I would venture to guess that most of you reading this are not yet retired. Many of you are probably early or midway into your careers. But when your own retirement date approaches like mine has, you can’t help but look back and ask if you spent your time wisely. Did I do enough? Did I achieve enough? Did I have a meaningful and lasting impact?
I’m grateful to be one of those lucky few who, with the help of many others, can answer at least with a qualified ‘yes.'
My career at MEDITECH began 37 years ago, which means that I had the privilege of participating in the most profound period of transformation our industry has yet experienced. When I entered healthcare in the mid 1980s, computing technology had only recently transitioned from cumbersome mainframes to minicomputers. Early personal computers were just hitting the market and it would take time for businesses to fully adopt them. The Internet as we know it didn’t exist outside of a few government agencies and universities. Fresh out of college, I took a job as a Medical Technologist for New England Baptist Hospital. I still remember the day we got a new microbiology machine for blood and specimen analysis that had a built-in word processor, which was very advanced at the time.
"I've known Hoda for most of my MEDITECH career and have had the privilege to work directly as part of her leadership team for the past decade or so. Hoda is one of those leaders where it doesn't matter if you're a brand new employee or a top CEO of a large hospital group, she gets to know you, she gets to know your situation and figures out what she can do to help make things better."
A few years into the job I realized my career advancement opportunities at the hospital were limited and I began noticing a sign for a company called MEDITECH along my commute through Westwood. I decided to apply to what was then a determined little company of roughly 300 and was hired as a laboratory applications specialist. As some of you probably know, our laboratory solution was MEDITECH’s very first product, and as a former medical technologist with a Bachelor's degree in clinical laboratory sciences, the role was a great initial fit. But anyone who knows me knows I have always been driven to learn new things and develop new skills, so after a year I jumped at the opportunity to manage people again and became supervisor of the financial services team. I quickly found that I needed to take some accounting classes to get myself up to speed with financial terminology but I loved it!
Stepping into this role put me on a management fast track, and I was quickly tapped to lead a new group in support of an organization that was (and still is) our largest customer: HCA Healthcare. After standing up that group I was asked to shephard a somewhat motley but brilliant group of developers we called the Next Gen team — techies working on “skunkworks” projects using new technologies and development concepts. It was my job to evaluate their work and determine which projects should be pursued — and how. Much of the team's work was eventually folded into our then-new Client/Server solution, and I’m still proud of the many innovations the team developed, including, among other things: evidence-based order sets, patient portal, patient education, screen formatting, and a new programming language. Subsequently, the C/S development group built on these advancements with the addition of CPOE, clinical panels, voice recognition, surveillance, coded problem lists, and clinical decision support. I think members of the Next Gen team —and many of the groups I led over the ensuing years — would say that I asked a lot of them. Sometimes too much. But many of them have also told me that together we accomplished things few thought were possible. It was during this formative stage in my career that my passion for technology and innovation was truly unleashed.
Long-term members of the MEDITECH community will recall the many presentations I delivered at customer events, where I took inventory of promising new developments in tech and how I thought they would impact the healthcare industry. Attendees of these sessions still approach me with memories of those predictions.
One investment I’m particularly proud of making was genomics. I suggested a couple of decades ago that the field would not just revolutionize medicine but would require EHR developers to contend with a whole new set of data storage and representation challenges. It wasn’t just the rapid pace of genetic discovery I had been keeping my eye on, but the plummeting cost of both genetic testing and data storage. Watching all of these intersecting trends I could tell that we would reach a point at which patient genetic test results — the entire patient genome, in fact — could be stored inside the EHR as discrete data and used by clinicians to make more informed decisions. As the executive sponsor for developing the industry’s first EHR-based genomics solution, I worked with a dedicated team of product managers and developers steadfastly working to create what would become a groundbreaking new data architecture.
"Frederick Health has worked with MEDITECH on various projects for over 25 years. Hoda has always demonstrated a commitment to provide excellence in patient care and, to that end, improving the quality of MEDITECH products. Hoda’s innovative thinking, leadership, and collaborative spirit moved this project forward so that Frederick Health could deliver the best care to our patients. We want to celebrate Hoda’s career and wish her well in retirement.."
It was thrilling to see MEDITECH become the first EHR vendor to import and store discrete patient genetic data in patient records, just like other lab data, and provide context and guidance to physicians for using it. It’s one example of how my work has had a meaningful and lasting impact — not only at MEDITECH but hopefully on the industry as a whole. And this specific example is particularly meaningful to me, as it hopefully signals the beginning of the end of trial-and-error prescribing and ushers in the era of more personalized, targeted therapies across a range of specialties. It demonstrates how information technology can truly enable more timely and effective care, by getting the right data in front of clinicians at the right time, with the interpretation and guidance they need to make sense of it and take action.
But regardless of the group or division I was leading — whether in development, service, marketing, product management, regulatory or otherwise — I always pushed for us to do better. Provide better service. Produce a better product. Develop a better strategy. Deliver better presentations. And ultimately raise MEDITECH’s visibility. I imagine some people at MEDITECH breathed a sigh of relief at the announcement of my retirement. My colleagues on the executive team certainly recall many heated debates over a new feature I insisted on including on our roadmap, or a new solution we needed to carve out resources to develop. But they also recognize we would not have maintained our leadership position in the industry without pushing ourselves beyond what we thought we could do.
"Hoda has been an outstanding partner . . . She is highly strategic and savvy, with a keen sense of what will work for both sides of the partnership. What I have enjoyed most about working with Hoda is her enthusiasm for taking on the future — looking beyond the day-to-day challenges to envision where we can take our solutions for the betterment of our customers and for the industry as a whole."
Looking into the future, I can’t help but make a few more predictions and observations. I see others at the company taking up the baton and continuing our drive to improve and innovate. I see a new generation of leaders emerging at MEDITECH with fresh ideas and a passion for leveraging new technology. I see us accelerating our work with Google and others to thoughtfully apply AI. I see the flowering of our Greenfield app development environment, the growing number of new organizations joining the MEDITECH Alliance, and more incredible work advancing interoperability.
"I’ve always been impressed by Hoda’s long-term planning, strategic thinking, and commitment to advancing digital health. What resonates most with me are her far-reaching contributions to the industry in creating awareness for the need and importance of Healthcare Data Interoperability and, more impactfully, being a driving force in advancing the standards, use cases, and adoption of Interoperability solutions deployed nationally. Her passion for driving health data exchange forward will have a lasting impact on our industry."
In the weeks, months, and years ahead, I will remain a fierce advocate and champion for MEDITECH. I plan to keep a toe in the world of technology, continuing some of my advisory work, pursuing a few new opportunities, and keeping in touch with my colleagues inside and outside of the company. It’s been an honor and a privilege to spend the lion’s share of my working life for the company that arguably invented this industry — a company that continues to create innovative solutions that power care in communities large and small across the country and around the world.
Thank you to my many friends and colleagues at MEDITECH for four decades of friendship, camaraderie, and yes, hard work. And thank you to the thousands of customers using our software to provide essential care in communities around the world. When it comes time to reflect on your own careers you will surely leave your own lasting legacies.
"Hoda’s unwavering dedication and grace throughout her career have left an indelible mark on this industry. As a longtime friend and supporter, I have witnessed her commitment to excellence in every endeavor. Her class-act approach to life and work is truly inspiring. I offer her my deepest thanks for her amazing service and wish her joy, relaxation, and endless adventures in this exciting new chapter."
College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME)
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