Where tech innovation is needed most in healthcare

Healthcare has faced rapid change in the last few years amid the pandemic, and digital transformation is not slowing down.

Sara Vaezy, executive vice president and chief digital officer at Renton, Wash.-based Providence, and Brad Reimer, CIO of Sanford Health in Sioux Falls, S.D., discussed the areas of healthcare primed for disruption on the "Becker's Healthcare Digital Health + Health IT Podcast."

Note: Responses have been edited lightly for clarity.

Question: What areas of healthcare are most in need of disruption and digital transformation today?

Brad Reimer: There's a lot evolving in healthcare right now, from AI to the Internet of Medical Things, to virtual health and consumerized healthcare. There's so many buzzwords out there, but the largest opportunity and the common currency across all of those is data. It's probably one of the most challenging areas to address as well because we're trying to figure out how to prepare the data ecosystem. I'm talking about it in the largest sense: What's the data ecosystem need to look like for this generation of healthcare solutions? What is the amount and importance of data that's being created and consumed outside the EMRs is growing exponentially, as everybody knows. All those systems, in a utopian world, need to work in concert with each other to really gain the benefit of improving patient quality care, the patient experience and the provider experience.

I believe that data is key for doing that, and whether you're talking about it as data governance, deidentification of data accessibility, interoperability, AI, machine learning, you name it: data just is that lifeblood to the future of digital health in my mind. Providing a modern and adaptable data ecosystem is incredibly important as a huge need and opportunity for organizations to partner with health systems, universities and the third-party vendor market. If we can crack the nut on how we build a modern data ecosystem for healthcare, it will truly revolutionize healthcare for our patients and our communities.

Sara Vaezy: Our healthcare system is so complex and difficult to navigate and understand, and the infrastructure is very antiquated. The business models are challenging and the operations are very convoluted. I think it's hard to point to something that doesn't require rethinking and modernization, and perhaps disruption as well. There is a lot of strategic value in doubling down on how we think about disruption as anything that is consumer facing because consumers have expectations. We've been talking about this for a long time; it isn't a novel concept. But consumer expectations are more advanced [and influence] where they get their care.

There is also a lot of activity in the market for new types of nontraditional players coming in and the whole nature of how care is delivered is changing. There are lots of consumer-facing offerings out there. It's really important to continue to innovate aggressively around that domain and figure out ways by which we can remain relevant for consumers.

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