CHIME/HIMSS: Risk and fear, important features within healthcare industry

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ATLANTA--“Progress does not happen in one direction, sometimes you have to go in the complete opposite direction to get to where you want to be,” said closing keynote speaker Alison Levine during today's 2010 CHIME/HIMSS CIO Forum.

Levine, who spent 11 years in the health IT industry, also served as the team captain of the first American Women’s Everest Expedition despite suffering from preexisting heart condition, and undergoing several surgeries before the age of 30.  

Believing that her business background in the healthcare industry helped her during many of her global climbing expeditions and vice-versa, Levine’s presentation focused on the importance of team-building efforts and the importance of adapting to any situations or circumstances within the business world by tying in her climbing experiences to business solutions for healthcare CIOs.

To begin with, Levine said that one of the first steps is asking the right questions. During one trip, Levine intended to climb a mountain in the region when she learned it was off-limits due to violence and fighting in the area. Despite being told about the restrictions, Levine questioned area officials until she found two members of the local military to escort her. 

“The only way progress happens is if questions are asked,” said Levine. “You have to be creative and proactive until you get to yes.”

Using her Mt. McKinley climbing experience as her next reference, Levine noted the importance utilizing all available resources. There’s no sense in stressing over what you used to have and what you wish you had, she said. “You just have to get by with the resources you have, and make it work with whatever you have at the time.”

Another important factor that many people try to avoid is fear, noted Levine. However, fear is fine and often necessary, she said. “Fear is ok, it's complacency is what will kill you. You cannot afford to not react to what is happening around you.”

During her Everest Climb, Levine learned the value of determination, goal setting and relationship building.  As the leader of her team, Levine had to motivate her team by setting small goals and focusing and accomplishing one goal at a time. Levine described her team’s experiences at each of the camps along Everest and the importance of building solid relationships with not only your team, but the other teams as well.

Levine also noted that during climbs on Everest, occurrences of other teams passing by teams or individuals in trouble has been known to happen, especially higher on the mountain. To ensure the safety of her own team, Levine described the steps she took to meet and network with other teams at each camp.

“Building relationships outside of your own team is important,” she said. “You have to have those relationships in place before something goes wrong within your own team.”

When Levine’s team reached the south peak of Everest with a few hundred feet until the highest peak, a storm was approaching and Levine described the difficult decision she had to make to forgo reaching the very top of Everest in the best interest of her team.

“There will always be risks, Levine said.  “You have to be smart about the ones you take.”