#HealthITChicks Spotlight Interview: Jess Clifton (@jslentzclifton)

This month’s spotlight shines on Jess Clifton (@jslentzclifton), #healthITchicks second-in-command, senior healthcare writer at Agency Ten22 and host of the #healthITchicks chat on Wednesday, October 17 at 1pm ET.

What prompted you to enter the health IT field?

The origin of my affiliation with healthcare and health IT was coincidental. My first job out of college was with a publishing company that counted the Hospital Blue Book among its publications. We were transitioning that market research to a digital business intelligence platform – tackling data integrations, quality control, APIs and reporting — at a time when healthcare was being encouraged and incentivized to adopt similar technologies. It gave me a great deal of respect for what the industry was (and still is) trying to tackle.

My belief that technology really can bring much-needed transparency and efficiency to healthcare is what has kept me in the field. It also prompted my interest in writing about the world of healthcare IT.

Has your work in the field helped to improve patient care? How?

I like to think the work I’ve done with Ten22 and various client thought leaders and accounts has helped connect healthcare organizations with tools and expertise that are legitimately helping to build a better healthcare system. From billing process improvements, to analytics and EHR support, to innovations in consumer engagement, many of the technologies and implementation services we’ve helped clients market to providers directly impact their quality of clinical care, as well as patient experience.

What health IT development/product has you excited about its potential to improve care access/quality/cost, etc.?

The advancement of analytics and adoption of technologies like machine learning represent phenomenal opportunities to improve targeting and treatment in healthcare. I’m pleased to see the concept of what comprises health expanding to incorporate things like behavioral and social health. It’s not sexy, but I feel that the same core efforts to advance data aggregation and integration in healthcare — supporting providers’ ability to amass and assess a broad spectrum of patient health factors — will have the greatest impact on health.

That said, I’m honestly equally excited about simple things like remote monitoring and other forms of telehealth to support the new “digital house call.” It feels like the industry — no doubt driven, in part, by the new competitive threat of consumer behemoths like Amazon, CVS and Google—is finally adopting a patient-centric lens. I’m excited to see the rise of additional direct-to-consumer trends in healthcare.

The #healthITchicks community believes strongly in doing good and giving back. What are your favorite ways to give back, personally and/or professionally?

Personally, our family has taken a slightly different approach to charity support over the past couple of years. We’ve elected to choose two outlets each year to focus on in the hopes of making more significant contributions to those causes. This year, we’re supporting St. Jude’s cancer research and our local Child and Family Services agency.

Professionally, I always try to do what I can to encourage and support my friends and colleagues in healthcare IT (and beyond). It’s always a satisfying feeling when I can help those I know connect with their next client, collaborator or job prospect.

When it comes to personal and professional development, who or what has had the biggest impact on yours?

It really is all about who you know. I’ve heard it said that you’re a combination of the seven people you spend the most time with. I’ve been fortunate to work with and learn from a deep pool of wise colleagues and leaders who never hesitated to offer me honest, candid advice. It has been those quiet, offline, one-on-one conversations about things like wages, work project benchmarks and negotiation tactics that have helped me grow both professionally and personally.

Here lately I’m gaining a new appreciation for how much personal health supports professional health. Learning techniques to modify old, negative internal thought tracks has been a personal objective of mine. Learning about and practicing mindfulness and a growth mindset is slowly helping me cultivate more confidence.

In terms of career advice for younger colleagues, what do you wish you had known then that you know now?

I wish I’d known how natural periods of transition would be. I think I had an unrealistic view of career security — that the job would go on forever and turnover was a rarity rather than a rule. The buy-out of a long-term employer and the high levels of M&A activity and turnover I’ve seen in the industry have taught me otherwise. More importantly, it’s taught me to always be open to growth opportunities. View those points of transition as chances to make your career what you really want it to be. Spend time homing in on what it is that: 1) really makes you happy, 2) you are legitimately good at, 3) people are willing to pay you for, and 4) is of benefit.

What are you looking forward to chatting about during the #healthITchicks tweet chat on October 17? 

Perhaps it’s the changing seasons—or possibly the litany of friends and colleagues who seem to be in career transitions around me—but I’d love to discuss the angst and opportunity of transitions during this month’s chat.

  • Was there a time in your career when you felt it was time for change and what prompted your decision to pursue that change? Or, alternatively – what kept you from pursuing change?
  • M&A activity in healthcare seems to have reached a fever pitch. What advice (or quote) served you well or what advice would you give to someone else experiencing a career transition, buy-out, merger, etc.?
  • Has there been a time in your career when something in your personal life pulled you away from professional pursuits? What, if anything, did you do to maintain ties to your professional community during that time?
  • Have you ever made a career change that you regretted? What did you learn from this experience?
  • Is there a specific area in healthcare or health IT that you see great growth and work/life balance potential in that you would encourage aspiring professionals to explore?

Just for fun: What is your favorite book? How has it impacted you?

One of my all-time favorite books is “Something More: Excavating Your Authentic Self,” by Sarah Ban Breathnach. That book prompted me to ask myself questions I’d never asked myself before to help get at what really motivated my choices and decisions. It was an eye-opening read that left me with countless “a-ha!” moments as it challenged me to open my perspective and re-examine my notions of self. I read it for the first time in my early twenties and have re-read it several times since, each time finding wisdom in a different section.

Join Jess Clifton (@jslentzclifton) on Wednesday, October 17 at 1pm ET for the next #healthITchicks tweet chat. You can also connect with the community on LinkedIn via the #healthITchicks group

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