Leaders from two top health systems recently offered their views on their plans to meet upcoming challenges and how their roles have evolved into an essential piece of the overall digital strategy of health systems.
Sara Vaezey, Chief Strategy and Digital Officer at Providence, and Craig Richardville, Chief Information Office at Intermountain, talked to Healthcare Dive (HD) as they finished the first several months into their current positions.
In a role with responsibility for IT, strategy, operations and cybersecurity, what is the main focus each day, and what are the daily must-wins?
Richardville: People sometimes like to admire the problem. Instead, we should decide, direct the work and get it accomplished. Get done today what needs to be done because something unplanned will come up tomorrow – something that’s unexpected but a critical need of the company. I have to continue to create capacity, which is making sure we focus on the right work and get that work accomplished.
What is the biggest challenge for health systems when it comes to patient experience?
Vaezey: Not being very close to our customers is a big problem. We don’t interact with our customers that often in a purely clinical capacity. Being far from customers puts them up for grabs any time they need a service. This happens as a result of fragmented data and identity of an individual. Without knowing what a person cares about, it’s difficult to get closer to them. Our group is currently tackling the idea of identity and authentication of an individual.
Considering that large health systems have been historically slow to pivot, can they stay ahead of the market in the digital space, especially considering the nontraditional competition (e.g., Amazon, et al)?
Richardville: While we compete with the nontraditional competition, we also recognize opportunities to collaborate with them as well. Size of the organization shouldn’t really affect agility if you’re working toward the right goal. Part of digital transformation for healthcare is learning from how other industries have done it. Look at banking – I can do clerical banking tasks at 3:00 AM on my schedule if I want to. The patient, as in banking, is the most underutilized resource. We want to put those in place and learn from other industries.
What has been learned about patient behavior and how has that changed since the pandemic?
Vaezy: Behaviors are totally different. Not only is behavior different, so is demand. The pandemic forced many people to start engaging online. For example, our chatbot was used mostly for screening and symptom triage during the pandemic. But now we get millions and millions of utterances every quarter. The chatbot helps people do things like reset passwords and other administrative tasks that otherwise would have to be handled by a live agent. Consumers are more engaged and educated. They know how to work their way around. We’re set up to see how people click around and can see how sophisticated they are.
How has the role of chief digital and information officer evolved?
Richardville: When the role was created, the person usually reported to the CFO and it was mostly about expense management. It evolved to workflows and operations and reported to the COO. It is now a very strategic role and can make you different from your competitors. Typically we report to the chief strategy officer or CEO.