Innovation Blog

Women Across Digital Health Empowering One Another to Create Meaningful Change

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MassChallenge HealthTech and Accenture collaborated on our first Women in Digital Health Summit on Friday October 30th. This full day event allowed attendees to learn and grow alongside their fellow female entrepreneurs and innovation executives. Through a keynote address, various interactive sessions and panel discussions, as well as female founder lightning talks, we provided learning and networking opportunities to facilitate personal and professional growth of our attendees.  Below are some key takeaways from the event:

(1)  COVID-19 has brought many changes, but it is important to keep the patient at the center of healthcare discussions.

Maritza Osorio, Senior Director of Multiple Myeloma Digital Therapeutics and IT Product Manager at Bristol-Myers Squibb, kicked off the event with a keynote address focused on how COVID-19 has been an inflection point in the world’s history. While COVID-19 has caused changes in the digital health realm, not all have been negative. The rapid adoption of many digital health technologies has led to significant changes in the way services are delivered.

The biggest lesson learned in 2020 is that we all have a choice to either WAIT or MOVE. While a pandemic can ignite rapid change, it is up to you individually to decide whether you should wait for the right time to get out of your comfort zone and be an active participant, or actively work and move to exploit your ideas and create opportunities to be an innovative leader.

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Continuing the conversation of changes that COVID-19 has caused for women in the workplace, Design Thinking session leaders Sowa Imoisili and Sarah Stewart from Accenture helped attendees learn the design thinking process by ideating around the challenge statement, “What are the ways employers can alleviate burnout for women during COVID?”

They utilized a prominent Harvard Business Review podcast to quote the experiences of women during COVID to help the audience understand the current challenge of women in the remote workplace. Through active participation and discussion, participants were able to sort their observations and experiences into a “rose, bud, thorn” exercise to look at the positive, negative, and opportunities, respectively. Sowa and Sarah left the audience with the question of, “how might you apply design thinking methodologies into your everyday?”

COVID-19 has also brought to light the many spaces within the healthcare industry where there is a lack of representation. Female Patient Experience panelists Jen Horonjeff, CEO of Savvy Cooperative, and Lisa Rubino, Director of Patient Experience at Boston Children’s Hospital, focused on the underrepresentation of women in clinical trial spaces.

The lack of representation on research and planning teams continues into trials and subsequent inequalities present in treatment. They continued this conversation with discussing how best to create a positive patient experience. Jen emphasized how valuable it is to make people feel empowered to contribute to their healthcare experience and understand their care plan across the patient continuum. Lisa followed noting the importance of understanding different cultures and backgrounds to better care for patients and their families and be an active part of their conversation.

(2)  There is a need for the healthcare industry to improve their work environments.

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Building a team that is diverse is valuable to the company but also your consumers and clients. Speakers Naya Joseph, Program Manager of Career Development at ColorStack, and Angela Liu, Director of Hack.Diversity, provided background information on the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion within a company and emphasized how the presence of workplace initiatives does not always translate into effective solutions. In order to make effective hires, the process needs to be cyclical. The evolving workplace and growing younger generations are accounting for more diversity and as a result it is more important than ever before to consider how you are evaluating candidates and ensuring effective DEI habits are in place throughout the hiring processes.

To better work with and understand your fellow team members, it is important that employers and leaders are able to effectively lead with empathy. Speakers Jessica Kim, CEO & Co-Founder of ianacare, Jenny Friedman, Group Design Director at Fjord NY, and moderator Suzy Jackson, Executive at Accenture’s Life Sciences, emphasized the importance of learning to be able to apply empathy. Everyone’s stories are different and in order to better understand them, you need to immerse yourself in their lives from different angles to understand where their pain points exist. It is vital to have clarity, including honest conversations with team members. Jenny recommended working on empathy daily and being more open to having conversations with those you work with. Jessica left the conversation with an example from her own company, where she asks her team “what is the color of your heart today?” While there is no right answer, it can help you better listen to how your team members are doing.

(3)  It is important to speak up and advocate for yourself in the workplace.

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In order to properly advocate for yourself, you need to be able to tell your story in an effective way. Session leaders Natalie Sportelli, Director of Brand and Content at Lerer Hippeau, and Laura Lovett, Managing Editor at HIMSS Media, provided perspective for the audience on how best to tell their unique stories, centered on aligning their personal and professional identities.

A key piece of advice they shared included leveraging your own network and identifying with others who have successfully branded themselves. This could include using social media as a tool and becoming more creative with the tweets or posts you make. They also talked about the need to communicate your personal narrative to stakeholders through social media interactions or informal “coffee dates”.

Another part of advocating for yourself includes the ability to negotiate for your own salary and promotion. Speakers Robin Glasco, CEO & Founder of Bambü Health, and Bev Hardy, Associate Director of Digital Business Development at Sanofi, discussed how before you discuss the details, it is vital to do internal reflection and external research.

This will include questions on why you are asking and why it is important for you, as well as the value that you will be creating and responsibilities you are covering. Overall, why getting a raise or promotion will make you a more effective team member. It is also important to remember your allies in the mentors and real-world examples from the women around you and in your network. In order to better negotiate, you will need perspective, which this network will be able to provide.

(4)   MCHT female founders discussed leading topics within healthcare innovation. 

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Katie Hench of Infiniteach talked about the importance of inclusivity within healthcare and supporting the disabled communities. She explained the need to match interactions to empower all for the product you are creating through the concept of universal design. She closed out her talk in discussing key inclusion areas a creator should be asking to be more accessible and inclusive. She recommended doing this through the lens of modifications, having diverse feedback, and inclusive employment.

Watch her talk here.

Liz Asai of Digital Diagnostics (former CEO of 3Derm) discussed bias present in artificial intelligence and the importance of eliminating bias in these algorithms. She focused her conversation on how the algorithms work, where the bias comes from, and what you, as an innovator, can do about it. She left the discussion with highlighting the importance of having a large quantity of high-quality data for more transparency.

Watch her talk here.

Suelin Chen of Cake highlighted the importance of advanced care planning. She discusses how the company she founded helps offer solutions for advance care and end-of-life planning. Given the global pandemic, this topic is more top of mind than ever before and has generated an urgent need to empower patients to have a voice in their care and communicate what is most important for them.

Watch her talk here.

Heather Waibel of Welnys closed out our event with productivity tips and ways to stay on top of growing to-do lists. Heather outlined the critical stages of productivity, managing your task list, deciding what to do now, making time to do it, and automating what you can do, and then provided tools you can use to help in your journey of time and task management.

Watch her talk here.

Stay Involved with our Women in Digital Health Initiative!

This Summit provided an opportunity for our communities of women to meet and discuss key life skills and confidence boosters to continue pushing to be leaders in the digital health field. Whether it be through our quarterly events, female-focused blog posts, or our monthly newsletter, we are uniting a community of women to learn from each other and become the female face of healthcare’s future.

We hope to continue fostering a strong support system for our female entrepreneurs, innovation executives, and digital health enthusiasts. To learn more about upcoming events, sign up for our newsletter.


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