These 8 influential women are reshaping health IT

Female executive leading meeting
This year's selection of influential women in health includes leaders in privacy, cybersecurity, interoperability and more. (Image: Getty/Sam Edwards)

Each year, FierceHealthcare recognizes influential women leading the health IT industry based on reader nominations along with our own editors' picks.

This year's list features women in virtually every sector of health IT, from telehealth to privacy and security, underscoring just how influential women have become at every level of the industry. There are CIOs driving significant change for physicians and patients within their system, government leaders tackling new challenges with EHR interoperability and startup executives seeking to change the way consumers access their health information.

These are hardly the only women making their mark in the industry, but the nominations provide a snapshot into just a few of the ways female leaders are helping to reshape healthcare in new and innovative ways. 

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Thanks to those who passed along their nominations. Tell us who else should be included in the conversation on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn.

Deanna Wise

Title: Executive Vice President and Chief Information Officer at Dignity Health

Deanna Wise, M.D.

Wise joined San Francisco-based Dignity Health in 2011 where she almost immediately took on a five-year, $2 billion EHR deployment. That project was completed in 2017 across 39 acute care facilities and 400 care centers.

Wise has also championed Dignity Health Insights, a clinical decision support system powered by analytics that operates on top of the system’s EHR.

The health system has used that platform to develop targeted sepsis alerts using natural language processing and real-time data, which drove down sepsis mortality rates 5% across 12 hospitals.

RELATED: Dignity Health fights sepsis with natural language processing, targeted alerts

“Deanna balances the human kindness of faith-based healthcare with the decisiveness needed to lead healthcare transformation,” Mike McGuire, a healthcare analytics leader at SAS said in an email to FierceHealthcare.

“She focuses her broad team on the areas of greatest value for Dignity Health and leads their efforts to leverage technology to improve quality, increase patient satisfaction and reduce costs.

Sarah Sossong

Title: Senior Director of Telehealth at Massachusetts General Hospital

Sarah Sossong

After spending nearly seven years leading large technology and innovation initiatives in various parts of the Kaiser Permanente system, Sossong has spent the last six years leading Massachusetts General Hospital's growing telemedicine efforts.

Building the hospital's program nearly from the ground up, Sossong leads what is now considered one of the foremost academic telehealth programs in the country. Several years ago she helped launch a program allowing patients to get second opinions via telemedicine while championing initiatives allowing patients in rural parts of the country to access emergency physicians in Boston. 

Lee Schwamm, M.D., executive vice chairman of neurology and the director of the MGH Comprehensive Stroke Center, says he had no idea when he recruited Sossong that she would have such swift success.

“Sarah built an outstanding team of highly skilled and motivated individuals and expanded our program across multiple divisions and departments to enable thousands of patient visits annually,” Schwamm said in an email to FierceHealthcare.

“She was able to rapidly apply her background in teledermatology at Kaiser Permanente to help us ramp up our telehealth efforts at MGH and highlight our work on the national stage.

“She has worked tirelessly to help increase our patients access to care through these novel delivery channels and to disseminate our approach across the country,” he added.

Genevieve Morris

Title: Principal Deputy National Coordinator for Health Information Technology at the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT

Genevieve Morris

Morris joined the leadership team at the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT in May following a six-year career at Audacious Inquiry, where she emerged as an industry leader in confronting the challenges of interoperability.

During her time at Audacious Inquiry, she worked with ONC to develop policies and standards, wrote portions of the agency’s Interoperability Roadmap and authored a report on patient matching.

RELATED: ONC releases its Trusted Exchange Framework establishing a single ‘on ramp’ for interoperability

In her government role, Morris led an effort to develop the agency’s Trusted Exchange Framework and Common Agreement, required under the 21st Century Cures Act.

That guidance, drawn from input by various stakeholders, aims to build the foundation of health data sharing moving forward. The guidance will be finalized later this year, and will play a critical role in facilitating health data sharing in the years to come. 

Julie Boughn, a champion for transformation at Audacious Inquiry who once served as the CIO for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), said Morris is a “rare policy expert” who understands the balance between health IT policies and the real-world impact on providers and patients.

"She sees the big picture,” Boughn said in an email to FierceHealthcare. “By that, I mean that she understands the interrelationships of electronic health records, meaningful use, delivery system and payment reforms and how all of those needs to work together to deliver improved health outcomes.”

“I think she is a rare bird indeed, and we are lucky to have her in her role at ONC,” she added.

Deven McGraw

Deven McGraw
Deven McGraw

Title: Chief Regulatory Officer at Ciitizen

When the former head of Apple’s health team, Anil Sethi, launched his medical records startup late last year, there was only one person he wanted to oversee privacy: Deven McGraw.

“I didn’t look for anyone else when I went out to recruit her,” he told FierceHealthcare.

 After spending six years as the director of the health privacy project at the Center for Democracy & Technology, McGraw was appointed as the deputy director for health information privacy at the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights, where she positioned herself as one of the foremost privacy experts in the country.

In 2017, she also served concurrently as the chief privacy officer at the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT.

RELATED: Former HHS privacy head Deven McGraw joins Silicon Valley medical record startup

Now McGraw has upended her career, moving to the private sector in the hopes of taking on some of the specific challenges patients face in accessing their health information.

Sethi, who knew McGraw for a number of years prior to convincing her to join his startup, says her knowledge of HIPAA is unmatched only by her passion for patient access.

That expertise is helping Ciitizen navigate the complexities of the law and build privacy considerations directly into their code. Sethi says McGraw is uniquely qualified to overcome the data liquidity obstacles within healthcare and help push the industry forward to provide broader consumer access to health information. 

“She is one of one in the United States that knows the innards [of HIPAA] and how to solve the [release of information] problem,” he says.

Theresa Meadows

Title: Senior Vice President and CIO at Cook Children’s Healthcare System in Dallas, Texas

Theresa Meadows
Theresa Meadows

With several decades of experience in health IT, Theresa Meadows has helped lead Cook Children’s Healthcare System through several IT improvements, earning accolades for both herself and the health system along the way.

Earlier this year, she was the only woman nominated for Dallas CIO of the Year in the nonprofit/public sector by the Dallas CIO Leadership Association.

But some of her most impactful work over the last several years has been in the realm of cybersecurity.

In 2016, she was tapped to lead the Department of Health and Human Services Cybersecurity Task Force alongside the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services CIO Emery Csulak.

RELATED: HHS task force spells out ‘urgent challenge’ of cybersecurity in healthcare

That task force ultimately released a landmark report last year detailing some of the most urgent privacy and security issues facing the healthcare industry.

“Teresa Meadows provides a strong voice for improving information technology and cybersecurity in the healthcare sector,” Csulak said in an email to FierceHealthcare.

“As co-chair of the Health Care Industry Cybersecurity Task Force, she brought a deep understanding into the practical realities of the challenges facing so many organizations struggling with resources, recruiting talent, and addressing rural communities. Her background and connections make her a valuable partner in identifying strategies for addressing the challenges in IT and understanding their impact on patient safety.”

Sylvia Romm, M.D.

Title: Vice President of Medical Affairs at American Well, co-founder of Milk on Tap

Sylvia Romm
Sylvia Romm, M.D.

Romm began her career as a pediatrician but quickly transitioned into the world of health IT and telemedicine. In 2015, she co-founded Milk On Tap, a company that provides video consultations with lactation consultants for women who need support and advice about breastfeeding.

Her company caught the attention of American Well after a hospital client wanted to develop a program for new mothers that included breastfeeding support. Two years later, Romm joined the company as its medical director.

RELATED: In Texas, Hurricane Harvey response efforts provide a ‘defining moment’ for telehealth

“Sylvia brings a unique combination of entrepreneurial experience, passion, and clinical expertise to the telehealth world,” Jeff Kosowsky, senior vice president of corporate development at American Well, said in an email to FierceHealthcare.

“Few people can say they have both founded their own telehealth company and actively practice telehealth, alongside all of the advocacy work she does for female health. Her enthusiasm and can-do-attitude are inspiring to both clients and colleagues alike.”

Geeta Nayyar, M.D.

Title: Chief Healthcare and Innovation Officer for Femwell Group Health, Inc.

Geeta Nayyar, M.D.

Geeta Nayyar, M.D., has become one of the most recognizable names in the health IT industry, making the rounds at industry conferences, including HIMSS, AHIP and TedMed.

Nayyar was the first chief medical information officer at AT&T where she oversaw the company’s ForHealth portfolio which focused on aggregating data from devices and apps to improve consumer health and wellbeing. After a brief stopover at PatientPoint, Nayyer was tapped for an executive role at Femwell Group Health, a management services organization in Florida that supports physician practices.

There she has helped bring 500 physicians “into the new age of medicine,” Mark Grenitz, M.D., chief healthcare information officer at Femwell Group Health, Inc. told FierceHealthcare.

“Dr. Nayyar is a terrific partner in our company's move toward interactive health IT," he said. "She has led our mobile, patient engagement and telemedicine efforts and continues to strive for innovation in medicine. As a physician and health IT executive with a business background, she brings a comprehensive perspective to the industry.”

Naomi Fried, Ph.D.

Title: CEO and founder of Health Innovation Strategies

Naomi Fried, Ph.D.

Naomi Fried has put her hands on just about every part of the health IT ecosystem.

She began her career as a venture capitalist at several different firms where she focused on health technology and life sciences. Then she transitioned to the healthcare delivery side of the industry at Kaiser Permanente where she was the vice president of innovation and advanced technology tasked with identifying emerging clinical technologies to invest in and formed the system’s telehealth workgroup

More recently, Fried was the chief innovation officer at Boston Children’s Hospital and the vice president of medical information at Biogen.

These days she runs her own consulting firm helping hospitals, pharmaceutical companies and device manufacturers navigate their digital strategy. She also serves on the American Telehealth Association’s board of directors.

“Innovating in highly regulated industries can be challenging,” Fried wrote in Harvard Business Review last year. “But it is necessary, because even firms in these industries must innovate to gain competitive advantages and thrive. For innovation to flourish despite legal and regulatory obstacles, you must address innovation barriers head-on.”