The Health IT industry is filled with people who believe in the power of harnessing technology to transform the way we think about health and health care. Despite the challenges and bumps in the road, our industry is dedicated to improving lives and making health care more affordable and accessible.
As we undergo a global culture shift in how we approach health care by incorporating technology, I constantly remind myself that there is still a box surrounding the traditional way some of us think about and approach healthcare issues. I see this profession as an evolving matrix ripe with opportunity to make our voices heard to develop solutions, improve upon regulations, and understand how ecosystems enable information flow to help us lay the foundation for the future.
Overall, women have made great strides in the workforce, but the reality is there are still gaps and room for improvement. Lately, however, there has been a welcome shift. Organizations like HIMSS are openly recognizing the wealth of strong, competent women working behind the scenes in this burgeoning industry. Being named as one of the most influential women in Health IT by HIMSS is both intimidating and exhilarating. It is an honor to be recognized, but it also creates high expectations to continue to make a positive impact as we reshape the way we think about and deliver health care around the world. I am most excited when I think about what lies ahead, and how I can continue to play a role in building communities.
Around the same time I joined Get Real Health and committed to becoming a change agent in healthcare technology, I discovered parkour. Parkour is a workout regimen whose origins lie in the training of Special Forces Units using obstacles and challenging courses. If ninjas worked out, they would be climbing, jumping, and repelling their way through parkour.
A Parkour State of Mind
The mental aspect of parkour is just as vital as the physical. Not long after I started training, I fell in love with the discipline parkour requires and the parkour community. Today, I am an ambassador for American Parkour and am one of its women leaders. It is important for women to feel comfortable in what is normally a male-dominated sport, so working with younger women helps establish a foundation for group unity.
Throughout the years, I have seen many parallels between parkour and my professional life. Parkour is built around communities (gyms and meet-ups, or “jams”) of like-minded individuals. Within these groups, we aim to inspire one another and encourage improvement and advancement. The coolest part about parkour is that you don’t need any fancy equipment, just a pair of sneakers, and even those are optional. It is all about exploring your environment through movement, which can be as simple as balancing on a bike rack or scaling between two buildings. The health IT community is similar; our passion is evident whenever we are together at conferences or meetings brainstorming and sharing ideas.
Scaling the Wall
There are new challenges on the horizon for both parkour and health IT. I believe in learning to make yourself comfortable outside of your comfort zone. To make a positive change, it is important to have a voice and not be scared to use it to inspire others. Whether at the gym or a Congressional roundtable, success is about scaling the wall in front of you using strategy and your strengths to propel you to safe ground.
Ask any athlete or CEO, and they will likely remember every individual who mentored them as they rose through the ranks of their chosen profession. Mentorship is inherent to everything that I do. Not only have I been influenced by strong men and women in health IT and parkour, but in the process, I have learned how to be a good mentor. It helps to have someone at the top of the wall extending a hand to help make your goals a reality. I volunteer my time at the gym and on various industry committees for that reason.
Encouraging others and working together on common goals not only accomplishes more, but it is also rewarding. I love nothing more than to hear another point of view on a topic—or an alternative approach to the obstacle course—and incorporate that feedback into my thought process. I am constantly reminded that everyone’s input is valuable, even if the value is not immediately seen. I can’t tell you the number of times I wrote down a quote that struck me in the moment and much later saw how those words were impactful in my everyday life. One of my favorite quotes of all time is simple yet powerful: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”
Just as in parkour, we in health IT are looking at the big picture and taking it one obstacle at a time. We use creative thinking and problem-solving to overcome our fears of failure and push past traditional limits to achieve more than we imagined. Even as we continue to work diligently to create regulatory guidelines and learn best practices from one another, we know that there will be more obstacles as we build the framework.
Roll and Spin
Instead of running from minor setbacks, we are facing them head-on and moving forward with modifications, new versions, and improvements. Tweaking is still going on at this very moment and will continue until we create the health ecosystem that will enable us to explore new ways of solving problems. From a parkour perspective, this can be phrased as, “Don’t worry about a perfect landing, but learn to roll and spin.” You might just discover a new approach or way of thinking that is truly innovative!
The future looks bright for women in health IT. I am inspired by my colleagues who constantly lift me up and who share my ideology and enthusiasm for empowering others. I guess we are all health IT ninjas; nimble, flexible, and armed with the passion and intelligence to slay the course ahead. I can’t wait to see what lies on the other side of that wall!
Christina Caraballo, MBA, is senior healthcare strategist for Get Real Health.