International Women’s Day is March 8, and the campaign theme is #BalanceforBetter. In essence, “Better the balance, better the world.” So, on this day of celebrating women’s achievements and calling for a more gender-balanced world, we’d like to shine the light on Karen Knecht, MSN, RN-C, CPHIMS, Chief Clinical Officer at emids.

Karen has more than 30 years of expertise in healthcare operations and healthcare IT. She has extensive experience helping providers implement strategies and clinical computing technologies to improve the quality and costs of care and respond to federal and national eMeasure initiatives. Karen has also provided IT consulting for major medical centers nationwide as well as the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center and leading health organizations in the U.K. and Singapore. She previously held leadership positions at Encore Health Resources, IBM, Healthlink, Inc. and UTSW Medical Center.

Q: Can you share some of your career highlights and your own experiences before joining emids?

A: My career began as a Registered Nurse in critical care, and I eventually became a Director of Nursing. I had the unique opportunity to be part of a team that opened a university hospital affiliated with UT Southwestern, ‘from the bottom up.’ A young team of clinicians, IT experts and hospital administrators with a vision came together to build a ‘hospital of the future,’ well before the word ‘digital’ was even imagined.

Q: What was it like working in the Healthcare IT industry early in your career?

A: At the academic medical center affiliated with UT Southwestern, we wanted to be the most automated hospital in the United States. This was in the late 80s, so there weren’t a lot of  standards or technology at the time. Thanks to a strong vision supported by collaboration and teamwork, we successfully launched a hospital where clinical care was being captured in a computer using bedside technology. This included integration of medical devices, which was basically unheard of at the time. That’s quite a contrast to today, which according to the Office of National Coordinator (ONC), boasts that now over 96% of hospitals have certified Healthcare IT in place.

We have come a long way since then. The provider industry recently hit a milestone on February 17, 2019, which marked the 10-year anniversary of the signing of the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act. It was enacted and signed into law to promote the adoption and meaningful use of Healthcare IT.

Q: What would you say are the primary reasons you had such success transitioning from the clinical operations side (nursing) to Healthcare IT?

A: Working in organizations where there was mutual respect, collaboration and teamwork truly made it work. The focus in both worlds has always been making a difference in healthcare; whether in a hospital delivering high quality care or in Healthcare IT, delivering solutions that would help health systems improve the quality of care. Ultimately, the primary goal is to enhance patient care and add significant value to the consumer’s overall healthcare experience.

Q: Was there anything else that significantly contributed to the success of your career transition?

A: Yes, having a mentor was a key component during this transition. I had joined the IT consulting group, Healthlink, where Dana Sellers was working in a leadership role. She had begun her career as a chemical engineer and was becoming recognized as a preeminent Healthcare IT executive.

She now serves on emids’ board of directors, and prior to this was founder and past CEO of Encore Health Resources after leaving Healthlink. Dana also held positions on the boards of the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME), the CHIME Foundation and the CHIME Education Foundation.

She provided guidance and advice as I navigated my career in Healthcare IT. Thanks to her mentorship as well as many other role models with whom I have interacted in my career, being a woman, in many respects, has been a non-issue. It wasn’t something I had to think about. It wasn’t a disadvantage, a burden or a hurdle.

Q: Speaking of CHIME, how has this organization helped with the advancement of women working in Healthcare IT?

A: Approximately one in five members of CHIME is a woman. In addition, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, women accounted for one in four IT workers in 2014, yet women made up nearly half of the U.S. workforce.

Also, CHIME has shared a recent McKinsey study that found the highest-performing companies are those with women in revenue-generating roles on their executive team. In fact, those companies in the top-quartile for gender diversity on executive teams were 21 percent more likely to outperform on profitability and 27 percent more likely to have superior value creation. I believe this statistic speaks volumes as to the significant role women are now playing in Healthcare IT.

Q: How do you see the role that women will be playing in Healthcare IT continuing to grow in the coming years?

A: I see an increase in the number of women choosing careers in Healthcare IT, and we are fortunately seeing them in more important roles. Having comprehensive knowledge of Healthcare IT is critical today for health systems’ success.

I believe women in Healthcare IT is one of the fastest growing career opportunities, as baby boomers are now utilizing more healthcare. Consumers and provider organizations are more readily utilizing IT, and there will continue to be tremendous growth and great opportunities for women. Healthcare IT is an area with significant potential, and I see women continuing to drive this in the coming years.

As chief clinical officer for emids, Karen Knecht has more than 30 years of expertise in healthcare operations and healthcare IT. She has extensive experience helping providers implement strategies and clinical computing technologies to improve the quality and costs of care and respond to federal and national eMeasure initiatives. Karen has provided consulting for major medical centers nationwide as well as the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center and leading health organizations in the U.K. and Singapore. She previously held leadership positions at Encore Health Resources, IBM, Healthlink, Inc., and UTSW Medical Center. Be sure to connect with Karen on LinkedIn.