HIMSS Board Chair Denise Hines is on a mission to bring a new generation of young women to work in healthcare IT.
Hines, is founder and CEO of eHealth Services Group, a health IT company she started to accommodate her need for flexibility. The company, which numbers 15 people, helps health systems, hospitals and other healthcare entities navigate regulations and develop strategies for design, implementation and use of healthcare IT.
Hines also serves as executive director of the Georgia Health Information Network. This year she has also taken on the responsibilities of HIMSS Board Chair.
Hines, who has a doctorate degree in healthcare administration, focused on the use of electronic personal health records and the impact on patient health, could generate even more business for her company, but she would rather keep it small.
“I could have easily found more contracts to work on,” she said. “But, I prefer to work with a smaller team. I think we almost feel like a family. It’s more the environment that I’m after. I’m not pursuing contracts, I’m pursuing the lifestyle – the sort of company that I would want to work for.”
Keeping the company right-sized gives her more flexibility. She and her husband Wiley Earl Hines Jr. have seven children, three of them adopted from her deceased sister. Her husband takes primary responsibility for the children’s comings and goings. She runs the healthcare IT business.
The situation, she said, spurred the need for a more flexible schedule to spend more time with the children to help them get acclimated to a new home and to go through the formal legal processes.
"It wasn’t realistic to think I could drive to a corporate office in Atlanta traffic, working 10 hours a day and then another two hours sitting in traffic and have a full house at home with a newer family that has grown to be a large family," she said.
HIMSS Board responsibilities
As a black woman, and HIMSS board chair, Hines believes she can make a difference.
“It really sets me in a unique way to make an impact on a group of HIMSS followers who have not seen someone like me before in the role.” she said.
Hines sees it as critical for HIMSS to reach out to more minorities, to have programs that specifically cater to women in health IT, to recognize their contributions, and to start now to talk with the next generation of health IT leaders.
HIMSS has conducted surveys on these issues. Surveys of historically black colleges and universities show in most cases they don’t have a curriculum in health IT. She and others are looking for the best ways to introduce health technology early to make sure students are aware this is an important part of healthcare.
New updates on the salary gap are likely to be presented at HIMSS18, Hines said.
How to break the glass ceiling
Hines has led sessions on the glass ceiling at HIMSS conferences in past years.
What would it take to break the glass ceiling?
“First it takes the recognition that the ceiling exists,” she said.
As she sees it, the status quo won’t change until there are more women in leadership who can bring other women in the sector, noting that men tend to bring men in, and women tend to bring in women.
Also, she added, “it’s important as an industry, we don’t use gender as a hiring factor.”
“For women – we have some work to do ourselves,” Hines added. “We can’t be afraid to speak up and talk about our value. We can’t be afraid to research and see that this type of position actually pays 50 percent over my current salary, versus the 10 percent I normally would have been happy with.”
She knows from experience.
A former employer paid Hines’ white male counterpart nearly $20,000 more than she was making – not because he was more qualified, the employer admitted, but because he had a family that he needed to support.
“I don’t know if I had been another male or of a different race that it would have made a difference,” she said, “but his rationale to pay a white male $20,000 more than me was because the white male needed the money to support his family because he was the breadwinner.”
Experiences like those have taught her to think differently.
What’s her technique?
“I start with the angle of what does success look like, she said. "It might not be the straight path, it may be that we have to go left, straight, then go to the right, then straight, then back to the left and then to the right,” she said. “I imagine what success looks like, and how do I get there.”
“What makes me really think outside the box,” she added, “is I’m not afraid to do the work. You have to be willing to do the work.”