There are more than 18 million health care workers in the United States; 80% of them are women, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
While women make up the vast majority of home health care workers, they are a minority in the C-Suite. Only 40% of the industry’s key decision-makers are female.
Home care is a tough space to succeed in, and while org charts may not reflect it, this industry is loaded with strong, determined women doing incredibly meaningful work — they simply don’t get the recognition they deserve!
Here at HHAeXchange, we’d like to take one small step towards changing that. ‘Extraordinary Women in Home Care’ is a series of feature articles designed to celebrate women who bring strength, passion, and creativity to their roles in the home care industry.
We recently spoke with Mitze Amoroso, Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer of ArchCare. As the Continuing Care Community of the Archdiocese of New York, ArchCare’s mission is to foster and provide faith-based holistic care for elderly individuals who may be unable to fully care for themselves. In this article, Mitze shares how she rises to the challenge of being a woman in a male-dominated space, what ArchCare is doing to combat the spread of COVID-19, and why no one should fear technology.
Did you always know that you wanted to work in IT?
My undergraduate degree is in accounting, and I always thought I was going to be an accountant. I fell into IT early on when one of my friends needed someone with a finance background to help their company implement a new financial software system.
Initially, I worked mainly on the financial side, handling their general ledger, accounts payable, and billing systems. Over time, I learned the clinical and managed care aspects of the role and, ultimately, the homecare front of health care.
I loved the challenge and the constant change that exists within IT so much so that I made it a point to learn everything that I needed to know to be successful in this area. I learned how to fix computers and printers, IT best practices, the importance of backups and patching, IT security, and more.
Ultimately what really helped to shape my future was a group of consultants that were hired to assist with the software implementation. I was very fortunate; the consultants really took me under their wings and showed me the ropes. What they taught me in my early years regarding implementations and IT best practices has been the foundation of my success.
I have over 25 years of experience at this point, and I can’t imagine doing anything else.
You've been described as a "disruptor" in the industry. What does this mean to you?
That I’m not the status quo! There are many things that ArchCare has done as an organization that are ahead of the curve.
For example, we were one of the first to implement an EMR in the nursing home industry. At the time, everybody was on paper. Not only did we move to an electronic chart as opposed to a paper chart, but we captured activities of daily living (ADLs) at the bedside with ruggedized personal digital assistants (PDAs) that could be dropped by five feet and could be sanitized from an infection control perspective.
In homecare, not only are the records electronic, but our caregivers are out in the field, using tablets, and doing documentation on the fly instead of documenting everything on paper and having to key it all into the computer system later. We’ve really automated a lot of the processes in the homecare space in real time. As a recent example, we have added COVID-related assessment questions for initial patient screening.
Can you describe what ArchCare has done to combat the spread of COVID-19 in its nursing homes?
We installed technology so we can ensure every visitor, contractor, and employee that enters the building is following standard health and safety requirements. The technology takes their temperature and evaluates whether or not they have a mask on, and sends the staff an alert if a person’s temperature is above the defined threshold or if they don’t have a mask on.
We’re also looking at technology that will send alerts if a person doesn’t wash their hands for at least 20 seconds. Additionally, technology that will improve our ability to conduct contract tracing is one of our top areas of focus right now. There are some free tools from New York State that are available on mobile devices, but we’re looking to take those tools and expand upon them, so if someone with COVID comes into one of our locations, we’ll be able to know exactly who they came in contact with and proceed with our best practices.
How are you helping patients stay in contact with their loved ones during these times of isolation?
When the virus was running rampant in late March it created a real challenge for the family members of the residents in our nursing homes. They were unable to visit, and in lieu of visitation they would call the nursing stations to get updates on their family members. ArchCare’s No. 1 focus since the beginning of the pandemic was to ensure that we communicated properly with everyone, including our residents’ family members and our staff.
We launched weekly webinars with the families and our staff to provide them with consistent updates from senior leadership. We also provided each nursing home with tablets so that the nursing home staff could schedule family video conferences. To ensure that families could stay in touch with their loved ones, we also made sure to provide our residents with mobile phones. We are continuing to look into implementing new technology at the bedside that will facilitate communication with families any time of the day without staff intervention.
What are the primary goals you look to technology to solve?
A lot of people think that technology is a panacea. Unfortunately, technology cannot take a bad or inefficient process and make it better. If you have a bad process in place, all technology will do is automate that bad process.
I look at technology as an enabler. Technology enables users to create efficiencies, streamline processes and use data to make informed, data-driven decisions.
Technology has definitely been our saving grace during the pandemic. Without it, where would we be today? People wouldn’t be able to work from home effectively, attend school from home, order groceries without going to the store or do holiday shopping without leaving their homes. This is uncharted territory for everyone and will definitely change the way we do business, at least for the near future.
Do you find it challenging being a woman in a male-dominated industry?
Definitely. In many cases you are spoken to differently or people’s expectations are different. I can’t tell you how many times this has happened to me. If you call the cable company because your modem isn’t working, and, being in IT, even if you know what the problem is or at least have an idea of what the problem could be, the guy on the other end of the phone will still inevitably talk to you differently just because you’re a woman.
I use this to my advantage though. There are some strengths that I feel women have over men. For example: multitasking. This is not scientific by any means, but in my experience, women can multitask 100 times better than men. This has given me the ability to take on additional responsibilities that may not even be IT-related.
How do you deal with the discrimination you face as a woman in IT?
I don’t let it bother me. I have come across it on more than one occasion throughout my career. Many times, it is more cultural than disrespectful. I just keep plugging along. In my opinion, if I do the best job that I can, which is completing projects on time and on budget, and making the right decisions based upon data and experience, and essentially doing the right thing at all times for ArchCare and my team, I will be advancing the department and the organization, which is my ultimate goal.
While I have the opportunity, I would be remiss if I didn’t give a shout out to the best IT team around. My technology team which has been built over the past 20 years at ArchCare is amazing! My team is truly what makes me the proudest of our accomplishments, is the key to my success, and is one of the backbones of ArchCare.
I recently had a leader come up to me and say, “Your IT department functions so well. You can clearly see that they follow your direction and they have your back and you have theirs. How do you do that? How did that happen?”
So, how did you build such a great IT team?
I really think it’s that mutual respect and trust between us that has made my department stand out. The IT team is so productive, efficient and knowledgeable that we can compete with larger organizations even though we don’t have the same numbers in FTE’s. We have a plan and structure in place that has given me the opportunity to hire people that have never worked in IT before. I’ll say to them, “Give me three years, absorb what is discussed, and learn the best practices that we have in place and you will be able to leave ArchCare and go anywhere you want and be confident that ArchCare has prepared you to be successful.”
What is amazing is that they are still all here with me. I am not sure I know the true answer to this question, but I believe that mutual respect that they have for me and for each other outweighs them leaving. They are extremely loyal and dedicated to ArchCare, to the IT department, and to each other.
How do you manage to keep ArchCare ahead of the technology curve?
We are a team of 24 people, and we support over 4,000 users, in 40 locations, 24/7. So, we tend to stick with what’s proven, what works, and what keeps us functional and efficient. We’re not taking big risks because as a not-for-profit, we simply don’t have the money to do so. We use proven technology that will give us the best ROI within our means.
We are also constantly attending webinars and looking for ways to improve the user’s customer service experience.
Our goal in IT is to provide our users with a remarkable experience. If we’re not doing that, I challenge the team to understand where we missed the mark, what tools can we implement to help improve the situation, and so on.
What advice would you give to someone who fears technology, or is hesitant to implement new tools?
The first thing I’d say is that change is good. Change is inevitable — nothing can stay the same forever. If a system is set up properly, there’s nothing you can do that’s going to cause harm. Learn, embrace, adapt to the change, and it may surprise you.
What is the career accomplishment you’re most proud of?
The accomplishment I am most proud of is my team. They have grown with me, with ArchCare, and I don’t think I could be nearly as successful without them. I have the best team anyone could ask for. Together, there’s nothing we can’t accomplish.
What do you have your sights on next?
That is a tough question. I think I will answer this in two parts. On the personal front, even in a year where everything seemed to go wrong, starting with COVID-19, the new normal, working from home as opposed to the office and missing the interaction with my colleagues, civil unrest, the most contentious Presidential election in my lifetime, I have been blessed. My mom contracted COVID-19 and thankfully came through it, and I was recognized as one of the top 50 Most Powerful Women in IT by the National Diversity Council, and one of the 10 Most Powerful Women Leading the Global Market by MyTechMag. I’ve had multiple speaking opportunities. I am honored and humbled that you considered to interview me for this piece. Everything that I set out to accomplish this year, I have accomplished on a personal level, which I have been immensely grateful for. As for 2021, I am going to focus on obtaining my CISSP certification.
Professionally, I am focused on two areas. In security, the industry is rapidly changing and we need to be focusing on what is best from a security perspective to protect ArchCare and those we serve. My second focus is communication. From identifying technologies to improve the resident experience, whether it is upgrading or improving the TV channel lineup, providing the ability for families to log into a portal where (if they have the right access) they can obtain real-time information on their loved ones, to providing seamless audio/video communications between our residents and their friends and families. We certainly have our work cut out for us, but we are up for the challenge.