In January 2021, Monique Weeks joined PT Solutions Physical Therapy, a US-based physical therapist-owned private practice, as the company’s Vice President of Technology. During the past several months, she has focused on aligning the company’s technology and strategic roadmaps, as well as understanding the overall needs of PT Solutions’ practice.
There are several opportunities for AI at PT Solutions within scheduling, patient correspondence, billing questions and more. “There could be opportunities from a marketing and patient outreach perspective when there are inquiries about PT Solutions to identify the nearest locations and/or the services that are provided [at] various locations,” Monique says.
“Now that I’m ready to start to focus on digital transformation, I’m ready to look at ways to innovate the business through AI,” explains Monique.
Prior to her professional career, when Monique began college, she did not initially pursue technology. “I was actually a Pharmacy major,” says Monique. “I went to college very young, at 16, and in my mind, pharmacy was actually the business side of healthcare.” Monique’s initial goal was to someday own her own pharmacy.
“I was a first-generation college student so when I went away to college, I didn’t have a whole lot of insight from my parents or my family so with minimal research I decided a ‘pharmacist’ was the career for me,” Monique explains.
After facing challenges in one of her first-year pharmacy classes, Monique needed to sit out for a year in order to continue in the program. She then met with the new Health Information Technology Program Dean, who informed her about the HIM (Healthcare Information Management) program, which became Monique’s new major. “From there I was introduced to the world of healthcare technology, so it wasn’t necessarily an initial drive to be in technology — it was more of a drive to be in healthcare,” she says.
Before graduating, Monique had already received two job offers, and chose a role at Softmed Systems. “I started there in 1999 just in time for Y2K, so my focus was consulting with hospitals and health care organizations transitioning from paper to electronic medical records throughout the US, Puerto Rico, and Canada,” Monique says. This role also enabled her to travel to more than 40 US states in four years, which ignited within Monique a love of travel and of working with people from different places.
“I saw so much opportunity working directly with nurses and doctors on how to optimize the use of technology to drive patient care, communication with other providers, and ultimately outcomes,” says Monique.
After working at Softmed Systems, Monique worked at Georgetown University Hospital and George Washington University Hospital in Operations Management roles. “The goal with this transition was to balance my experience as a consultant with direct experience in a healthcare organization,” explains Monique. However, she ultimately knew that she wanted to return to consulting.
Monique then joined McKesson Corporation as a Healthcare IT consultant, and eventually transitioned into managing the implementation team for McKesson’s hospital and healthcare enterprise implementations of Horizon Patient Folder (later known as OneContent), an EMR and content management solution.
After working at McKesson and ADP, Monique took a role at Aveanna Healthcare, where she eventually became the Associate Vice President of Business and Clinical Solutions. “All of the roles I’ve been in prepared me because it allowed me to be versatile and understand various facets of the business — the patient, provider, and payer side and that translates to operational, clinical and technology needs,” says Monique.
Digital Transformation in Healthcare
Monique enjoys the rewarding nature of working in Healthcare IT. “Healthcare technology is rewarding in knowing we can make a difference, albeit indirectly at times, in the day-to-day workflow of a clinician and ultimately impact the patient experience,” says Monique. “The uniqueness of healthcare versus other fields of IT is the understanding that with every transaction that happens there is a patient or a clinician at the end of it.”
Looking toward the future of AI, Monique believes the opportunities are endless. “It’s all about understanding the business you are in and being open-minded to learning the opportunities,” Monique explains. “I intend to continue to network and see if there are transferrable opportunities across industries.”
When it comes to people’s concerns regarding AI in healthcare, Monique believes it is often due to the lack of knowledge about the potential opportunities. Healthcare organizations are often delayed in their digital transformation, and Monique believes that external pressures are often the catalyst for the adoption of emerging technologies within the healthcare industry.
“Healthcare transitioned from paper to electronic medical records back in Y2K, as a result of being forced to make that change,” explains Monique. “Telehealth is another example of an emerging technology. During the COVID pandemic in 2020, Telehealth nearly quadrupled in usage because it was needed.” To increase understanding and awareness of AI’s impact on the healthcare industry, and to advance the industry’s digital transformation, Monique recommends holding more forums to discuss how other companies have implemented AI technologies.
Another challenge that faces the healthcare industry is the concern over whether AI would eliminate the “human touch” in healthcare. To this, Monique encourages companies, across all industries, to be “forward thinking,” and to “think outside the box and prepare […] for being nimble.”
When telling her non-technology friends and family about her current role, Monique relates her work to examples of AI in everyday life. Monique herself is often amazed at what technology can do, recalling how far technology has come since the advent of television remote controls. “Now you can talk into the remote and ask for what you want to watch,” Monique remarks. “We truly ‘live in the future!’”
Promoting Women in STEM Careers
Monique has several pieces of advice for women who are currently pursuing careers in STEM. She encourages women to avoid putting limits on themselves, and to instead “be willing to keep learning with no limits.” She believes women should apply to roles they want, even if they don’t match the entire job description, as she says, “if it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you.”
Monique encourages women to look beyond traditional careers and surround themselves with positive influences, while also being influential to others. Finally, she says that women in STEM should “find mentors and be a mentor.” Monique knows the importance of connecting with several mentors. “In my role, it’s important to have a pulse on the industry from a clinical and operational perspective, as well as a technology perspective,” says Monique. “It’s also important as you grow in your career.”
In order to close the gender gap, Monique says that young women need to see STEM leaders who look like them, and that mothers play a critical role in showing this to their daughters: “My 11-year old daughter is very keen on learning what I do, and why I’m doing it.”