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HIT Leader Q&A: Lessons learned from systems and Starbucks

Editor’s Note: Health Data Management recently named the 2016 Most Powerful Women in Healthcare IT, including Allscripts Analytics Chief Medical Officer Fatima Paruk. This post is one in a series that features insights from some of these women leaders, including Kara Marx Kate Pavlovich and Dr. Carol Steltenkamp.

When great minds come together, great things happen. At the Most Powerful Women in Healthcare IT conference, leaders from across the industry addressed some of today’s most pressing issues.

Kate Pavlovich, director of strategy and data analytics at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital (New York City, New York, U.S.A.), participated and shared insights in a follow-up interview, including what she learned from working at a hectic espresso bar. Here are highlights from that conversation:

Describe your current role and the path you took to get there.

I’m focused on data governance, which sits in the office of strategy, not IT. It’s a new role, intended to provide a link between our institution’s strategic efforts and the reports, tools and processes we need to use and share data. Previously, I was in the quality department as part of the process improvement team. I was focused on patient throughput and length of stay, and I learned a lot about clinical operations. We were also using a lot of data, and I felt like I was constantly uncovering systemic, high-level issues. My interest in that area led me to my current role.

Why did you choose Health IT as a career?

I’ve always been interested in health care, in science and how things work. My B.A. is in Biology and I thought about going to veterinary or medical school, but I took a year after college to do community development work in Tanzania. While the one-on-one aspect of medicine is still interesting to me – that experience drew me to how systems impact healthcare delivery. I conducted clinical research and earned a graduate degree in health policy. My career appeals to both my interest in systems, and that nerdy side of me that likes the data.

Which of your career achievements are most meaningful to you?

This first example is a little outside the box. When I first moved to New York City, I worked at Starbucks – the early morning shift managing the espresso bar at Grand Central Terminal. That work was all about being able to navigate a chaotic environment and work with my team in a well-choreographed way. I ended up winning an award there, because that’s one of my strengths – finding ways to collaborate and create systems that makes sense. I’m still really proud of that award.

The second achievement is the work we’re doing now on location mapping. We’re building a centralized resource for all of our locations. I’m working with members of the data architecture team, nursing, facilities and the vendor to come up with a construct to capture a lot of information. It’s rewarding to work with people with different skills and build something complex that no one has ever done before.

What advice would you give to people who are just starting a career in Health IT?

Be curious. It might mean following your passions, or saying “yes” to new projects. Try it. You might not be good at it at first, but that’s okay. Another thing, which may be more difficult to find, is an environment where you feel safe and supported. In the long run, you’ll learn and grow so much more. I have this type of work environment now, and it’s amazing.

What are the biggest barriers to effective population health management today?

There are so many. One is the financial structure. The government has made it clear it will continue to move toward value-based care financial models. But a lot of commercial contracting is still in the fee-for-service world. When some of your incentives are in one camp, and some are in another, it can be hard to maximize current contracts and be ready for the future.

Another barrier is that so much of population health is outside of the four walls of the hospital. Health systems and society need to make that cultural shift in thinking about the causes of health and wellness. It’s not just about what’s going in a hospital, it’s about what happens at home, economic factors, societal issues – all of it impacts people’s health.

How are organizations tackling population health management today compared with five years ago? And how will it change over the next five years?

There’s a much greater emphasis now on managing populations. Today, my organization has a population health department and participates in efforts, such as an accountable care organization (ACO), bundled payments and more.

Government payers will keep us accountable for high-quality, good outcomes, which is the right way to go. From a data standpoint, we need to figure out interoperability issues and how to integrate other sources of data into clinical data. The more we can integrate the data – and we will – we’ll do a better job gathering it and using it to influence care.

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