Join CarePort Health CEO Lissy Hu, MD (@hulissy) and fellow panelists at the annual #HealthITChicks Meetup at #HIMSS18 on Tuesday, March 6 at 2pm. Learn more about the session, “Making the Ladder Lateral: Advice from #HealthITChicks on Creating the Career Path That Works Best for You,” here.
How long have you been in health IT, and what made you gravitate towards – and stay in – the field?
For much of my childhood, my mom worked as a home health aide for a woman in her thirties with ALS. Since this relationship spanned many years, we became close to this woman and her family. From a young age, I learned to appreciate what it meant to have a career in healthcare dedicated to the service of others.
Prior to starting medical school, I had an opportunity to work on a hospital’s care coordination program. Coordinating care requires knowing where your patients are receiving care. Unfortunately, while we knew a lot about patients while they were in our hospital, it was a complete black box once they left. Without visibility, we could not effectively coordinate care with downstream providers such as nursing homes and home health agencies.
I founded CarePort to bridge the gap between hospitals and post-discharge providers, and to create transparency across the continuum. I saw a foundational problem in healthcare and tackled it by starting a company.
Five years later, I continue to be motivated every day by the opportunity to have a big impact. The stories from care coordinators at the front lines of patient care are particularly meaningful. It’s inspiring for me and my team to hear about how our tools help ensure that no patient slips through the cracks after leaving the hospital.
Do you consider your career path to be a traditional one?
Certainly, it’s not the norm for doctors to found healthcare IT companies. As a medical student, I had been on a structured path for a long time. It was terrifying to stray from that known path and start a company from scratch.
To succeed in a startup, you have to believe wholeheartedly in what you are doing. Even at times when I felt like giving up, I couldn’t bring myself to. I couldn’t imagine a world where a technology solution like CarePort didn’t exist.
I would venture to say this is true for all founders. In the women’s CEO group that I am part of, we all share a very high level of passion for the work we do. It takes courage, perseverance, and faith in yourself to take risks and pursue a non-traditional career path. I was really motivated by the problem I was trying to solve with CarePort, and it’s been incredibly rewarding.
Can you offer an anecdote or two about when you realized your desire to step off the traditional MD career path was the right one for you?
As many inspirational moments in healthcare do, mine came during an encounter with a patient whom I was caring for in the hospital. This was one of the first patients where I truly felt that I had made a difference in her care. She had a difficult hospital course, so I continued to worry about her even after she left. About a week after she was discharged to a nursing home, I was still thinking about her, so I asked my senior attending if it would be ok if I called the nursing home to see how she was doing. The senior attending said to me, “Well, I don’t know if I would do that because what if you did call and you found out that something was going wrong? You would have liability for that. Do you really want to open this can of worms?” For me, it was such a pivotal moment. It opened my eyes to the systemic barriers in place in healthcare – in this case, discouraging me as a provider from doing the right thing and following up with a patient.
When value-based payment models emerged, I was very excited because these models removed some of those systemic barriers. They incentivized coordinated care across the continuum. As reimbursement models changed, I wanted to be at the forefront of building technology to help providers succeed in new collaborative care models. I left the traditional path because I wanted to tackle the systemic and intractable problems in healthcare that impact millions of patients like the one I cared for, and I believed in the promise of technology to address these problems at scale.
What advice can you offer women in health IT looking to make their career path their own?
I would say to follow your passion and own it. There is much pressure to conform and follow the traditional path. Forging a career path that is truly your own can be arduous, but it’s absolutely worth it. I go to work every day loving my job. I have tremendous respect for my team. I believe the problems that we are addressing matter. The incredible sense of satisfaction and purpose that I derive from my job is in large part because I have shaped my career to be my own.
At the same time, I would also say to be sure to seek out the right support. Your mentors can help you see important blind spots. For example, when I was in the process of raising venture funding, one of my advisors who came with me to many pitches made an observation that surprised me. He said that I was subject to a higher level of scrutiny from prospective investors than male founders. I had to show more proof points than the most male founders he had worked with. Building a network of mentors helps you see past your own singular experience so that you can address these challenges head on.
Join all of the #healthITchicks #HIMSS18 panelists during the #healthITchicks tweet chat on Wednesday, Feb. 21 at 1pm ET.