Tell us a little bit about yourself and your work in healthcare.
I’m Shereese Maynard, a Health IT policy and Marketing Strategist. I reside in Maryland but work nationwide. I’ve been in the healthcare space for 20 years. I was the COO of NHSTC, a large healthcare conglomerate in Maryland, then assumed that same role for Global Medical before leaving to launch my own consulting business, which I’ve been doing for the last 10 years. I’ve sold two entities and am now working under my own brand at AskShereese. I work in various sectors from Intermediate care facilities and small clinics, to health IT vendors and Med Ed, which I really love. I write, I speak, and during lockdown I contributed to a few published projects on practical HIT approaches in a post-COVID world. Lately, data science and robotic process automation has held my interest, but policy work keeps me pretty busy.
What’s the most promising thing in healthcare IT that you see happening today?
“Today” is the operative term. To be honest, I’ve seen more remote patient (RPM) models than are probably needed, but I believe RPM rose to the challenge during the pandemic. In a way, I thought counterintuitive to the way patients live, the industry and payers intially didn’t warm to the idea of remote patient models. The pandemic gave the model a chance to show not only its contributions, but also itself to be imperative. I believe remote models are here to stay and for good reasons, albeit with heightened regulations.
Thinking ahead, it’s my opinion that any healthIT that encourages communication of people and processes, while gathering actionable, non-biased data is the safe bet. More specifically, healthcare will utilize AI, using federated models or disaggregated stacks. We’ll be able to address data realities for the way we now live; previous data warehouses, in my opinion, failed us in this way. I could talk all day about fragmented identities and data bias, and how AI can help us where humans can’t, but I’ll leave it there.
How can healthcare organizations adapt to make sure they do a better job addressing diversity challenges?
I’m on record as saying, healthcare, like British fashion is always five years behind the trend. And while I don’t like to think of diversity and inclusion as a trend, I fear the nature of healthcare, demands it be treated that way.
While some organizations have made public statements on the issue of DEI; I remain guardedly optimistic that they’ll walk the talk. I had many firms reach out to me when the Black Lives Movement exposed injustices and lack of inclusion across our great land, but here’s the thing; It was never in hiding. So why now, if not treating it as a trend?
I graciously obliged the organizations that reached out to me in a genuine effort to affect change, but as we see more organizations emerge, organizations like Olive (notably) still managed to name a 100% white male board, and I don’t see much change in other spaces as well. And at the end of the day, the saddest thing for me is this idea that these non-inclusive organizations can solve the problems of marginalized communities, where a great deal of health care spending occurs. It’s not only counterintuitive to leave out the very groups that need the most attention, it’s also wasteful.
What’s your top trick for helping a healthcare organization be more effective?
I believe the best thing you can do or trick you can use as a developer, as a leader, and as a consultant is to ask the “whys’. Why are you building this. Why do you think patients will use this? Why do you think doctors are asking for this solution? I do about 10-15 initial consultations a week and once I hear the idea for a solution, facility, or brand, I always ask simply, “why are you doing this?” If I as a consultant can help a client get to their “why,” I can then help them develop a better product or service. Beyond the why, I try to keep organizations focused on the real people behind the data. “That data represents lives that will be changed by what you do here.” I believe it makes a difference when we keep things in perspective. That’s my “why”.
If you could change one thing about healthcare, what would it be and why?
You know, in twelve years my answer has not changed. Communications. Communication is the only area in healthcare where we all agree; agree to be very bad at communications. Interoperability, data, patient-doctor communications, internal workflows, the communications component continues to be a failure in scope.
Here’s what we know. Doctors measurably lose empathy in year three of medical school. “Students come in altruistic and empathetic. They leave jaded and bitter (D Ofri). We also know that while the demographics of patients have changed, medical schools have not increased cultural competency or inclusion in any measurable way. What’s resulted is a generation of doctors who don’t properly communicate with patients, patients who don’t trust doctors, and a system that doesn’t seem to care, regardless of how outcomes are impacted.
Next, the ongoing issue of interoperability. We can’t learn to share information; our models are still not BFFs. Next data bias and fragmented data creates bad data, which cannot translate to good communications; bad in, bad out.
And finally, internal workflows. I recently had to explain to a practice manager why their trans-patient was offended visiting the practice, in an attempt to get the pratice to understand workflows matter most to the people at the end of the paperwork. From the paperwork through the consultation, the experience was bad. We must engage with the patient who’s before us. That’s the job; the paperwork is not the job. We need to create languages and workflows that work for the patients we see now, in the way they live now, where they live now. It’s that simple and that complicated.
How has your consulting work evolved due to the pandemic? How’s it been consulting remotely? Do you think remote consulting is here to stay or will most clients want you in person?
Initially I wasn’t sure how the pandemic would impact my business. My world was turned upside down right before HIMSS20, when I was diagnosed with a rare cancer. Surgery was a certainty, and while my course was not easy, I thought I was superwoman. I thought I could have surgery and then go to HIMSS20. No problem, right?
But then the pandemic hit. So, not only was I going to have to put my business on hold due to surgery, but with the pandemic, I might not have a business to come back to. But, somehow the planets aligned in my favor. I’ll preface this by saying that I had to be in the hospital completely alone for a week, but my clients (who I hadn’t informed of my Dx) needed mostly policy work, which could be done remotely. With RPM models and COVID regulations, I was quite busy from my bed. I also had my personal group of friends who kept me in good spirits while I was in recovery. So, I was able to pivot. Business has really picked up and I not only survived going remotely, I’m thriving.
What can the health IT community do to help you?
This is an excellent question. I really would like to see more diversity and for us to do away with the lists (best of . . . ,). Someone from HIMSS reached out to me recently and stated that they had used me as an example to their team as someone they should model for marketing, and yet I was reminded, HIMSS has never invited me to do anything, not once. They are not very inclusive, a claim they don’t deny. It’s sad but I wish organizations would just stop ignoring the contributions of independents like me or my female counterparts. I do feel appreciated by my clients, and I’m compensated quite well, but for an organization like HIMSS to say, we know you’re good, but . . ., it comes back to how I started this conversation. Healthcare, when it comes to inclusion, is still five years behind the trend. I stopped trying to fit in, as I know I stand out. Respect!
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