The HCI Group was pleased to welcome Suja Chandrasekran, Chief Information and Digital Officer of CommonSpirit the largest non-profit health system in the United States. Her experience comes largely from the retail space at giants such as Walmart and Kimberly Clark. Suja joined Ed Marx, HCI’s Chief Digital Officer and former Cleveland Clinic CIO to take part in HCI’s live interactive webinar series, Digital Transformation: What Healthcare can Learn from Retail. During the 30-minute session, Suja engaged directly with our audience to discuss the trend towards hiring non-healthcare professionals into key digital transformation roles. She provided her unique perspective on the skills required to serve in these executive roles in the post-COVID 19 age.
What Can we Learn from Retail?
According to Suja, there are two major issues confronting Healthcare organizations today on their transformation journeys. First, technology in healthcare is very vendor-driven, and therefore the level of in-house technical expertise is not as prevalent as it is in the retail space. Secondly, interoperability is not a given in healthcare, and in fact required a government mandate to make it happen; whereas in the retail space the need for an integrated consumer experience was recognized and adopted fairly quickly in the transformation journey. This lack of integration leads to a lack of industry support for the patient-consumer, and often requires that patients act as their own advocates across the all different levels of healthcare from providers, to insurance companies.
“At one time, retail was very product-focused and supply chain-centric; Amazon’s obsession with the customer meant that other retailers had performed a customer-focused pivot. To rally behind that consumer-focused centricity was a major shift for retail. Behind all of this, there was a major disruption in direct-to-consumer marketing—eCommerce, dynamic content creation, omni channel, direct to consumer products—this has evolved over the last fifteen years into a more consumer-centric model of doing business. We found that this transformation, which began around the edges with consumer-centric components, eventually led to the transformation of the entire enterprise. We found that this transformation led us to become more cross-collaborative, more data driven in our approach; we began evaluating outcomes across the entire enterprise.”
Using Retail Tactics in the Healthcare Space
COVID was a major enabler for Suja to drive CommonSpirit’s digital transformation further and faster than ever before. Prior to COVID 19, just two percent of CommonSpirit visits were virtual visits; now, virtual visits are up to 70 percent in some geographical areas.
But Suja and her team did not stop with just the transformation and scaling of clinical facilities; they scaled their acute facilities as well—breaking down CommonSpirit’s digital journey into 10 or 12 different products from the more traditional digital front doors, to patient-provider matching, to full-stack remote care omnichannel engagements, and to guided care visual therapeutics. Suja is proud to say that she has seen progress in all these categories. Furthermore, she has been able to put her experience in the retail space to work to drive awareness of these capabilities within the communities that CommonSpirit serves.
“[Awareness of these virtual products] and demand for these products has to be generated. I’ve gained this understanding from experience in retail. You can create a website and put it out there, and it just sits there—nobody knows that that website exists. You must drive factors like search engine optimization and community awareness. This requires outreach and knowledge transfer so that our community is aware that this website or product is out there and available for use, and most importantly, they understand how to use it.”
Digital Transformation in Healthcare: An Outsider’s Perspective
In the U.S., 29 states have already passed laws to ensure that virtual visits are paid in parity to physical visits, and another 10 states are soon expected to pass laws that will include similar provisions. When taking these factors into account, Suja sees digital transformation in healthcare as a long-term and continuing trend that will require commitment and investment.
“The consumer awakening on digital healthcare has begun, and federal and state governments have already begun to tear down barriers to digital health access, increasing health equity for patients across the country. We at CommonSpirit are playing our part in accelerating our digital journey to meet the future demand.”