Health Care IT: My Journey and the Incredibly Exciting Future

Whenever I’m asked what I do for a living, I answer, “I work in information technology” which elicits mixed responses.  I’ll admit that working in information technology (IT) is not as exciting and inspiring as being a space shuttle pilot, but I can say that the years I spent in college studying computer programming, mathematics, and business management launched me on an exciting career journey. In my role as vice president and CIO of Blue Care Network, I lead initiatives leveraging IT capabilities to improve the quality and value of health care for our members.  IT might not rival spacewalk, but it’s still pretty cool stuff.

Michelle Billingsley, Chief Information Officer at Blue Care Network

Michelle Billingsley, Vice President and Chief Information Officer at Blue Care Network

Thanks to the ever changing landscape of big data, information security, and mobile technology, working in health care IT today is both an important and exciting career path. I’m not only thankful that my own career has taken this route, but proud that Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and Blue Care Network are leading this trend and carving the way for future opportunities throughout the state and beyond.

After graduating college I entered the workforce at a time when the field focused on computer transactional data processing; moving data into the computer system and eliminating manual work that was prone to error. It was an exciting time, and I watched as IT grew and ultimately created a more efficient workforce and increased data sharing. At that point, I felt my contributions were productive and added value, but not quite as meaningful as I wanted.

Later in my career I had the opportunity to transition into health care IT during a time when the focus for IT was shifting from transactional efficiency to standardization and compliance. Unlike other industries, health care includes government oversight and highly sensitive personal data. Managing coverage such as Medicare and addressing HIPAA requirements can be complicated. But information technology provided a way to simplify and standardize transactions, submit claims and facilitate enrollment. Health care IT grew rapidly with the need for security, standardized operations, quality control and testing.

As the health care IT field was changing and adapting, so was my career. My professional focus changed from purely a technology driven skill set to a skill set that incorporated the concepts of patient rights and privacy, customer satisfaction, and regulatory compliance. Over the course of the past ten years, health care has made incredible, rapid progress to be more safe, effective, efficient and patient-centered, and information technology has been a driving force behind that change.

In a relatively short amount of time, health care IT has brought transparency, insight, and meaning into areas of care delivery we never thought possible. The power of information is really amazing. IT professionals have the ability to leverage technology to make health care more accessible and affordable, as well as empowering individuals to make better health care choices. The data can provide learnings, best practices and even identify trends that we can leverage to empower individuals and health care providers.

Back in my college days of pulling all-nighters to turn in programming assignments, I could not have imagined where my career journey would lead and the impact I’d be able to make on the health and lives of so many. I couldn’t be more proud to be part of a team and field that is making an important impact each and every day.

I hope that sharing my professional journey will inspire others to consider careers in health care IT. To learn more about opportunities at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and Blue Care Network, please visit www.mibluetech.com.

About the author: Michelle Billingsley is the vice president and Chief Information Officer at Blue Care Network.

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