How digital and information executives are shaking up health systems

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Many executives started new roles as chief digital, data and information officers at top systems and health firms this year, as providers strive to evolve to meet digital demand and address concerns over cybersecurity.

Providence, Intermountain, Ascension and CVS all recruited executives for the top data and IT jobs in 2022.

Healthcare Dive caught up with Providence’s Chief Strategy and Digital Officer Sarah Vaizey and Intermountain Chief Information Officer Craig Richardville a few months into their tenure to discuss how they plan to address the challenges ahead and what their roles will be has developed. Overall health system strategy.

Editor’s Note: These interviews have been edited for clarity and brevity.

Healthcare Dive: In your role, you are responsible for information technology, strategy, operations and cyber security. What is your main focus day-to-day? What should be your winnings at the end of each day?

Craig Richardville: In some cases people like to praise the problem. Let us decide, let us direct our work, and get it done. The things you know you need to do, you have to get done because something is going to happen tomorrow that is totally unplanned, unexpected but vital to the needs of the company.

So I have to continue with capacity building. And it’s really going to make sure that we focus on the right things and get the job done.

What is the biggest challenge for health systems when it comes to digital patient experience?

Sara Vaizey: I think a big problem is that we are not very close to our customers.

They don’t have to interact with us which is often in a purely clinical capacity. When you’re away from your customer, they’re up for grabs any time they need a service.

One of the big drivers of this has been the fragmentation of identity and data around the individual. It’s very difficult to get close to your user if you don’t really know what they care about. The big area we are dealing with right now as a group is the notion of identity and authentication of an individual.

Large health systems are notorious for pivoting, yet competing with the likes of Amazon and other non-traditional entrants. Can health systems stay ahead of the market in the digital space?

richardvilleA: We compete with them, but at the same time there are opportunities to collaborate with some of the newer entrants.

In terms of speed, size really doesn’t matter in your ability to be agile if you’re going right toward the target.

But when I look at the whole digital transformation, part of it is really learning from what’s happened in other industries.

Look what has happened in banking. A lot of clerical work… can be done right here at three in the morning my time when I want to do it. Patients, like banking, are the most underutilized resource.

We want to give them space and we’re going to learn from those other industries.

What have you learned about patient behavior and how has it changed since the pandemic?

waizzy, The behavior is totally different. They have changed from a consumer perspective in such a way that it is not just the behaviour, but the demand is actually different. The pandemic forced many people to start connecting online.

We have a chatbot that was actually used quite extensively during the pandemic for screening and triage of symptoms. Even though in the core use case people are not going to be messing with it.

Now we get hundreds of millions of statements every quarter. It helps people do all kinds of things like reset their password and a lot of administrative stuff that they would have had to call and talk to the clinic staff.

Consumers are more engaged and educated. They know how to do things in their own way. We’ve instrumented it so we can see how people click around. They are very sophisticated.

Six and a half years ago, when I joined Providence, we started the ‘What is Telehealth?’ But a lot of work was done. People just didn’t know.

How has the role of Chief Digital and Information Officer evolved?

richardville: When this role was first created, you typically reported to the CFO. It was all about expense management. You then evolved and became involved in operations and workflow and moved up to report to the Chief Operating Officer.

Now the role has evolved to where it is very strategic.

This is what can set you apart from your competitors and you are usually reporting to the Chief Strategy Officer or CEO.

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