poised to expand her influence. For example, her company is in the running for a contract for a massive expansion of the Veterans Administration’s electronic health record system. She does generate some controversy, however, because of her lack of support for multi-vendor interoperability.
Susannah Fox – The Thought Leader
What she does: As the Pew Internet Project's Researcher on Health and Health Care, Susannah Fox studies the cultural shifts taking place at the intersection of technology, health and the information highway. For example, thanks to her, we know that 13 percent of adults have gone online to find other people who might have health concerns similar to theirs, and that those living with chronic and rare conditions are significantly more likely to do this. Why you should know about her: Fox blogs regularly on e-Patients.net and is helping researchers understand the habits of patients so that health IT can better support them. A recent, thought-provoking comment from her blog illuminates her role as a visionary: “What if, instead of running clinical trials on patients, scientists ran trials with patients?”
Halle Tecco – The Incubator
What she does: Tecco co-founded Rock Health, a seed accelerator “powering the future of the digital health ecosystem” by providing capital and mentorship to health startups. Launched just last year, Rock Health has drawn funding from Microsoft, Qualcomm, Quest Diagnostics and Genentech. Two of its first class of graduates have already drawn additional funding from investors. Why you should know about her: Tecco should be inspiration to those who might not have a strong background in health but still want to get involved in health IT. She had roles at Apple and Intel prior to attending Harvard Business School, where she met Rock Health’s co-founder, Nate Gross. Her organization, too, aims to bring in developers and programmers–who may or may not have had a background in health– to encourage new thinking about health care. Rock Health has a solid group of advisers involved, including the CEO of Sermo, and representatives from Twitter, 23andMe, HealthTap, and the Mayo Clinic, among others.
Amy Sheng – The Innovator
What she does: Amy Sheng and Erik Douglas met in a lab working on mobile microscopy for the developing world. In 2010 they formed CellScope, Inc. to apply the technology to home use in Europe and the United States. CellScope–supported through Rock Health (see above)–uses optical attachments that turn smartphones into diagnostic-quality imaging systems, letting consumers bring “expert diagnosis and advice into low-resource settings.” Why you should know about her: CellScope is available for use in village clinics in the developing world and households in the developed world. It demonstrates the great potential for telehealth solutions to break down the barriers separating developing countries from high quality health care. Have I left anyone important off the list? Please email me at email@example.com or leave a comment below. If I get enough additional nominees I’ll do a follow-up to this post in a few weeks. Thanks for reading! Thumbnail image source: Wikimedia Commons via Rei-Artur