Health innovation insider: 11 rapid-fire Qs with Hoag's Chief Digital Officer Kathy Azeez-Narain

Ahead of her new role as chief digital officer at Hoag Hospital, Kathy Azeez-Narain spent her career serving in various digital roles in the financial services industry.

Before joining the Newport Beach, Calif.-based hospital, Ms. Azeez-Narain worked at American Express, leading digital and technology innovation both inside company operations as well as to enhance customer experience. It wasn't until last year that she contemplated leaving the financial industry, Ms. Azeez-Narain told Becker's Hospital Review.

"I honestly never really thought about leaving; however, when I had my son five years ago, I had a life changing experience at the hospital I delivered at and I came out of it wondering if the things I knew about technology and digital could potentially help an industry like this. That thought stayed with me, and I started to read a lot more about healthcare and pay much more attention to what was happening in health tech."

Ms. Azeez-Narain decided to make the jump across industries after Hoag called and asked her to consider the chief digital officer role. Motivated by the hospital's mission, purpose and the opportunity to bring her digital and innovation perspective into new opportunities in healthcare, Ms. Azeez-Narain accepted the position and moved herself and her family from New York City to California during the pandemic.  

"It was definitely a whirlwind and tough decision, but I think for me what drew me to healthcare was the opportunity to make a difference and use my experience to drive impact in this industry," she said. "That was probably the big push that got me to move during a pandemic, bring my family to California and join Hoag."

Here, Ms. Azeez-Narain shares rapid-fire insights on health IT innovations, from healthcare's biggest disruptor to the future of artificial intelligence.

Editor's note: Responses have been lightly edited for clarity and length.

Question: Mac or PC? 

Kathy Azeez-Narain: Mac.

Q: iPhone or Android? 

KN: iPhone.

Q: What innovation or technology has made the biggest difference in your organization's COVID-19 response?

KN: There are quite a few, but for COVID-19 specifically, I would say telehealth and our ability to connect with patients through digital means has been critical.

Q: What's the No. 1 tech device you couldn't live without at work? 

KN: My Apple Watch or my iPad Pro. Those are the two devices I carry everywhere with me.

Q: What's your go-to voice assistant: Amazon Alexa, Google Home or Apple Siri?

KN: I mix between Alexa and Siri. 

Q: If you could add any tool to your EHR tomorrow, what would it be? 

KN: A better user interface and a consumer view of data is on the top of my list. While EHR technology is a capable platform and it delivers what it needs to from a medical record perspective, I would say one gap that they need to tackle is applying human interaction design to the product. The experience still feels like it's coming from a technology place and not necessarily the person using it. It definitely gives providers easy access to critical information but from the patient/consumer lens it has gaps.

Q: Which retail or tech giant will be the biggest disrupter to healthcare?

KN: I think Amazon is going to have a big role. There are definitely others, and some will probably be smaller players that we didn't see coming that will move quickly. But as it relates to the big tech companies, Amazon will definitely move in with stealth and speed, just based on the number of patents they've filed in the healthcare space. So for today's answer, my vote is Amazon.

Q: What patient engagement tech do you predict will be most used by patients in the next 3-5 years?

KN: The use of wearable technology paired with AI will expand. We will also see many things in the digital space moving to the 'Intelligence of things' vs. basic Internet of Things-type devices. 

Q: What excites you most about the future of AI in healthcare? 

KN: Its impact on reducing the time spent on processes and administrative tasks for physicians and medical staff, leading them to have more time that can be spent caring for patients and providing healthcare to the population. More generally, I'm excited to see how AI will make basic things we use today, smarter.  

Q: If you could only have three apps on your phone, which would you choose?

KN: Spotify, Amazon and my Safari browser.

Q: What is one professional skill you're currently focused on? 

KN: Right now I'm in a new phase of life, so my professional skill is learning more about this industry from a consumer lens, finding ways that the technology swirling around it can integrate into it and defining the right problems to leverage innovation/technology to solve. Beyond that I'm also focused on building a team of digital talent in the business and bringing my expertise from an external perspective to the forefront.

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