Health System Spotlight: Angela Yochem, EVP Chief Transformation & Digital Officer, Novant Health - Truveta

Health System Spotlight: Angela Yochem, EVP Chief Transformation & Digital Officer, Novant Health

Each month, we’ll spotlight one of the many great leaders of our 20 member health systems that make up Truveta, helping us to advance our vision of saving lives with data. We’ll share their perspectives on the future of medicine, the changing role of technology in healthcare, and the critical importance of real-time, de-identified data to accelerate research, advance health equity, and save lives.

This month, we feature Novant Health’s Executive Vice President and Chief Transformation and Digital Officer, Angela Yochem. A technology pioneer, Angela was recently inducted into the US CIO Hall of Fame for the incredible ways she has led innovation across the retail and healthcare industries.

We sat down with Angela to ask her some questions about how healthcare has changed, what lessons she has brought from retail into the healthcare industry, and the role that de-identified ethical data research can play in defining the future of medicine. Here’s what we learned …

 

TRUVETA: How has digital transformation reshaped healthcare during the pandemic?

ANGELA: This is an exciting time to be in healthcare leading transformation. We can significantly expand our approach to care delivery – and this is less about the pandemic than it is about the continued advances in technology and the increased appetite for digital engagement in our communities. Novant Health began laying its foundational capabilities more than a decade ago, and our continued work has allowed us to be flexible and scalable over time, especially during the pandemic.

I can’t have a conversation with my friends at Truveta without mentioning how our unprecedented access to data not only has helped us predict pandemic trends, but also has allowed us to predict major health events before they happen, even when the patient is not in one of our traditional care facilities.

Essential care shouldn’t be a luxury – we should be able to provide world-class healthcare to people in urban and rural areas, and how we achieve this mission continues to evolve rapidly. We have invested heavily in virtual care, including remote visits enhanced through advanced sensor capability in remote locations, such as patients’ homes, schools, workplaces, and community centers, that don’t rely upon synchronous communications. We are co-creating solutions that allow us to use emerging technologies to minimize the footprint of remote monitoring equipment even while providing remote care to patients at a far higher acuity level than other programs. We are using our access to clinical data as well as streaming information to predict the likelihood of (and take measures to prevent) safety events as well as major health events. We are solving problems using commercial tech, co-created solutions, and home-grown innovations that differentiate us in our market and beyond.

I believe the care continuum will be redefined without terribly distinct segmentation. There will be fewer lines delineating physical and virtual care. We will have real-time visibility into patient health and behavior even as we continually model possible future scenarios for our patients. We’ll be looking not just at current state, but at the future. When we incorporate this visibility into all aspects of our care delivery, operations, and investment strategy, we will have truly transformed healthcare.

 

TRUVETA: As you think about your background in retail, what do you think retail — or other industries — could learn from healthcare coming out of the pandemic?  Where is healthcare really innovating in ways that could inspire other industries?

ANGELA: Although we often hear the health industry described as being stagnant and slow to change, the reality is that we are full of scientists. Scientists are curious and thrive in a culture of learning. I recognized early on that I was in an amazing place – scientists understand how to develop a hypothesis and craft an experiment to test it. So in the digital space, we were very naturally able to build routines to scout for new ideas, test those ideas, and have everyone feel comfortable learning from the experiment, even if it doesn’t always lead to a production implementation. We’re always learning and adapting – and while not every industry is full of MDs and PhDs who are naturals at this, I think this cultural element can translate well.

Another lesson that is second-nature for healthcare leaders is the notion of “rounding.” In retail, we might visit a few stores every quarter, or spend a few days in a distribution center, or occasionally view focus groups of customers – but in healthcare, we round at least once a week. That’s 50 roundings a year, give or take. That’s 200+ experiences – data points – in four years. This sort of commitment to being in the field, even if just popping in to say hello and speak to the people on the front lines, is so valuable. It provides a contextual awareness that is sometimes missing in other industries. It’s a routine worth adopting, in my opinion.

Lastly, Novant Health’s executive team is extraordinarily diverse. We have a mix of physicians, nurses, pharmacists, accountants, litigators, investors, entrepreneurs, bankers, sports & entertainment experts, psychologists, retailers, philanthropists, operations experts, computer scientists, and yes, health system administrators. This diversity of thought and experience allows us to readily imagine many possible futures and make decisions that will allow us to thrive regardless of the challenge we’re facing. I’d encourage EVERY industry to be less insular in its hiring practices, up and down the ladder.

 

TRUVETA: You’ve brought a lot of advancements from the retail industry to Novant — the algorithm to speed stroke care, virtual reality to help kids prepare for an MRI, and experimenting with drones to drop PPE in areas of Charlotte. For that work, you were inducted into the US CIO Hall of Fame earlier this year – Congratulations! Tell me about some of those technology investments. What have you learned? Looking ahead, where do you want to invest more?

ANGELA: Working with our brilliant clinicians, and other amazing business leaders from across the system, has been a privilege. They enable me and my team to bring advancements and solution sets that work for our patients, our communities, and our business.

We challenge ourselves every day to find innovative solutions to healthcare’s most challenging problems – to make every second count. This is a theme in all the solutions you mentioned – getting to a faster diagnosis and treatment path for stroke patients, cancer patients, heart and vascular patients, streamlining what can be a new and scary diagnostic process for our pediatric patients, or even using a rapid and novel distribution modality like drones to allocate scarce resources with precision and speed across long distances over heavily populated areas. It’s a great credit to our diverse digital, clinical, and operations teams who are able to think well outside the traditional healthcare vendor box to get to differentiated solutions for our communities.

We’re pioneering in an industry notoriously resistant to change, and I’m excited about the potential of how we leverage many types of technologies to enhance how healthcare is delivered to our patients in the future.

I’d like to see us invest more in simplifying the healthcare experience for patients. We recently launched a new digital care platform to improve the patient experience and health outcomes. Known as Novant Health Now, it is a one-stop shop for consumers seeking answers, experts, support, and real-time health information leveraging natural language processing. This will only improve over time with use.

There’s also an opportunity for us when we think about predictive analytics – it’s time to transition into “prescriptive analytics.” This is not just a technical advance – this requires clinical research and engagement and vast amounts of data we are still collecting as a community. We’re starting small, building risks and alerts into clinician workflows so that in real time, they can see what we think is going to happen and how they can intervene to try to impact the trajectory of a patient’s health care outcomes.

 

TRUVETA: Tell me about how you think about the critical importance of ethical, de-identified data and the impact it can have in improving patient care and research.

ANGELA: You’ve heard me say that applying advanced computing and modeling to de-identified, ethical data has the power to transform our industry – and the reason I say that is because I do believe that continuous, real-time visibility into patient status, constant modeling of potential future health states, both short and long term, and the ability to respond and react in real-time across a potentially vast care team will put the traditional care continuum on its ear. This is ALL dependent on having vast amounts of ethical, de-identified data from which to build the powerful models that will enable such a future, bring about the best possible outcomes for patients, and build healthier communities. That’s real change.

 

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