Season 5: Episode #142

Podcast with Vineela Yannamreddy, Chief Information Officer, United Medical Center

Self-Assessment of Your Digital Transformation Efforts is Important

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In this episode, Vineela Yannamreddy, CIO of United Medical Center (UMC), a Not-for-Profit Hospital Corporation (NFPHC) serving Southeast DC and surrounding Maryland communities, discusses the thought process behind the successful implementation of over 200 applications at UMC over a span of six years, transforming the EHR, and bridging the legacy systems with contemporary solutions to make them functional.

Vineela explains why it is important to identify and prioritize critical technology needs for immediate applications to bring benefits to the stakeholders – clinicians and patients. She also stresses the need for health systems to self-check their digital transformation efforts.

Vineela also talks about the change management system that they have implemented at UMC to improve end-user workflows and encourage innovation. Take a listen.

Show Notes

01:14What interests you in the healthcare industry segment to become the CIO of a hospital system?
02:47How long have you been in the leadership position at UMC, where is it located, and what kind of population does it serve?
03:35You have done a lot of work from technology perspective to support the business needs of the hospital. You've done over 200 applications and transformed the EMR system. Would you like to share with the audience the thought process that drove those changes and what were some of those changes?
07:47What do you think about your digital transformation efforts? If you could describe a few of them which have had impact on the patient population.
08:30Please describe in your own, you know, way that what is digital transformation for provider systems such as yours? Where do you see it going? Some of the challenges that you might have faced and how did it actually end up impacting patients?
11:24 How did you manage to change the mindset of the people? How did they manage to change themselves? To adapt to this new world where technology, especially with AI and GenAI and other new technologies which are coming our way, how do you change mindsets and change behaviors and change culture over there?
13:00Would you like to provide one example of how the technologies which you were implementing, and you continue to be implementing in your hospital system are accessible and usable by a variety of users, including within the hospital and outside the hospital.
16:28How do you innovate? Do you involve external parties? Do you have some kind of a, you know, innovation focus department? Or is it part and parcel of everybody's, you know, kind of like daily life?
19:24What are your thoughts on new technologies, especially Gen AI? Have you been experimenting with any predictive analytics or large language models? What would be your advice or thoughts to any other healthcare leaders on how to go about this journey of exploration?
22:15Standing here now and looking back, if you were able to go back and change one or two things, what would you like to do differently or have done differently?

Video Podcast and Extracts

About our guest

Vineela Yannamreddy M.S. is the CIO of Not-For-Profit Hospital Corporation commonly known as United Medical Center in Washington D.C. She is a visionary leader who has been driving innovation and digital transformation since the last 15 years in healthcare information technology to enhance patient care and operational efficiency. A master’s in biomedical informatics graduate from Rutgers University, she continues to stay at the forefront of industry advancements. Vineela has done some scientific research work in the area of micro-vascular complications in diabetes and other age-related neurodegenerative diseases and emerging trends in dietary components for preventing and combating disease. During her career, Vineela built the hospital IT infrastructure from the ground up for various healthcare organizations. With deep understanding of healthcare, Vineela has successfully optimized workflows improving patient outcomes. Committed to a patient centric approach, she has championed initiatives such as CCBHCs (Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics), OSOP (Overdose Survivors outreach program), MAT (Medication Assisted Treatment), Transitions of Care, Automatics drug packaging and many more. Known for fostering collaboration, Vineela has built high-performance teams that work seamlessly to integrate technology solutions into the hospital’s operations. She was an extensive contributor for the District’s COVID-19 task force who facilitated rapid vaccination rollout to the most challenging communities of D.C. With a passion for leveraging technology to drive positive changes in healthcare, Vineela remains dedicated to achieving health equity by shaping the future of healthcare delivery through innovation and strategic leadership.

Q. Tanya, can you tell us a bit about LCMC and the populations you serve?

Tanya: It’s kind of a long journey, but I’ll try to wrap it up there, summarize it. We are originally founded by Louisiana’s only freestanding Children’s Hospital. LCMC originally stood for Louisiana Children’s Medical Center. We just go by LCMC Health now. We have since grown into a healthcare delivery system serving the New Orleans market and the communities in the Gulf South. We kept the legacy of children and pediatrics in our name, which is the LCMC Health piece. We are now in nine hospital locations and Children’s Hospital of New Orleans and several other community hospitals, and we are the area’s only level one trauma center with Tulane Medical Center of New Orleans. We also recently acquired Tulane University Medical Center and its Associated Hospitals. So, we are an academic teaching organization. We train the next generation of health care professionals in partnership with LSU and Tulane Medical Schools, amongst others. For allied health students, where about 3 billion in revenue, 3000 physicians, 14,000 employees, a couple thousand inpatient beds. And we’ve kept the legacy of our founding member, which is Children’s Hospital of New Orleans, in place. But we’ve expanded our services beyond pediatrics. I am the first chief information officer for this organization. It’s formed very rapidly over the years through these mergers. And I have been in my role now for eight years.

Q. In this podcast, we talk a lot about digital health and digital transformation, and I want to focus on that as it relates to LCMC. Can you give us a little bit of an overview of your digital health program? What does Digital health mean for you and talk to us a little bit about the digital health program at LCMC.

Tanya: Sure. We are an organization that did grow through mergers and acquisitions, and so our original goal in our digital health program was to come up with a standardized methodology for systems, for strategies where we could get synergies and really integrate across our continuum of care because we are very locally based here in the New Orleans market. So, all our hospitals geographically wise are very close. And so, it is common for patients to visit any one of our facilities. We really needed to have an integrated digital footprint or electronic health record, which is where we started to make that more of a better patient experience, as well as the opportunity to make that more efficient for our organization and make it a happier or more efficient place to be for our caregivers and our workforce. We were running and somewhere around dozens, if not hundreds of various applications and systems. So, I would like to say you name the electronic health record and platform, and we had it. So that’s what I spent most of the first initial years forming was an electronic health record strategy to again, really integrate care across our continuum and remove some of those redundancies, creative efficiencies, and make that again, a better experience for our workforce as well as our patients. So, step one was to set down that path of creating a centralized shared services model and that common vision. And we did end up selecting Epic as our electronic health record. So, our initial phase of that was in 2017 and we did do Big Bang. So, everything from ancillaries to inpatient to ambulatory to revenue cycle, all of it was big bang and we rolled out. At that time, we were five hospitals and that was all conducted over the course of about a year. So, between the end of 2017 through mid-2018, we were up and running on all of those facilities. And then we acquired another hospital in the middle of the pandemic in 2020. So, we spent the last couple of bringing them into the fold onto the platforms and we are now embarking on that same process for our latest acquisitions with Tulane, which is another three hospitals. And we plan to have them up and running within about a year. So, all of that said, that’s been keeping us very busy and just putting the foundation in place. And now we’re really looking forward to moving past, you know, having the foundation and really leveraging additional digital capabilities for advancing what we can. So right now, we’re really focused on our journey towards systemness. So really developing those standards across service lines, across our continuum of care, because again, our patients in the geography that we serve is very close in proximity. So, we want that to be a seamless and common experience and focus on systemness. We’re also really focused on patient access, and we’re very aware that patients do have a choice and we want to make sure that we make it as easy as possible for patients to access our system. So, we’ve done a lot around that. And then lastly, also not just focus on the patient, but also continue to focus on our clinician experience. So, almost just as much rigor and focus on the clinician experience and happiness and creating user friendly tools that makes it easy to do their job and yet meet all the regulatory requirements and compliance things that are always coming at us for documentation.

Q. Can you give us a couple of examples of what you’ve done to improve the patient experience, especially from an access standpoint.

Tanya: Sure. One of our most recent experiences, which I will tie into even that systemness category that I just mentioned, we just recently did a full redesign of what we call our online scheduling tools and platforms. So, we do have a patient portal there. We were allowing scheduling of it when we went live with Epic a few years ago. But on this journey towards integrating care and making it a common seamless experience across service lines. We revamped, revised all of that and ensured that it was easy to create, to schedule a patient through our platform for, let’s just say, primary care. So, if for some reason my normal physician that I normally see wasn’t available, but I really needed to get in for an appointment, we now make it very easy to search our entire database of availability to get in with the next provider, even if that might not be at the same clinic that that I normally would have seen. So, that has been a huge improvement just in terms of schedule utilization and visit volume increases. So, it’s been a win-win not only for the patients to have easier access, but also, it’s a growth opportunity for the healthcare system. We’re going to start with that and continuing to look at ways for how we improve access. Referrals is another area that we’re going to start looking at again, just making that an easier process to get patients to where they need to be within our system.

Q. What about the clinicians? You mentioned that you’re also trying to provide features and functionalities to help make their jobs and their lives better, right? Can you talk about an example of what you’ve provided for them?

Tanya: Sure. We just recently, it’s still in progress, none of these things are ever done right. As it’s a continuous evolution, continuous improvement. So, one of the projects that we also launched this past year was called Project Joy, and it was a very targeted effort to focus on nursing specifically because I’m sure we are aware of the nursing shortages that many of us are facing. It’s a real challenge to not only retain the nursing staff we have, but also attract and recruit new nurses. How do we make sure that we have an environment that they like? Project Joy, in partnership with our Chief Nursing officers, was an effort to evaluate utilization of our electronic health record. So, now that we have the data in a digital format, it makes it much easier to do some targeted analytics and analysis on where our nurse is spending their time and then really dig into. At a glance we found that some of our nurses were spending an inordinate amount of time in flow sheets and responding to what we called non required best practice alerts. It was almost just kind of an FYI sorts of messages, but not actionable. We spent a lot of time in partnership with our chief nursing officers to identify how can we make these glow sheets a little bit more user friendly and how do we reduce the amount of clicks or interruptions that the nurses face with these alerts that may not really be effective. On our first phase of rolling out the changes to that project, we were able to calculate savings of over 1000 hours per month to give back to our nurses to do other things such as care for our patients at the bedside.

Q. That’s another great example of how you’re really making it work for both the patients and the caregivers. What are your patients telling you at a high level? What are the one or two things you’re hearing from them that are driving your priorities and your investments?

Tanya: We started to get a lot of very positive feedback when we did these revisions around online scheduling and ease of access. And the other thing that was probably another good example, although it’s a little outdated now, but our ability to respond to the pandemic. Obviously, that was a rapid change and we stood up telemedicine overnight. We also did a great deal on what we called mobile testing. So, if patients weren’t in a place that they had easy access, we had busses that were out in our community offering testing and then also did the same thing for vaccinations. When those became available. We really stood up the technology pretty much almost overnight and to be able to have a massive vaccination location that made it easy for patients to get in and out and even looked at some rideshare type of programs for ensuring that transportation wasn’t necessarily an obstacle or barrier in terms of where to get access. So those are just a few of the examples of the great feedback in our community that patients are excited about.

Q. Let’s talk a little bit about the tech. You have got a lot of technology choices. Your major EHR system, which is Epic, is doing a lot in terms of building out their product on their platform with their digital capabilities. You also have a thriving ecosystem of independent software solution providers. This could be everyone from, very well-established firms, but also startups from the digital health ecosystem. As the CIO, how do you go about making your choices and talk to us a little bit about your thought process.

Tanya: That is such a great question, and I don’t think any of us really have the perfect answer. I think we’ve made a lot of strides over the last few years. I think, again, the pandemic really pushed us into this agile, innovative space of not having the ability to wait for perfection and needing to take some chances or risks, hopefully calculated risks. I don’t have a perfect answer, but what we try to do is really align with our overall strategic plan. We do we do have an Epic first mentality, meaning let’s not reinvent the wheel if Epic already can or is doing it, we’ll probably look at that first just because it is already part of the tool that we’ve purchased and invested in. And there is something to be said about complete integration from the start. So, we start there, align with the strategic plan, and then identify where those gaps are. While I think that does an awful lot, they don’t do everything so really targeting and again what are our strategies, where are the gaps and identify where those possible solutions can fit. And even what we call interoperability and integration has really come a long way too. We’re not stuck with just HL7. There are so many more capabilities now in how we can integrate with our core platform. So that’s not so much a barrier as it used to be in years past, but it is something important to ensure that integration is hopefully seamless as can be for both the user experience as well as just continuity of care. If we are talking about patient information.

Q. How has the macroeconomic environment impacted your investment decisions this year? You’ve got a labor shortage; you’ve got an interest rate. There’s a lot of there’s a lot of forces in play in the market.

Tanya: Yeah. Another great question! In the healthcare industry, we are facing issues with reimbursement rules changing and the inflation also continues to rise. So, we really do have to make sure that we’re managing our costs and being good stewards, which is difficult to do when at the same time we just talked about innovation and new tools and investment. It really is a delicate balance. So, while we’re working on enabling new digital technologies that will hopefully drive revenue or improvements, and that’s a key to making sure that we continue to measure that. But also, where can we eliminate costs or really push on opportunities? So, a big opportunity for us because of all the mergers and acquisitions we did was application rationalization. So, as we brought these nine hospitals together, they had a little flavor of just about every application you can think of. That was a huge part of opportunity, is let’s standardize on the application footprint, let’s archive that data as necessary and let’s stop paying maintenance on those systems. So, we’ve done a lot of that over the years. So, some good stories to tell there and making that a priority, but also looking at new cost models. So of course, cloud computing is a whole new method of managing infrastructure compared to the sort of traditional way of buying servers and trying to predict what you were going to need, five years in advance. Now it’s a little bit more consumption based. That’s just a new cost model to evaluate. We already talked a little bit about innovation, but because of the shortage of whether it’s nursing or revenue cycle, where are the opportunities to use some artificial intelligence or maybe what we can call the digital employee experience, where we can get creative on how we can automate certain functions within our organization there where we are having shortages of labor. That’s also not an easy answer, but let’s continue to explore that. And then I already mentioned the project your way around. How do we just keep our clinicians happy and save them some time along the way?

Q. You mentioned artificial intelligence and the use of data analytics. How far are you along in that journey into. Terms of using your data and what have been some of the successes that you’ve had in applying advanced analytics to help to drive your outcomes.

Tanya: I would say that every one of our projects has some sort of metrics or analytics attached to it, and we make that a priority or a requirement before we launch any initiative. How are we going to measure this, what are our goals? Let’s make sure we’ve got a baseline and we’re prepared to measure both during the implementation and then post implementation. It’s something I’m very passionate about. I do have the business intelligence team. It’s good that we can really partner up with our EHR analysts and then our business intelligence data miners to marry that conversation. If I use EPIC for an example upon implementation, for every single module or service line, we did establish goals and we’re prepared to measure those goals during the implementation. I already mentioned the online scheduling. We just completely revised that, and we made sure we were ready to measure. We set our baseline and one month into the implementation we were able to show the metrics like – this is what it looks like last month and this is what it looks like last year and look at the improvement that we saw in just one month. I mentioned – Project Joy, we were able to measure how much time nurses were able to save just by fewer clicks and able to put more documentation at the bedside capabilities through the flow sheet modification. So, we were able to track that to how many minutes we were saving. So those are just a few examples.

Q. There’s a lot of innovation that is taking place in the market right now in terms of digital health solutions. If one of their founder CEO is listening to this podcast and wants to reach out to you, what’s your advice to them before they send you, their pitch?

Tanya: I think we covered a lot of it during this conversation. But if I could summarize maybe the key things to take away. One is really partnering so the CEO and the CIO or operations and IT collaboration to really understand the strategic initiatives or priorities of the organization and prepare to partner on that conversation around measuring accountability and on all parties, whether that’s a vendor solution, internal IT, nursing. Make sure everyone’s on the same page with what we’re measuring and why and the accountability around that. I like to say that even in data conversation, it’s one thing to produce the data. We now have lots of data, but accountability and responding to the data is I think kind of the next step of really making it meaningful. Then the other thing I think is just having conversations like this and staying connected to what the industry is doing, what others are doing, learning from others, just staying connected in the healthcare community. I truly do believe while we can learn from other industries, healthcare is a unique industry when it comes to technology, and it is really a small world at the end of the day for the healthcare IT community at least. So, leverage those conversations and that network to continuously learn from each other.

Q. What does your org model and governance model look like when it comes to digital health investments? How are you organized? How do you make the decisions? Is there a committee?

Tanya: Sure. We have a tiered approach. I call it sort of three layers of the triangle or the pyramid. At the base of the pyramid as your foundational pieces of the structure. So that’s where our subject matter experts get together routinely to talk about what the priorities are, whether they’re changes or optimization or new ideas that start there. And then above that, we call our operational layer. This is where our chief operating officer, our chief nursing officer, our chief medical information officer, sit. Their goal is to oversee trying to ensure that one group doesn’t necessarily make a decision that might negatively impact a different function down the road. They’re looking at that continuum of care for the decisions that we’re making. And then at the top level is the executive team. So, we do have what we call it together, which is our IT steering committee that is comprised of a handful of executives, including myself. Our goal is to really set the strategic priorities for the organization and ensure that there’s alignment within the framework. We also ensure that we’re utilizing resources in a shared fashion across everyone’s needs, which is tricky to do because like I mentioned earlier, we have pediatrics, and we have level one trauma academics. And so, making sure that all needs are met within that shared model can be tricky. Every committee has a chair and a co-chair. The chair is somebody from operations. We like to use the motto operationally led and supported. So, the chair is somebody from nursing or radiology, etc., and the co-chair is somebody from the IT functions or a leader on my team. And they are partners in establishing the teams and the cadence and the conversations. And then every facility is represented through that subject matter experts’ layer. And so, if you have additional questions after that, but that is how we’re structured.

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Disclaimer: This Q&A has been derived from the podcast transcript and has been edited for readability and clarity.

Welcome to Season 5 of The Big Unlock. I’m Rohit Mahajan, Managing Partner and C.E.O. at BigRio and now, Damo. This season carries forward Paddy’s legacy and joining me for an exciting discussion, in this episode, is Vineela Yanamreddy, Chief Information Officer for United Medical Center also known as Not-For-Profit Hospital Corporation in Washington, D.C.

Q: Tell us, Vineela, what interested you in the health care industry segment? How did you become the C.I.O. of a hospital system? 

Vineela: For this, I have to tell you a small story of how and where it all began. 

Right about when I was in the seventh or eighth grade back in India, my grandfather was diagnosed with some blood clots in his brain and we were seeking treatment for this. Around 30 years ago, when this happened in India, MRI technology or the CT technology was not as advanced as it is right now. Given that, some of the blood clots were missed. He could have lived longer, I think, and because I’m very attached to my family, losing him was the saddest thing ever for me. 

That’s when I decided that we needed to get into this field of technology where we could help not just the clinical world but a lot of people. That’s where it all began. I went on to pursue Biomedical Engineering from J.N.T.U., India and then, did my Master’s in Biomedical Informatics from Rutgers School of Health Professions, New Jersey. 

Q: How long have you been in the leadership position at this hospital system? Where is it located? What kind of population does it serve? 

Vineela: I’ve been in this leadership position for about six years. I joined as Director and then, became the C.I.O. 

This hospital is located east of the Anacostia River in D.C. We currently serve 200,000 residents in our primary focus area and then, about two million in our secondary population area. While it’s not a very diverse population, we do serve a majority of Medicaid patients at our facility. 

Q: How do you feel, from the technology perspective, about supporting the business needs of the hospital? You’ve done over 200 applications and transformed the EMR system as well. Would you like to share some of the thought processes that drove those changes? Do share some successful implementations.

Vineela: Upon my arrival, the hospital underwent some changes in management. Every year, there’d been new management so, it had been a very rough road for the hospital and the population itself. There were about 50 projects that were on hold or in progress that, because of the changes in the leadership, every team would want to pursue a certain way. 

That being said, there were many incomplete projects as well—some of them could not be integrated with our EMR since the hospital was so old or because the EMR and the applications were in fact legacy systems so, new technology wasn’t compatible for integrations. 

What we had to do was, determine the overall goal for the management and prioritize all the projects that would immediately bring significant success to the management team. I learned somewhere that such arrangements—the silo I.T.s where every department would purchase their own application without consulting the centralized I.T.—existed here, and the teams would want to just implement it or use the many web-based applications. In fact, the departments could procure these themselves and start putting the information everywhere. 

What we did therefore, was, we worked closely with all the leaders, the stakeholders, and the end users themselves, because at that time, the leaders also didn’t have the complete picture of what was happening in their department. We had to collectively form a task force and reconcile all applications. So, we reached out to every single end user to know their workflow and prioritize these projects that were on hold or in progress. We tightened all role-based access and worked on all data sharing mechanisms. 

The next step was to revise old and the ongoing policies and implement any new ones if we thought we needed them. We got our security risk analysis done because of the plethora of applications we had and got an external entity to fix our security issues. 

I mentioned some projects that were in progress earlier, right? We couldn’t attain completion there so they couldn’t be integrated further in our EMR. For those though, we put together our creative heads and built the bridge solutions because the ones in the market wouldn’t be compatible with these. 

We worked out different kinds of solutions to bring something functionable—what we thought at that time would be standardized and customized—to our hospital.

Q: That’s pretty significant—bridging the gap across a very diverse set of applications and technologies—and being able to bring all the stakeholders together. What do you think about your digital transformation efforts? Can you talk about a few of these which have impacted the patient population?

Vineela: I found these efforts very useful to measure against our peers or basically the industry standards to see if we were on the right path or not. That self-check is always important. 

To answer your question better, I would like to go back to the point where I started. There were some things like morning huddles, afternoon huddles, interdisciplinary action and a lot of other measures that were ongoing in the hospital—every hospital has these. 

In the morning when I attended my first interdisciplinary meeting here, the meeting was run by that shift supervisor and they were presenting all the numbers to the team that attended the huddle. I noticed them jotting down all those numbers in a book and then, emailing those numbers to a bigger group after some time. 

This continued on the second day and the third. I couldn’t stop myself asking the whole team—“How are you going to analyze this data? How are you going to make some informed decisions? How are you going to predict something if you are going this way?” 

I didn’t mean to criticize the way it was being done, but they were doing the best at that time with what they had and with all the changes that were happening in the hospital. That day, we just decided on how to proceed—and I had huge support from each and every one over here. I presented the idea, and it is not new because rest of the world was already on it. The way forward was to have live dashboards, robust and advanced data analytics. 

This was the biggest challenge because we were using so many island applications and a legacy EMR. Again, the readily available market tools were not going to work for us so we had to customize and build our own analytics platform. We put together all our skills, people, and we built ourselves an analytics platform. It took us about a year and a half, but we were really into it. I saw that hunger in all the physicians and the leadership because they wanted to take informed decisions. We were able to get that. 

We now have analytics throughout the hospital, and it provides real-time updates, alerts, and on-demand information, while enhancing the patient care and ensuring operational efficiency. Every department now relies on it.

Q: How did you manage to change the mindset of the people to adapt to this new technology—AI and Gen AI, for instance? How did you bring about a change in behavior and culture?

Vineela: I’m sure changing cultures and behaviors is very challenging. It’s challenging and time consuming, but I must say that the leaders and the directors, in envisioning the goals of the hospital, knew what they needed to do. The only thing they did not know was how to approach the changing landscape—and that’s where my specialty lay. 

My expertise comes in here because my specialization lies in EMR and health care applications. I had a lot of cooperation from everyone and despite the delays, once we had proper planning, could visualize the big picture, and saw some samples, we knew it would be easy.

Q: Can you share one example of how these technologies you’ve implemented are accessible and usable by a variety of users within the hospital and outside it?

Vineela: My focus has always been to identify and prioritize critical technology needs for immediate applications that can bring significant benefits to the hospital and both, clinicians and patients. I give them equal weightage. 

The more time the clinicians can spend with the patients, the better it is for us. Right now, with all these regulations, I know the clinicians are always complaining about the time they spend on documentation and going into different types of applications rather than being there with the patient. 

I tried to engage myself and get my team to evaluate how we could ease things for the clinician. I always look for that because it’s basically about balancing the need and preparing the staff. That is crucial. So, we developed a clear strategy, outlined the goals, timelines, and the expected outcomes. I put more time into that because I knew the team had the skills to take this ahead. 

We started off with a small notion in our team—we do whatever it takes to get the outcome. We were open minded enough to not limit ourselves to our roles, sit there, and do just that. We cross-trained ourselves. We became continuous learners. I enrolled myself into a number of courses that I probably couldn’t even finish, but I kept on learning. I kept encouraging my team to do the same thing. We assessed the current skill sets, identified the areas that required improvement, provided training and if we required specialized skill sets, we always had the option to hire seasoned professionals for that role. 

Our main focus has always been the end users. We prioritized user friendly designs, making it easier for the users to adopt these. We would constantly think about how we could improve their workflows. In this context, one of the most important items we implemented was a robust Change Management System. We asked—“What is the current workflow? What are the changes that we are going to bring? What will it impact and how? Is it simplifying it? Is it making it complex?” If we felt it was making things complex anywhere, we just cut back because it was not worth it. The goal was to try to simplify the end user’s workflow. 

Q: What are your thoughts on innovation—Do you involve external parties? Do you have an innovation-focused department? Or is it something everyone contributes to?

Vineela: The main idea here is to address two things. First, I am always in contact with the C-Suite leaders—the directors and the managers. I ensure that I am aware of all their application needs. 

Second, we’ve implemented the IT Steering Committee. I’ll explain what it does through an example. If the Anesthesia Department wants to go completely electronic and they bring up an application and say, “Hey! I picked that because some of the Anesthesiologists have experience in one application, and they would want to go into that”, we ask them to put it through the formal Project Request Process. Here, they have to enlist all their requirements including the technical specifications. The whole team—the entire hospital and all the leaders—will then look into that requisition and vote on whether to move further or not based on the budget. The group may decide, “Okay, we have this budget but what is our dire need?” The prioritization happens at that level. 

Once we all agree that this department needs this application, the C-Suite level work gets done. When that is complete, we go to the stakeholders and the end users because up above, they may have the overall idea, but when it comes to the day-to-day activities, I’m a 100 percent sure even I will not have that kind of a hands-on experience. 

What I would love to do and have always implemented is to go back to the end user and observe. It’s not only just about you being somewhere 1000 miles away but also that we don’t know what’s physically happening. So, we observe their workflow—the physical workflow. We calculate and take account of the amount of time the complete workflow takes. And then, we see how putting this application can enhance not only their day-to-day activities but their digital activity, as well. That is the level of thinking and the thought process we adopt.

Q: What are your thoughts on these new technologies, especially AI and Gen AI? Have you been experimenting with any predictive analytics or large language models? What would your advice be to other health care leaders on how to go about this journey of exploration?

Vineela: AI and advanced analytics are indeed shaping the future of care delivery and treatment plans. There are several ways in which these technologies are making significant impact, such as, through personalized medicine. 

Analyzing vast amount of data allows for the development of personalized treatment plans tailored to the individual patients and again, the use of predictive analytics is widespread for disease prevention. That’s what we use over here. 

We analyze historical patient data and patterns, so that the algorithms can predict the likelihood of certain diseases or health events, way ahead of time. That’s one thing that helps lowering the health care costs. 

I also always look towards efficient resource allocation. Advanced analytics can, in fact, optimize resource allocation within health care organizations by analyzing patient flow, bed occupancy, and staffing schedules. That’s definitely another way to reduce wait times and improve overall patient experience. 

Everyone knows remote patient monitoring and Telehealth especially given how it proliferated during the COVID pandemic. We are into Telemedicine as well and AI-driven analytics enables continuous remote monitoring of patients with chronic conditions which allows health care providers to detect early signs of deterioration. This enables prompt intervention and swift adjustments to treatment plans without the need for frequent visits. 

Another thing I have been looking into is fraud detection and prevention, where you can use AI algorithms to analyze claims data and identify patterns, projects, and activities in health care. Not only these, but advanced analytics may also be utilized for population health management, clinical trials, natural language processing for data extraction, enhanced imaging and to reduce costs and contribute to more patient centric and proactive approaches in health care.

Q: Lots of uses and applications for all these new technologies. In hindsight, everything is always 20-20. So, standing here and looking back, if you could change one thing or do it differently, what would you do?

Vineela: It may not be doing it differently, but one of the best examples in recent times that I can cite is from during the COVID 19 pandemic. Our patients and clinicians definitely stepped up and went full scale on Telemedicine for the care they needed. 

Not only were we trying to expand Telemedicine back then, but we had adaptation issues faced both by clinicians and patients. Switching to Telemedicine from traditional methods was difficult but you know how the saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention. The COVID pandemic definitely brought about a different kind of reality but since our Telemedicine platform was ready and embedded in our EMR with minimal infrastructure, we were able to serve our patients. It has been tremendous collaborative work by both our physicians and the patients to utilize the digital platforms. 

One thing I am working towards is, given the population I described earlier, we are trying to implement a tech bar where when the patients are in the waiting room, we can try to educate them about our patient portal, how they can access it, look up their summary on their dashboards and the like. We’ve already started doing this upon patient registration itself but we want to take one step ahead and show them, while they are waiting, that there’s help available. We try to encourage them to take steps toward the digital advancements and show them how this can help them better. 

We also have the Help Desk for our employees and our internal communication system which we have implemented within all of these projects. This system tells us our response times and it’s tremendous. If you text me in that, for instance, my response time is two seconds. That’s how far we have come in catering to the patient’s needs.

About the host

Paddy is the co-author of Healthcare Digital Transformation – How Consumerism, Technology and Pandemic are Accelerating the Future (Taylor & Francis, Aug 2020), along with Edward W. Marx. Paddy is also the author of the best-selling book The Big Unlock – Harnessing Data and Growing Digital Health Businesses in a Value-based Care Era (Archway Publishing, 2017). He is the host of the highly subscribed The Big Unlock podcast on digital transformation in healthcare featuring C-level executives from the healthcare and technology sectors. He is widely published and has a by-lined column in CIO Magazine and other respected industry publications.

About the Host

Rohit Mahajan is an entrepreneur and a leader in the information technology and software industry. His focus lies in the field of artificial intelligence and digital transformation. He has also written a book on Quantum Care, A Deep Dive into AI for Health Delivery and Research that has been published and has been trending #1 in several categories on Amazon.

Rohit is skilled in business and IT  strategy, M&A, Sales & Marketing and Global Delivery. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Electronics and Communications Engineering, is a  Wharton School Fellow and a graduate from the Harvard Business School. 

Rohit is the CEO of Damo, Managing Partner and CEO of BigRio, the President at Citadel Discovery, Advisor at CarTwin, Managing Partner at C2R Tech, and Founder at BetterLungs. He has previously also worked with IBM and Wipro. He completed his executive education programs in AI in Business and Healthcare from MIT Sloan, MIT CSAIL and Harvard School of Public Health. He has completed  the Global Healthcare Leaders Program from Harvard Medical School.

About the Legend

Paddy was the co-author of Healthcare Digital Transformation – How Consumerism, Technology and Pandemic are Accelerating the Future (Taylor &  Francis, Aug 2020), along with Edward W. Marx. Paddy was also the author of the best-selling book The Big Unlock – Harnessing Data and Growing Digital Health Businesses in a Value-based Care Era (Archway Publishing, 2017). He was the host of the highly subscribed The Big Unlock podcast on digital transformation in healthcare featuring C-level executives from the healthcare and technology sectors. He was widely published and had a by-lined column in CIO Magazine and other respected industry publications.

The Healthcare Digital Transformation Leader

Stay informed on the latest in digital health innovation and digital transformation.

The Healthcare Digital Transformation Leader

Stay informed on the latest in digital health innovation and digital transformation

The Healthcare Digital Transformation Leader

Stay informed on the latest in digital health innovation and digital transformation.