Health innovation insider: 13 rapid-fire Qs with Providence Chief Digital Strategy and Business Development Officer Sara Vaezy

Sara Vaezy, the chief digital strategy and business development officer at Renton, Wash.-based Providence, has been exploring ways technology can drive better healthcare practices ever since she entered the professional world.

After graduating with her bachelor's from University of California Berkeley in 2004, Ms. Vaezy began working as a researcher at Ekos, where she helped the Bothell, Wash.-based company launch its minimally invasive system for the treatment of vascular thrombosis. 

She went on to hold several positions within the healthcare world, including a five-year stint at  healthcare advisory services firm The Chartis Group. Providence welcomed her in 2016 as its chief of staff and senior director of digital innovation. After becoming the health system's chief digital strategy officer in 2017, her title changed to chief digital strategy and business development officer a year later.

In her role at Providence, Ms. Vaezy is responsible for developing the health system's digital strategy and road map, as well as participating in technology evaluation and overseeing digital partnerships and business development. As the leader of her group, she manages the sustainable incubation process that has rolled out multiple successful ventures, including Xealth, Circle and DexCare.

In addition to the work that has made her one of health IT's brightest rising stars, Ms. Vaezy is also the co-founder of Yeah Boy, a Seattle-based hot sauce company offering habanero and jalapeno variations. 

Here, Ms. Vaezy shares her rapid-fire thoughts on health IT innovation, from her go-to tech device to her thoughts on new applications for artificial intelligence.

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

Question: Mac or PC?  

Sara Vaezy: Mac.

Q: IPhone or Android? 

SV: IPhone.

Q: What has been your go-to tech device during the pandemic?

SV: My iPhone. I can do 85 percent of what I need to do for my job on it. 

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

SV: Speaking from a consumer-digital perspective, our organization focused on building an AI-powered, COVID-19 FAQ and assessment bot that could support our patients in getting their questions answered and point them to the care they needed — which was a great start. What is exciting to me is our new focus on extending underserved people by sharing information in a linguistically and culturally appropriate way to help them stay protected from COVID-19, find test sites and eventually point them to community (both clinical and non-clinical) resources. 

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

SV: See the third question.

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

SV: Amazon Alexa — but to be honest, they all kind of freak me out.

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

SV: An opening of the EHR for patient information accessibility and utilization across different providers, apps, etc. The industry has made some baby steps to get there but has a long way to go. 

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

SV: They're all transforming the way we care for people, build healthcare technology infrastructure and do business, but Walmart has the potential to become the de facto "bronze plan" for a huge portion of the country, and it is wildly underestimated.

Q: What patient engagement tech do you predict will be most used by patients in the next three to five years? 

SV: Their phone. 

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

SV: Mail/Outlook, Spotify and a web browser.

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

SV: How it will enable the ability to deliver personalized care experiences, whether they are transactional or ongoing.

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

SV: Leading my teams through difficult times with empathy and joy — while we have more work to do than ever before. 

Q: What is one health tool you think should stay analog? 

SV: The ability for a patient who needs continuity to connect with a provider who knows them and can care for them based on their unique needs.

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