Award Winner Dana Sellers Reflects on Lessons Learned over 30+ Years

By Arika Lycan, Specialist, CHIME Foundation

Dana Sellers, co-founder and retired CEO of Encore Health Resources, has had quite an impressive role in the industry over her healthcare IT career, serving as president and COO of Healthlink, a partner at IBM’s Global Business Services, and then as Encore’s founder and CEO since its inception in 2009. In over 30 years of leadership in healthcare IT, Sellers has overseen and supported projects and relationships through which many plans and hopes for the world of healthcare IT have come to fruition.

Her dedication to healthcare IT and her leadership recently earned her the CHIME Foundation Industry Leader Award.

Dana Sellers, Co-Founder & retired CEO, Encore Health Resources

Dana Sellers, Co-Founder & retired CEO, Encore Health Resources

Sellers’ passion for the healthcare industry can be seen in her tireless efforts to bring together providers, payers and other organizations to improve the system from the inside out. Her peers characterize her as a “key contributor and leader in healthcare,” highlighting her ability to strategize and turn “critical needs into productive services that have helped thousands in healthcare IT.”

The value of Seller’s experience is clear when speaking with her; she has gained a great deal of insight and perspective from her time in the industry. Reflecting on the health IT field, the biggest change she has seen during her 30-plus year tenure has been, “the ability to access and use information effectively to give patients smarter and safer treatment.” Even in the last 10-15 years, the benefit of thoughtfully applied technologies and solutions has made itself evident time and time again.

In an interview, the Texas native reflected on the then-recent Hurricane Harvey disaster in Texas and the drastic improvements that healthcare IT technology and systems have made for emergency/crisis care in the last decade and a half. After Katrina hit Louisiana in 2004, many people flocked to the Houston area with no records or health information to share as they sought treatment. This resulted in patients, under great stress, trying to recall and relate their care needs to physicians and care teams, which could result in less-accurate care.

Comparing the events of Hurricane Katrina with the recent response to Harvey, she pointed out the stark contrast. The Houston area saw over 50 inches of rain and extreme flooding. In the aftermath of the storm, a clinic quickly set up in the Astros baseball stadium was able to provide a full range of care. Physicians and staff could (with consent) access patient records from other cities and health systems, enabling them to give better, more accurate care.

The impact of Sellers’ past partnerships can still be felt today. A great “full-circle” personal story that Sellers shared dates to a project back in 1992 when IMG, (who then transitioned to Healthlink) partnered with Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston. This was before the terms “EMR” and “EHR” existed, and they were just called “Clinical Systems.” Texas Children’s asked for Healthlink’s support to create a vision for collecting and storing client data. What would this system look like? How would it be implemented? How would it help their clients?

Sellers and her team did industry research. They held focus groups with doctors and patients. They had many talks with administrators and the Texas Children’s team, and put together a vision.

Fast forward 20 or so years, to when her granddaughter was born at Texas Children’s in 2015. Sellers expressed how surreal it was, to have a personal experience with the hospital, and to see that, “the picture we painted came true, and it was better than any of us imagined.”

Looking into her crystal ball to see the future of the industry, Sellers anticipates that two big hurdles will be improving the ways in which data is shared and the sharing capability in general between organizations and across communities, and accurate patient matching. Additionally, she sees that there is still a great disparity in data standards and the way data is captured. This means, “an opportunity to use clinical data — to learn from it and change practice and … we are just at the beginning of our capability here.”

Since retiring in June 2017 from Encore, Sellers has been enjoying her newfound free time. Sellers, who lives in Austin, is able see a lot more of her husband, as well as her son, daughter-in-law and her 2-year-old granddaughter. She still has a hand in the healthcare IT realm; she serves on the emids board and the HIE Greater Houston HealthConnect board.

Sellers was presented with the CHIME Foundation Industry Leader Award on Nov. 2 at the CHIME17 Fall CIO Forum. On winning the award, she remarked, “I’m really just a small part of the work that has taken place. It’s truly a tribute to my team and the providers we have worked with and their dedication, and I hope I played a small part in that.” The Industry Leader Award is an honor of which she is truly deserving.

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