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Chris Hemphill – New Member of HIHOF’s Board of Judges

Mar 25, 2024

The Healthcare Hall of Fame (HIHOF) was established in 2011 to honor individuals and organizations that have made outstanding, lasting contributions to the healthcare internet industry. An integral part of HIHOF is its Board of Judges. The Board is made of up of digital leaders from various organizations, such as healthcare provider organizations, agencies and others. image including HIHOF logo

The newest member of the HIHOF Board of Judges is Chris Hemphill. Chris is currently Senior Director, Commercial Intelligence, at Woebot Health. We talked with Chris recently about their perspective on HIHOF and joining the Board of Judges.

HIHOF: Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background.

CH: Since college, my entire career has been in the healthcare technology space in various ways. I started my career in the business development front and moved into sales operations. This was at Influence Health. Then I moved into data sites. Once of the most pivotal moments of my career was in 2018, when I got really jealous of my coworkers who were doing really powerful predictions on the types of healthcare services that people needed. I decided to train up on data science, Python training – that sort of thing – and moved over to that side of the house. That’s where I started my Symphony RM journey. In that role, I was really focused not just on the algorithms and communicating with our clients and all that, but also I was the only Black person on the data science team and I asked different questions about how our algorithms were formed. For example, we had some great performance overall, but how does that break down when we divide it out by race? We saw that some of these algorithms were underperforming for Asian and Black patients. Depending on the model, sometimes they were underperforming and sometimes they were overperforming. But there were cases where we didn’t want to release a model out to the public because it was so biased. I worked heavily on the response AI front, coordinating with the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and their Center for Applied AI to help us with the algorithmic device journey. That threaded into a fellowship with NYU – they brought me under their umbrella as a fellow of the Poverty Policy Research Institute called the McSilver Institute. In 2022, I moved over to a digital mental health company called Woebot Health to focus on data science. I got pulled into doing podcasting and I love it. Also, commercial conversations and things like that.

HIHOF: What motivated you to join the HIHOF judges’ panel?

CH: I think it was Ahava [Leibtag, Founder and President, Aha Media] that reached out, and whatever Ahava does, I follow. She knows what’s going on and all of our conversations were so aligned. If she recommends doing something, even if I feel uncomfortable or undeserving, if it’s coming from her, I’m just going to believe it. We talked about it, and I was like thank you for the fantastic honor. There’s a lot of other people that should have this honor, but I’m just going to take the W that you came and talked to me.

HIHOF: What do you hope to contribute to the Board?

CH: I have a little bit of a different perspective, being in the digital mental health space. We’ve [the Board] had a group conversation and I’m sure there are more group conversations to come, and I know that there is an interest in something that heavily overlaps with my career – data science, machine learning, artificial intelligence. Everybody on the panel knows that there are ethical challenges and bias that are associated with anything related to data. I want to bring concrete examples of that to the table, because maybe people generally know these are issues, but they might not know the specific ways they manifest and impact people’s care. Bringing those angles and perspectives and also there’s a lot happening in the digital mental health space. I think we’re going to see more overlap – like, when I think about HCIC and the conferences and things like that, digital health vendors have an engagement problem. Everybody has cool Powerpoints and maybe there’s some cool technology behind those Powerpoints – let’s hope – but the problem they’re missing out on is patient engagement. At the Healthcare Internet Conference, these are the people who are best informed in terms of what’s needed to drive engagement. But people on the technology side, building these apps out of San Francisco – they don’t know what’s going on in patient engagement. So, I think there’s a balance to be struck there.

HIHOF: Of all the areas of medical specialty, it seems like mental health might be the best combination with digital because it’s something that can easily be done virtually, probably more easily than any other type of healthcare encounter. It seems to be a ripe field for digital.

CH: I think so. The first telehealth visit happened in the 1960s – it was a mental health visit. It’s at the forefront and has been at the forefront for many years until just recently when it was left out of the whole electronic medical record revolution. Back in 2010, when the guidelines for Meaningful Use were being put together, behavioral health facilities and a lot of behavioral health visit types were excluded.

HIHOF: What do you see as the significance of an individual or organization being inducted into HIHOF with the healthcare industry?

CH: It’s the Oscars in a way. In the Oscars, there are often cases where there’s a movie that really, really should be there – it really should win, but it doesn’t. There’s a lot of innovation happening, a lot of young people entering the field. But HIHOF focuses on a lifetime achievement, so it’s a recognition of consistently innovating and changing the buck and being recognized for years or a lifetime of achievement. Since it’s not individuals applying for themselves and is not a “pay to play” scheme, it is a real recognition of effort, as recognized by somebody else, not me applying to Forbes 40 Under 40 and putting my name in.

HIHOF: What do you hope the impact of HIHOF will be, both for the inductee and the broader digital healthcare community?

CH: It’s “lead by example.” Everybody sees the buzz words, they see the hype, they see the overall – like, those buzz words could be “AI,” they could be “value-based care.” But it’s all mush until they see somebody putting in the work. Great research out there, but who’s putting it into action and how? If people know that these people [HIHOF inductees] are vetted, then they can say, “Oh, these are the types of people who I can follow and understand their efforts to motivate some of the changes I’m trying to do in my organization.

HIHOF: What advice would you give to individuals or organizations considering submitting a nomination?

CH: Now that I’m a part of it, I can say that the types of things that would get my attention. Share with me the work, but also the 360 implications of the work, all the way from business goal impact and feeding into it, things like are we ethically achieving our results in a way that others can follow. Of course, there may be some people that are backed by major, major institutions that are doing all kinds of things that the rest of the world can’t replicate. Let’s talk about the impact and the story leading into that impact.

HIHOF: Just one more question: What’s a fun fact about Chris Hemphill that not a lot of people know?

CH: I talk too much. [Laughs.] One of my best-performing YouTube videos is an electronic country song that got pretty popular on YouTube. It’s called Cybernetic Chicken Pickin’.

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