Why Ardent isn't focusing on 'technology just for technology's sake'

Nashville, Tenn.-based Ardent Health Services' chief digital information officer is focusing on three key pillars in 2024: cybersecurity, enhancing consumer experience and fostering purpose-driven initiatives.

Anika Gardenhire, BSN, RN, was named to the role in October. Becker's spoke to her about what she is looking to accomplish at Ardent, her transition from payer to health system and the importance of collaboration. 

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

Question: What are some key things you're looking to tackle in your role this year? 

Anika Gardenhire: For everyone in my seat, a major and top priority is cybersecurity. Given the trust patients and consumers place in us with their sensitive data, ensuring its safety and educating consumers about its use are crucial. 

We are also focused on our consumer experience, and we've spent an incredible amount of time researching and working to understand what our consumers and patients want from us. We're dedicated to enhancing the consumer experience and we're not just focusing on convenience but on understanding it from the patient's perspective. 

Finally, aligning technology with the organization's strategic direction ensures purpose-driven work. We're focused on technology to solve health problems and not technology just for technology's sake. 

Q: How do you envision the partnership between the chief digital information officer and the CIO?

AG: The collaboration between the CIO role and this role is incredibly important. Our digital initiatives are built upon the infrastructure managed by the CIO. The CIO's role encompasses infrastructure, large platforms and critical applications, all of which are essential for data integrity and performance.

So when I think about the partnership with the CIO, it's about having that role be answerable to the rest of the technology team so that there's a mutual understanding that everything that we do is built on that foundation of work from our CIO. 

Q: You served as chief customer experience officer and chief digital officer at Centene Corp. What inspired your transition from a role in a payer organization to leading digital transformation in a hospital system?

AG: I was incredibly fortunate to transition to Centene, and I think that there's no better education about health economics and advanced payment models than being inside of a payer. But I realized my passion lies in care delivery. Nursing gave me a profound understanding of healthcare, motivating my transition back to the acute care setting. 

Q: How does Ardent stay at the forefront of innovation and remain adaptable to advancements in healthcare technology?

AG: The most important thing is that we stay on the forefront of broader business model transformation. I am a fan of technology, but most importantly I like to ask what are the big problems that need to be solved? What are the big jobs to be done? And how are we actually self-destructing and self-innovating against our business models and then utilizing technology as a deep partner that's a part of the care team in order to do that better?

Q: What is something you're paying close attention to in the healthcare industry right now?

AG: Everybody is paying attention to AI and what will come out of the technology. But one of the things that I remain focused on is some of the infrastructure that needs to surround AI.

For example, digital ethics is paramount as we advance in healthcare technology, especially with the integration of AI. We've got to be really focused on ensuring that we have proficiency around digital ethics so that we can ensure patients are receiving equitable care and avoid health disparities while leveraging data responsibly. 

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