Building a storyline for sustainability across the generations: Millennials Health Technology

Community is more than a place. Community is an intersection of life and work. In work, community is the town square where people interact and move initiatives forward. In life, community is our home and neighborhoods where relationships flourish through both good and challenging times. Community intersects both life and work with empathy, respect, and a strong desire to leave it better than before.

Two of my communities collide here. I work in health IT, and I write to bring generations together in support of future leaders. HIMSS is an organization with a clear vision to “Better health through information technology.”

I met Michael Gaspar early in his career at HIMSS. Michael and I crossed paths at the HIMSS Social Media Center during an annual HIMSS conference, one of the largest health IT exhibits and educational events. Michael is now a program manager for social media within HIMSS Media.

I don’t know if anyone is really new to healthcare, but Michael was new to health IT when we first met. His mind was alive with an eagerness to learn and have an impamillennials health technologyct. And he is doing just that.

At this year’s HIMSS conference, they are bringing Millennials together at a reception with the goal to connect the future leaders of healthcare. “Future leaders” may be a misleading as many Millennials are leading in healthcare already. Michael certainly is. I am proud to be a co-chair of this event, along with Jenny Sabol.

Bringing this back to community, I wanted to interview Michael for Thin Difference. I have kept my health IT experience separate from this community, and the time may have come to bring it together. With the HIMSS Millennials reception, the time seemed right.

Michael Gaspar captures the spirit of Millennials well through his answers to the following questions. Michael is a Millennial leader, and he is inspiring all generations to engage each other for better health and health IT.

Why is story important for organizations and initiatives?

Michael: In my mind, the importance of stories comes down to a very foundational and mathematical property of equalities:

If a=b and b=c, then a=c.

Consider the following variables: a = Organizations/Initiatives; b = People; c = Stories.


Organizations/Initiatives = People

Michael GasparIt’s undeniable – the constitution of an organization or an initiative is a collection of ideas designed and refined to serve a population of people. For the people, by the people.

People = Stories

Human beings are creatures that thrive on storytelling.  Every social interaction from family reunions to small talk on the subway are a sharing of experience and perspective that help us grow and learn about who we are in respect to the rest of the world. It’s rooted in our heritage to share the rich history from which we came and the inspiring future of where we are headed.

Organizations/Initiatives = Stories

When an organization/initiative is secure enough in its purpose to streamline storytelling between its teams and its audiences, great stories, cultures, and brands inevitably emerge. Both listening to and telling stories open the lines of communication and learning between an audience and a brand. Some call it business intelligence while others simply call it marketing. Either way, I call it good business.

You have sparked a move for people to tell their health story. Why did you start this, and what has happened? What have you learned?

Michael: Health reform and change is a big deal and can be an equally overwhelming topic to talk about – especially on open social networks. One of my favorite topics is the social determinants of health. But, this can be a “heavy” way of thinking about healthcare. Where do you start when you know so many factors play in to our health. I thought we’d start at the most common denominator – you and me.

#iheartITThe goal of the #IHeartHIT campaign was to humanize the discussion on health technology. Often, we get tied up in the politics and the dollars and cents of healthcare –and so does the media.  While these are important considerations in healthcare strategy from a business and a population perspective, level-setting on the “why” we do what we do is a good benchmark for a business strategy too.

The topic of patient engagement is on the hearts and minds of so many in the industry. What better way to engage patients than to hear from them regarding their relationships with technology?  Why can’t these stories be a launch pad for business strategies?  Often, this step is overlooked and is a missed opportunity for so many organizations in the healthcare ecosystem.

As for what’s happened and what can be learned? All I can say is plenty, but of course, there’s still so much more to do and learn from each other. Check out some of the stories here:

What big changes do you see in healthcare and health technology during the next three years?

Michael: I think I’m only qualified to comment from the perspective of sitting in a social media role at the center of the health technology ecosystem. It’s an interesting place to be to say the least. From that perspective, health is a long game, and progress is going to be incremental. One of my favorite quotes comes from Dr. Jordan Shlain: “Nothing goes viral in health IT like it does in the consumer world. At best, it goes bacterial.” That said, we have to be in this for the long-haul.

In the next three years, I think we are going to see a new level of stakeholder alignment as the healthcare conversation becomes a priority for new Millennial leaders and the political tide behind the industry changes. The Affordable Care Act has changed the lens through which healthcare is perceived and practiced. I anticipate this conversation is going to evolve in a big way in the coming years – especially as the industry becomes savvier in social and digital technologies.

What role do you see Millennials playing in driving change in healthcare?

Michael: Millennials play the same role every other generation has played in society and healthcare to date. It’s every generation’s responsibility to do what they can, when they can, in context of the resources and experience they have at their disposal.

Millennials are now realizing they have the floor. As one of the most digitally-connected and educated generations our planet has seen to date, I’d like to think that it’s our turn to use these tools and perspectives that have evolved from our preceding generations to do our best – in healthcare and in society at large. I happen to believe that the two are not mutually exclusive which is why I am excited to be where I am professionally.

Health is the number one most coveted and valuable resource in the world. Without it, we have nothing. Millennials have the opportunity to improve the accessibility of that foundational resource – and democratize it for everyone.

What advice do you offer Millennials as it relates to health and technology?


Find your passion and stay focused. As I have mentioned before, health has so many moving parts – and there’s room in the ecosystem for everyone. What healthcare has is plenty of opportunities, but not enough focused and driven young professionals to innovate the industry. We’re entitled to nothing other than our own destiny.

Bring meaning to innovation. Monitoring social media dialogue for a living gives you an interesting perspective on change. Everyone wants to be an innovator the same way everyone wants to be healthy. But, the word innovation has lost its meaning. It’s a methodology, a practice, a philosophy, a behavior, a collaboration, a lifestyle. I believe that if your goal is to innovate you’re already failing. Innovation is a by-product of finding yourself and aligning it with something that matters. Find your passion, master it, and keep that passion fresh. Innovation will happen on its own.

What advice would you offer older generations as it relates to Millennials in healthcare?

Michael: Do what you’ve always done. Be patient. Listen. Older generations are our parents, friends, and family. They are just as invested in Millennials as Millennials are. We all want the same thing, but have different ways of exploring how we achieve it. Trust that you have equipped the new leadership generation with the tools to do something great and guide us in getting there. Know that we’re proud of you for getting us here. Now, it’s our turn to return the favor.

Here’s to hoping that we do.

Millennials + Health + Technology: An Engaging Story

Thank you, Michael Gaspar! Your leadership is having an impact, and we are grateful for your sense of community and story. Our health IT future is bright with Millennial leadership and all generations coming together to create a better healthcare and health IT experience.