Introducing the Role of the Digital Centaur

Emids as a thought partner is laser focused on digital transformation and the digital journeys of our clients and partners. During organizational transformation, leaders must consider the human side of the journey to position their teams and solutions to compete successfully in the new digital paradigm.

Emids has studied the concept of Humanology, where the human should be at the forefront of digital innovation in our industry. In our experience, an organizations’ Digital Maturity should include a focus on people resources and not on technology alone.

How do organizations address today’s need to retain the valuable people assets and talent required to navigate successfully through the pathways of digital transformation and digital competitiveness? Successful organizations are learning to balance technology and humanness. Emids offers an introduction to Digital Centaurs courtesy of our partners at FPOV.


While many are familiar with the term “centaur” from our study of Greek mythology, how many of us would be able to describe a “Digital Centaur” and describe where the terminology originated? To help bring some understanding to the term we need to step back in time when U.S. Military Forces observed they could not improve the standards of soldiers and pilots they produced despite the best of trainings. After an extensive deep dive, they concluded the only way to improve the quality of soldiers and pilots was by enhancing them with technology, and they invented this concept called the ‘Digital Centaur’. We were first introduced to the notion of a Digital Centaur by our friends at FPOV who have agreed to let us share this interesting concept with you.


A Digital Centaur is a human who has been enhanced and augmented with digital tools and is able to perform at a higher level than their peers because of the enhancement. The Digital Centaur balances the mastery of technology with advanced human maturity into a powerfully integrated ability to make progress wherever they place their focus.

What distinguishes a digital centaur from others?

While everyone can use digital tools, a centaur has found a way to optimize its use. Centaurs are incessant learners who are always on the hunt for new and innovative technology they can harness. They do not shy away from tools others may consider too complex or daunting to understand. They constantly question how new innovations will impact the work of others and provide new efficiencies in solving real world problems.

Centaurs continually look for personal and organizational improvement. They do not allow themselves to become stuck in a routine or a “This is how we have always done it” mentality. They see pathways to assist others in the organization embrace opportunities for improvement and they are skillful in the art of change management.

Centaurs find a healthy balance with technology. While they use digital tools effectively, they do not become overwhelmed by them and are able to properly function in non-digital environments, and in physical personal interactions with others.

Characteristics of a digital centaur - Emids

Human-centered approach

Future digital tools must be developed by people who understand human behavior. We cannot only consider the digital aspects of becoming a centaur. A minimization of what it means to be a human will lead to devastating consequences for our team members and our species. It will lead to increased burnout, adverse mental health conditions, and more. We, as an organization, can commit to helping our team members navigate the effects of becoming a centaur, both positive and negative.

A greater focus on digital wellness could include increased training on employee mental health. Organizations may periodically bring in experts to talk to the staff about digital well-being and how to have healthy digital interactions.

Organizations need to consider mental health resources within the organization, such as Employee Assistance Programs (EAP), to help strengthen employee mental well-being. Embracing the importance of mental wellbeing and incorporating whole person health into a program of wellness can lead to a reduction in anxiety and improve learning readiness.

Organizations may consider some of the following:

Organizations may consider helping team members, who are remote, separate their workspace from their living space. In a physical office, they may consider creating an inviting area where devices are not welcome, so team members can find a place where they are not constantly connected.

Building a centaur-model training program

Organizations must commit to developing a program to help team members understand what it means to be a centaur and how becoming one will increase their value within the organization, and within society. Successful program development will create a “Pathway to Centaurship.” This facilitates the team members’ navigation of the process of becoming centaurs. These programs are committed to guiding team members as effectively as possible on the journey of becoming a centaur, and they endeavor to build the appropriate culture and recognition to help centaurs thrive within the organization.

Building a digital workforce

Organizations have not focused on training team members on new digital tools after they are implemented, often omitting the training on the basic digital tasks required for success. Training can no longer be viewed as optional and must cross pollenate from IT to business domains.

Advanced training
must be considered for team members on new digital tools with learning incentives designed to acknowledge the skillset, and the new knowledge across the organization. Opportunities providing “micro-learning”, which is learning developed in smaller pieces, through multiple channels of learning, helps when large time commitments are not feasible. Continuing education and training must be intentional and not merely an afterthought designed to “check a box.”

Building new models for recruiting centaur talent

Attracting talent is certainly a challenge in the market today and likely will be for the near future. Today’s candidates seek more than salary and perks, they seek self-fulfilment and a sense of accomplishment with the daily contributions they make to their clients and firms. What will it take to recruit and retain the future Digital Centaurs?

Organizations will strive to hire people with the skills and desire to become Centaurs

They should drive this by considering talent with non-traditional skills, such as video game expertise, or those with proven entrepreneurial or content creation skills such as successful podcasters and bloggers.

HR and leadership teams will not limit themselves to the traditional when hiring talent

Organizations need to be proactive in building a pipeline toward potential talent. This could include partnering with universities and colleges to develop a technology internship program or building relationships with professors who can help locate rising stars to employ.

Organizations will work to improve the interviewing process

Interviewing styles and questions will need to reflect the centaur-first mentality more adequately. This includes incorporating technology, business challenges, and gamification into the interviewing process to examine the centaur skills of potential hires more accurately.

Organizations will strive to improve the onboarding process

Onboarding processes should accommodate new learning styles to acclimate new centaur hires more quickly and effectively. This might include the creation of a meticulous 100-day onboarding plan.

Organizations will develop a Digital Employee Persona Model

Develop specific digital journeys that help each persona type grow toward becoming a centaur or increase their digital skills.

Organizations will build a library of content

Design the content to help with the onboarding process, including videos to introduce new hires to the organization and its leadership, persona cards that showcase team members’ skills, and visual digital backbone blueprints that help people understand the organization’s processes and systems.

Organizations will work to create more gamified onboarding processes

Playing to the talents and learning styles of centaurs expose new hires to more components and people within the organization, not just those that they will be directly involved with on a day-to-day basis.

Incentivize innovation generation

Creating a centaur development roadmap

A centaur development roadmap is much like organizations have traditionally used to design leadership programs. However, a centaur development roadmap is focused on digital skills and crosses departments throughout the organization. This cross-departmental training will help people have different experiences across IT and the business. It will help team members experience different perspectives and roles across the organization. Non-linear career development will help team members become more versatile and increase their value to the organization.

A centaur development roadmap may also require creating a senior role within the organization that can act as a bridge between technology and the business. This person will have the responsibility of working with department leaders to fully utilize the technology provided to them and would be measured by his or her ability to pull value from the technology. Leaders need to consider creating a “Mentaur Program” within the organization. This program would pair centaur citizens and centaur leaders as mentors to newly hired potential centaurs.

What’s in it for your organization?

While digital transformation is defined as the effective use of the organization’s technology and solutions, successful transformation involves much more. At the core of digital transformation, we must become more human, not less.

The notion that “technology is the solution for everything” in an organization, is narrow minded. Technology cannot fix human connections and community, customer engagement and personalization. Without human-centric-thinking people, there is no innovation, no strategy, no connections with customers. People may forget about how cool the gadget was but they’ll remember how supported and understood the person made them feel.

If your organization would like to discuss the impact of designing a program to embrace and adopt the Digital Centaur program please reach out for more information on how Emids can help. Our Digital Maturity Assessment provides insight to your level of Digital Maturity in contrast to your competitors, which can be the single most significant factor in your long-term success.

Takeaways, Trends and Prognostications from Summit ‘22 

If I had to choose one word to encapsulate the 2022 Emids Healthcare Summit, it’s change. From reverting back to an in-person gathering after three years of meeting remotely, to being purposeful about creating an event that’s reflective of the direction we hope healthcare is moving (more on that later), to a shift in attendees’ moods that I attribute to a deeper level of vulnerability and empathy with one another, it’s undeniable that things have changed for us all on a personal and an industry level. It feels like we’re beginning to see the light at the end of the post-pandemic tunnel. And while a new year will bring new and different challenges, we’re confident that we can continue to successfully navigate the changing landscape and demonstrate category leadership if we remain flexible and our approaches to moving healthcare forward are diverse.

In many ways, we’re still grappling with implications from COVID, and paired with a recession that’s forecasted for 2023, much of the conversation that took place last November was centered around how to adequately prepare for and weather strong economic headwinds. This was particularly true during our Tech Forum, which hosted senior technology leaders for intimate, closed-door working groups. Discussions held during the Forum parlayed into the following day’s Healthcare Summit, and nearly all sessions were framed by the uncertain economic future.  

Three topics I heard discussed with overwhelming prevalence throughout the Summit were addressing the staffing crisis, how to enhance the member/consumer/patient experience without burdening end users with cost and how to democratize the wealth of data we have at our fingertips. 

Staffing shortage 

Our Shaping New Talent Solutions session focused on planning for the imminent capacity challenge, but the hard truth is, healthcare – along with many other industries – has faced a historic lack of staff for months (in July, U.S. News & World Report cited the shortage of healthcare employees as “the nation’s top patient safety concern”), and the fallout is just beginning to be felt. With less available personnel, patients are increasingly accessing healthcare in non-traditional settings. This is forcing the hand of providers to get creative about creating capacity and harnessing the power of available technology. Artificial intelligence, machine learning and natural language processing are bridging gaps in services across the board – from scheduling and patient encounter follow-up communications to robotic surgeries. Concerning cost, we need to keep our eye on the long game as upfront costs for tech investment will undoubtedly show ROI. 

Emphasis on experience 

When talking about staffing constraints in traditional healthcare settings, we’d be remiss not to address the abundance of new retail health market entrants (Amazon, Walgreens, Walmart and others) and the choices they’ve afforded to consumers. Facing a shortage of physicians, but a growing number of options for how and where to seek care, healthcare entities will fight for patient acquisition and loyalty. This will be especially prominent in mental and behavioral health, as utilization in these verticals will presumably increase as the economy worsens. As healthcare companies implement new strategies to bring patients in the door – and keep them coming back – they’ll need to be mindful about not passing costs onto their already cash-strapped customers.  

Data usage 

In the past few years, we’ve gotten savvy about how we collect and use data to improve how we cater to end users, and that data intelligence will continue to get more sophisticated as we put an emphasis on up-leveling experience. The biggest improvement will be in data liquidity. We have an immense amount of data at our disposal. To unlock its full potential, it’s a matter of ensuring all appropriate parties have secure access to it. Of course, we’ll have to navigate more seamless data sharing while curbing spend.  

Another trend I anticipate that we’ll see this year is increased consolidation industry-wide, fueled by mergers and acquisitions. Consolidation activity has been fairly stagnant, remaining below pre-pandemic levels, but as companies forgo IPOs in favor of snapping up market share, and as the shift to value-over-volume is more readily embraced, we can expect to see an uptick in the number of M&A deals executed. 

I can’t properly reflect on Summit or surmise what the future of healthcare will hold without touching on diversity. Earlier I alluded to our organization being intentional about representing what we hope to see more of in our industry. We carefully crafted the event with diversity in mind, exemplified by the speaker representation on our Creating Health panel, down to instrumental variation in the music that was played throughout the two days. Progress is not possible without change, and I can confidently say that we’re practicing what we preach by embracing healthcare’s evolution while paving the way for our customers to do the same. 

Summit ’22: Healthcare Disruption Is Heading Our Way

Nashville, Tenn.—The U.S. healthcare system is ripe for disruption and that disruption may come from any direction.

This was one of the many threads that came up at the 2022 Emids Healthcare Summit, which brought together healthcare leaders from across the country to Nashville, Tenn., to tackle some of the contemporary challenges facing the industry today.

An Era of Disruption and Innovation in Healthcare

“All of us would agree the existing healthcare system is confusing, complex and that it’s at a stage where it needs to be disrupted”

Glen Tullman

CEO of Transcarent

In its current evolution, healthcare as an industry has the potential to deliver innovative solutions by learning from its mistakes and that’s something we’ve seen in other industries.

Aaron Martin, Vice President of Healthcare at Amazon, gave the example of Amazon’s Fire Phone, a product that failed to launch but led to an innovative tool Amazon uses today.

“What we did get out of it was Alexa. When you’re learning from your mistakes, you lower the costs of your failures,” Martin said.

“Amazon’s history is all about pivots; how are you using a certain technology that didn’t work the first time but worked the second time?” he said, adding that the failures seen in healthcare can become catalysts for innovation.

Addressing Medical Deserts and Underserved Populations

Improving healthcare involves making it more local, said Anita Allemand, Chief Transformation and Integration Officer at Walgreens Boots Alliance.

Allemand pointed out that when we think of healthcare, we don’t usually think of the word “joy”. But she’s working towards figuring out ways to make patients and consumers more joyful through better health.

“We’re thinking about how we can do that, and we really believe at the core of it, it’s about neighborhood healthcare that is equitable and accessible and is available when and where the consumer wants,” she said.

Allemand touched upon a key thread healthcare leaders brought up at Summit ‘22: the need to make healthcare conveniently available, especially for underserved populations and regions devoid of healthcare services.

Ramita Tandon, Chief Clinical Trials Officers at Walgreens, said many communities she visits haven’t heard of clinical research. But as a retailer, Walgreens has a large footprint that can be used to serve areas where healthcare systems don’t exist and to allow for successful clinical trials, Tandon said.

“It’s about how we start to tackle some of the systemic barriers that exist within our nation, particularly communities that are underserved, or communities of color that are not receiving healthcare or don’t get access to healthcare”

Ramita Tandon

Chief Clinical Trials Officers at Walgreens

Tandon added that technology is often seen as a tool that allows patients and consumers to remain connected to the healthcare ecosystem and subsequently partake in clinical trials.

But that’s not always the case.

“When we’re going down to the Deep South…I had a woman come up to me and say, ‘I don’t get data on my [phone] plan until 6 p.m. onwards, so are you planning to keep your stores and pharmacies open during the evenings or weekend so I can do what you guys want me to do?’”

Tandon also describes the medical deserts in the Dakotas and Wyoming where vast areas of farmland are home to rural communities lacking sophisticated healthcare systems. In addressing the healthcare needs in these areas, Tandon said going mobile helps.

“They’re looking for ways to get healthcare delivered in a convenient fashion. So, during the COVID-19 pandemic, we had mobile units that would be running around in different areas so we could get people vaccinated.”

In addition to medical deserts, the country suffers from swaths of fitness deserts, said Dave Long, CEO of OrangeTheory Fitness.

“There are massive fitness deserts where people don’t have access to places to work out, so part of our plan is to try out low cost or no cost pilot solutions to fitness,” he said.

“And sometimes you need to figure out what’s happening with people’s lives that prevents them from staying active.”

Understanding the needs of your patients and healthcare customers

If there’s one message Dr. Toyin Ajayi wants the healthcare industry to hear, it’s that challenging your assumptions is a great way to move healthcare forward.

“We’re all consumers of healthcare. We all think we know what’s wrong and we all know what needs to be fixed and generally our assumptions are not wrong; using your own experience will get 80 percent of the way there”

Dr. Toyin Ajayi

Co-Founder & CEO of Cityblock Health

“But when we don’t get the outcomes we want, let’s go back and challenge our assumptions; that is the essence of what the unlock will be of organizations looking to move the needle.”

Glen Tullman, CEO of Transcarent, said the pandemic has allowed many patients and consumers to become digital, which is a trend that continues to grow in the realm of healthcare.

But with digital adoption, some are being left behind, as Allemand from Walgreens points out.

“It doesn’t work for everyone. When my 81-year-old parents had to sign up for their COVID-19 tests, they didn’t know how,” she said, adding that Walgreens had technicians with iPads go out and offer support to those who were facing technical challenges.

The Changing Nature of Healthcare Work

The last several years have also seen the nature of work shift across many industries, including healthcare. Whether it’s remote, hybrid or in-person, healthcare leaders agree that there’s no right way of running your healthcare business.

“I don’t think we can look past the power of working virtually, but there is something real about the power of human-to-human connection,” said Matt Hawkins, CEO of Waystar.

“One thing we are trying to figure out is how do you maximize the power of the human spirit and harness it well?”

Dr. Michael Schlosser, SVP of Care Transformation & Innovation at HCA Healthcare, echoed a similar sentiment.

“The pandemic redefined work and now that we’re back, we have options, but we got to figure out what people want out of their environment and we’re still searching for where we are going to land.”

Dr. Michael Schlosser

SVP of Care Transformation & Innovation at HCA Healthcare

Final Thoughts

A key message from Summit ’22 is that the evolution of healthcare is being marked by rumbles of disruption.

While the winds of change with these towering thunderclouds are still farther down the horizon, an array of industry players are already working on ways to pivot the industry for the better.

Walgreens is one example. “We know that healthcare is extremely fragmented today and as Walgreens moves into the [clinical trials] space, our goal is to create this disruption,” said Tandon from Walgreens.

And at the center of why healthcare leaders like Tandon do what they do? It’s all to improve the lives of healthcare consumers and patients.

“[It’s about making] it easy for patients to get the care they’re looking for that they haven’t in the past,” she said.

Tech Forum: Here’s What Healthcare Technology Leaders Are Talking About Today

Nashville, Tenn.—The evolution of healthcare is rapidly unfolding, and the industry needs to keep up. That was a sentiment many healthcare leaders echoed on Day One of the Emids Healthcare Summit, which entailed the Tech Forum—an event catering to healthcare and life sciences technology leaders, CTOs and CIOs.

Healthcare Technology Challenges

“Every industry is already moving into Web3. Meanwhile, in healthcare, we’re still talking Web2 or Web1.”

Jared Josleyn

Global Head of Digital Healthcare at Sanofi

Josleyn added that other industries like banking are ahead of the curve when it comes to adopting efficient use of data.

In the same vein, a key pain point in the healthcare industry is being able to seamlessly identify a patient as they move from one health system to the next, said Deanna Wise, CIO of Banner Health.

“My favorite soapbox is we don’t have a single patient identifier. How do I know if you’re coming from one facility or another and that you are who you say you are?” she said, adding that a universal patient identifier could solve many challenges in the industry.

Healthcare Technology Opportunities

And while healthcare has a long way to go in taking up avant-garde technological solutions, speakers at the Tech Forum also offered insights on what they’re doing to help evolve the healthcare industry in their respective roles as technology leaders. And much of it entails creating the right partnerships.

Cari Lewis is the director of Hospital Based Clinical Systems at Pediatrix Medical Group. Lewis notes the value of working with a vendor offering low-code solutions.

“You want to look for multiple support mechanisms with your technology vendor,” she said, noting that a technology vendor that meshes well with your internal team is a key ingredient to a healthcare organization’s success.

“We are driving the business and integrated developers into our organization and one thing that’s great is the longevity that has developed between us and our tech vendors,” Lewis said.

“There’s also a very robust research and development team we’re working with from OutSystems. Working with an innovative vendor and having a vendor that understands our business is key.”

Similar to  Lewis, Jacob Sims has certain guidelines when it comes to finding the right technology vendor to work with.

“Our ability to serve is dependent on the people we work with so we look very heavily to those that can come in and innovate, those that can come in and solve problems, and help us transition into new technologies. We also want someone who is trustworthy.”

Jacob Sims

CTO of Gainwell Technologies

Centering the Patient and Consumer in Healthcare

Another sentiment healthcare technology leaders raised at Tech Forum was the importance of keeping the patient or consumer at the center of your healthcare product or service.

“You really got to think about the patient experience as you build your [healthcare] product. Build with people first and then build with technology to optimize around people,” said Co-Founder and CEO of Thyme Care, Robin Shah.

Rajeev Ronanki, Senior VP at Elevance Health & President of Carelon Digital Platforms, agrees with Shah.

“We need to think about the emotional connection between healthcare products and people. As an industry we recognize that the basics of healthcare still have ample opportunity for improvement.”

Rajeev Ronanki

Senior VP at Elevance Health & President of Carelon Digital Platforms

Centering the Patient & Health Consumer

The final panel at Tech Forum delved into the changing nature of work, which has impacted how healthcare organizations function in this post-pandemic world.

While the industry was largely in-person prior to the pandemic, it primarily went remote amid the pandemic. Today, healthcare organizations are trying to figure out what model of work best suits their respective company cultures.

“We’re all learning how to make this work and we’re all wrestling with this hybrid space,” said Bill Fandrich, SVP & CIO at BlueCross and BlueShield of Michigan.

He added that for organizations that are leaning towards going in-person, consider how you use the office space so that it suits the needs of employees.

“If you have meaningful engagement when people come into the office, it makes them smile. When they go into the office and sit on Zoom all day, it does the opposite.”

Bill Fandrich

SVP & CIO at BlueCross and BlueShield of Michigan

How better management of wearables data can lead to better clinical outcomes

From counting steps to remote monitoring, how we deal with the building mountain of wearable data will determine the future of consumer acceptance.

Wearable electronic health and fitness devices are in strong demand with 26 percent of U.S. households owning one as of 2018, according to the Consumer Technology Association (CTA).  They projected over 12.5 million smartwatches would be sold that same year and in the last quarter of 2021, 533.6 million wearables were shipped worldwide. Today, people can choose from several different devices such as fitness trackers, smart rings, and smart watches.

These devices can help people make positive changes in lifestyles and improve overall health and wellness. The process of setting daily goals and capturing those successes in apps, provides incentive and motivation for improvement. The opportunity to focus on wellness and setting personal goals to help achieve daily wins changes habits and improves wellness over time.

Yet, even with the growing demand for wearables, there are barriers that prevent certain demographics from accessing wearable technology—leaving many without the opportunity to leverage this data to improve their health. We must also look at the lasting role wearables had during the COVID-19 pandemic and the best use of the deluge of data that comes with these devices.

Health Equity and Wearables

The National Institute of Health conducted a study of a thousand people who were historically underrepresented in biomedical research. This included certain racial and ethnic minority groups and those with limited access to medical care.

Many of the participants in the study had an interest in using wearable digital health devices but were not sure how they worked. The study noted the cultural nuances of the term “tracker” concerned some participants over their locations being “tracked.”

Economic disparities also impact the use of wearable devices. Around 31 percent of Americans living in households earning $75,000 or more a year say they wear a smart watch or fitness tracker on a regular basis, compared with only 12 percent of those whose annual household income falls below $30,000.

Providing access to wearable devices to underserved communities would create opportunities for enhanced wellness and disease prevention.

Shifting the Nature of Care Delivery in a Pandemic

Wearables, alongside medical-grade wearable devices, had an important role during the pandemic. They provided remote home monitoring and tracked the health of those who were not sick enough to be hospitalized yet needed to be monitored for changes indicating they were experiencing a worsening health condition.

The wearable devices measuring temperature, oxygen-saturation level, respiratory rates, cough and lung-sound monitoring were key for remote monitoring and assisted clinical teams in managing patients’ health at home during COVID-19.

Wearables provided help for stress management and mindfulness during times of isolation and quarantine by coaching consumers in activities designed to calm the mind, including meditation and deep breathing.

This all advanced remote monitoring acceptance and resulted in innovative care models for receiving healthcare from home that are now paving the future of healthcare.

While integrating the data from wearables into the EHR may not have been achievable in all situations, the vision and value of data integration from wearable devices has now become a focus for the healthcare industry.

Data Integration is Key

Substantial amounts of data are created daily in the healthcare industry, with a single patient generating almost 80 megabytes of imaging and EMR data each year. With the growth of telehealth, contact tracing, wearable medical devices and research, that number has surely jumped.

Organizations have begun to realize the value of the data being created and they continue to look at gaining efficiencies, with data integration being one of the most focused efforts. How are organizations managing this data and protecting sensitive healthcare data?

When considering the data generated by wearables, one must consider how the data becomes available and useable to generate actionable insights. Device manufacturers follow their own proprietary format that makes integration of devices into EHRs challenging.

New devices must have the ability to integrate seamlessly with external data sources, other devices and applications. As the wearable industry continues to mature, data accuracy and integration with other applications and EHRs will improve provider acceptance and utilization in patient care.

Data Security and HIPAA

Today, consumer wearable companies are not required to follow HIPAA requirements for governing how patient data is secured and shared among medical systems. For medical devices, strong regulatory oversight guarantees the data’s quality and validity.

Data from smartwatches and health and fitness trackers does not usually have the same oversight. As the wearable device market continue to grow, data security will become an important topic for thought leadership.

Focusing on the Future

As more consumers develop an interest in wearables to improve health or prevent disease progression, questions surrounding the protection of their healthcare data and the validity of the results become more important. How can my doctor see the data from my smartwatch, protect and secure my data and use it to help improve the care delivery process?

As new wearable devices hit the market, device integration will figure prominently into consumer acceptance. Integration with external data sources, devices, and applications will be the rule instead of the exception.

For example, many diabetes management solutions fail to address the full scope of disease management. Emids worked with our client to develop a diabetes coaching tool that is a cloud-based solution that collects data from a variety of connected devices to give patients and caregivers a holistic look at factors that affect disease outcomes.

At Emids, we drive innovative client engagement opportunities with data intelligence, healthcare analytics and device integration tools designed to enhance the patient-provider relationship – keeping the consumer at the center of care.

The Opportunity and Necessity of Inclusive Health Product Design

Now is the Time for Inclusive Design

The COVID-19 pandemic has redefined how healthcare services are delivered. There is a shift from in-person consultations and paper documentation to virtual consultations and electronic documentation.

As a result, patients, clients and healthcare providers including many with a range of disabilities are having an increased number of interactions with digital products.

These products need to be designed with inclusivity in mind if healthcare companies want their products to offer delightful experiences for all customers. Doing so could translate to higher customer satisfaction and increased retention.

Lack of Inclusive Healthcare Design is an Untapped Opportunity

According to the United Nations, more than $147 million is lost by U.K. companies listed on the Financial Times Stock Exchange because these companies do not meet basic accessibility standards. That is a huge untapped opportunity. Most companies will lose out on opportunities to reach a wider market target if they don’t consider inclusive design.

As an essential service, ensuring basic accessibility standards in healthcare is both an opportunity and a necessity. Everyone needs access to healthcare services or products, and technology has become a key tool in bridging the inequality gap across diverse populations.

More than a billion people are living with some form of disability based on a World Health Organization (WHO) estimate. Yet, people with disabilities need healthcare services and products as much as everyone. Considering inclusive design in healthcare products and services ensures that your offerings meet everyone’s needs for the broadest spectrum of the populations you serve.

The Meaning of Inclusive Design in Healthcare

So, what exactly does it mean to consider inclusivity when designing digital healthcare products? The Inclusive Design Research Centre at OCAD University in Toronto defines inclusive design as, “considering a full range of human diversity with respect to ability, language, age, culture, gender and other forms of human differences.”

Applying that definition to the healthcare space, inclusivity simply means a holistic consideration of all forms of human differences and then accounting for these differences in how healthcare services are rendered, physically or digitally.

Inclusive Design Benefits Everyone in the Healthcare Space

Inclusive design should be considered for all healthcare products because it benefits everyone. Often, the need for accessible products is overlooked for healthcare providers. Consider the case of a healthcare provider, Lisa Lim, a provisional persona.

Lisa has been practicing gynaecology for 35 years and works in a teaching hospital, educating medical students and residents. She has been experiencing progressive limited vision as she gets older and sometimes uses a screen reader or a magnifier to ease eye stress from reading many medical documents, and content displayed in small font size in electronic health record (EHR) systems.

However, she can only do so if these platforms are designed to be compatible with screen readers. In addition, making EHR systems compatible with assistive technology such as speech-to-text can help clinicians dictate patients’ visit notes.

Another common example of inclusive design in healthcare is simplifying medical terminologies on healthcare platforms to offer a better understanding to patients and clients, especially non-native speakers of the primary language used on the site.

Create a Culture of Inclusive Design in Your Organization

Designing for inclusivity is a process and not a project. Healthcare companies should start educating their product owners, designers, researchers and developers on accessibility considerations from the requirements-gathering phase to the final phase of product development.

Organizations must be deliberate about designing inclusive products. This will require company leadership commitment to provide the needed resources to support their teams.

These resources range from developing accessibility strategies, training, and engaging with a company like Emids to provide dedicated accessibility experts to work with your teams in building inclusive healthcare products and services.

Separately, Emids prides itself on a diversity, equity and inclusion policy that aims to strengthen our organization. The company finds value in our respective differences, recognizing that these differences not only bring diverse perspectives to the table where we tackle healthcare-related challenges, but also support the organization’s growth.

Understanding the Language of Healthcare Data

The Healthcare Data Language Crisis

Healthcare organizations have been capturing, collecting, transforming, accessing, analyzing, securing, and storing large amounts of data for many years, and yet there is still doubt in trusting and/or understanding their data and how to utilize it. For many healthcare organizations, data is still a vast, field of information and definitions, with no common understanding and unrealized potential.

And this is why it’s necessary for healthcare organizations, and for those working on digital healthcare projects, to assure that everyone understands the language of data. Lack of common understanding regarding data terms used extensively in day-to-day business conversations results in delays, confusion, and chaos.

All healthcare models spanning payer, provider and life sciences will need to understand that success and growth is dependent on everyone in the organization understanding the language of data.

In this post, we’ll first look at what data literacy means and why it’s important for the culture of healthcare organizations working in the digital space. We’ll then define for you some of the most used data-related terms.

Let’s Define Data Literacy

Data literacy is the ability to read, understand, create, and communicate data as information. Gartner defines data literacy as, “the ability to read, write and communicate data in context, including an understanding of data sources and constructs, analytical methods and techniques applied and the ability to describe the use case, application, and resulting value.”

Meanwhile, data literacy describes the ability to read, work with, analyze, and argue with data, according to Raul Bhargava and Catherine D’ignazio from MIT and Emerson College.

Successful organizations must be literate in data, specifically how they communicate the information and operationalize the meaning of their data. To get to the deeper meaning of their data, data understanding and literacy is essential.

Data Literacy is the Way Forward

“By 2023, data literacy will become an explicit and necessary driver of business value, demonstrated by its formal inclusion in over 80 percent of data and analytics strategies and change management programs.”

Gartner Inc.

One leading data executive recently defined the need for data literacy as the need to have data as a second language throughout your organization. While data dictionaries, business glossaries, and documented definitions are the foundational beginning, data literacy represents more than that. It comes from a place of understanding, that is, not just understanding ‘data speak,’ but being able to converse with one another about the lifecycle of data in the data ecosystem.

Simply put, data literacy is a culture change with roots in better understanding of one another. Perhaps most importantly, data literacy is also the cornerstone to data-driven decision-making throughout your organization. Want a digital transformation? Then you need to start by making sure people can understand data, what that is—and know how to speak to it.

Defining the language of data within your organization is necessary for several reasons. It allows for more trust, better conversations, and less confusion around data.

Also, large volumes of data are now available, if employees cannot access, use, and interpret it the data value is not realized. Plus, poor data literacy impedes an organization’s digital transformation growth.

Meanwhile, understanding data definitions helps to communicate clear expectations and enables quicker deliverables with minimum iterations. It allows organizations to have a common understanding of a word or subject—you’re on the same page when discussing or reading business cases with others in your organization.

To connect on a personal level with customers, it is important to develop a specific linguistic style and talk the same language across the organization.

Let’s Define the Data

It begins with defining the right terms within your organization and at Emids we recommend you define the following terms within your organization. Take a look at the table below.

Term Definition
Discreet   entities that are described objectively without interpretation.   
Data   that are interpreted, organized, or structured.   
Information   that is synthesized so that relationships are identified and formalized.   
Descriptive Analytics   
The examination of data or content to   answer the question “What happened?” It is typically characterized by   traditional business intelligence (BI) and data visualization.   
Diagnostic Analytics   
A form of advanced analytics that   examines data to answer the question “Why did it happen?” You can achieve it   with the help of techniques such as data mining, statistics, and machine   learning.   
Predictive Analytics    
A form of advanced analytics that   examines data to answer the question “What is likely to happen?” You can   achieve it with the help of techniques such as machine learning and   Artificial Intelligence (AI).   
Refers to new ways of doing business (new   business models) coupled with emerging technologies (Big Data, Cloud, RPA,   IoT, Mobility, AI/ML/NLP, Blockchain, etc.), creating new consumer   experiences, values, revenue & business results.   
Digital – Consulting   
Enablement Strategy, Consumer Experience   Design, Architecture Design, Business Transformation.   
The process of using digital technologies   to create new—or modify existing —business processes, culture, and customer   experiences to meet changing business and market requirements. It deals with   reimagining of business in the digital age. (Ref: Salesforce)      
It’s the technology for discovering and   investigating data quality issues, such as duplication, lack of consistency,   and lack of accuracy and completeness.   
The process of moving a company’s digital   assets, services, databases, IT resources, and applications either partially,   or wholly, into the cloud. Cloud migration is also about moving from one   cloud to another.    
Integration Bridge   
A software component installed on the   customer system to mediate between Agile Manager and on-premises applications   located behind firewalls, such as ALM, enabling two-way communication between   the two.    
Data Science   
The discipline of applying advanced analytics   techniques to extract valuable information from data for business   decision-making and strategic planning. It brings together fields such as   data mining, statistics, mathematics, machine learning, data visualization,   and software programming.    
Data Scientist   
A person who creates or generates models   that leverage predictive or prescriptive analytics, but whose primary job   function is outside of the field of statistics and analytics.    
Data Distribution   
A data distribution is a function or a listing   which shows all the possible values (or intervals) of the data. It also (and   this is important) tells you how often each value occurs.   
The place at which independent and often   unrelated systems meet and act on or communicate with each other.    
Interface Engine   
An interface engine/integration engine is   a software program that processes data between numerous Healthcare IT   systems.   
Data mapping is the process of matching   fields from one database to another. It’s the first step to facilitate data   migration, data integration, and other data management tasks. (Ref: Talend)   
Data Management   
Consists of the practices, architectural   techniques, and tools for achieving consistent access to and delivery of data   across the spectrum of data subject areas and data structure types in the   enterprise, to meet the data consumption requirements of all applications and   business processes.    
Data Governance   
A framework and a set of practices to   help all stakeholders across an organization identify and meet their   information needs.   
Data Literacy   
The ability to read, write and   communicate data in context. It includes an understanding of data sources,   analytical techniques, business applications, and resulting value.   
Data Culture   
Refers to values, behavior, and norms   shared by most individuals within an organization regarding data-related   issues. Broadly, it refers to the ability of an organization to use data for   informed decision-making.   

Why Legacy System Integration is Necessary for Health Apps

Digital Health Funding is Driving Transformation

If you look around, almost all industries have significantly digitized their customer touch points, but healthcare has been slow in catching up. Until the pandemic that is. The pandemic opened the eyes of many large health systems, health plans and even the investor community to recognize the need to continue engaging patients and deliver care at their home as hospital footfalls reduced dramatically.

There are lots of start-ups and innovators seeing a genuine opportunity to transform healthcare. Executives are showing commitment to multi-year transformation programs and Digital health funding for 2022 is on track to again cross $20 billion after a record 2021. We will continue to see more new players entering the market.

Interoperability is Key to Adoption

For those of us who have been in healthcare IT for more than two decades, we’ve seen interoperability as one of the thorniest problems for years—especially around how we move patient data securely from one healthcare setting to another without any information loss.

Interoperability is now an even bigger focus area as only an open-data ecosystem fosters the kind of innovation healthcare needs. Well-funded healthcare startups and innovators are realizing that, despite their superior products, they can face resistance from healthcare execs who want to avoid creating more information and process silos.

New players must demonstrate how they can easily integrate with existing workflows. And unfortunately, healthcare integrations continue to be complicated. There’s a lack of strict rules —most standards like HL7, FHIR and others are like guidelines where every health system tweaks them and forces de novo integration patterns. The variety of data access and integration methods can take away significant bandwidth from small players who want to focus on the core product development. Also, these new players must be careful to not pass heavy integration costs to their customers even before they proved their value.

Without that integration, startups and new players will have very little chance of getting adopted. Health systems are facing physician burnout due to inefficient systems adding significant work in their daily routine. They have finally adopted electronic health records (EHRs) after years of regulatory push. Bringing more apps into the mix where end-users must log in outside their normal workflow to look up information will hinder—not help—industry stakeholders.

Lack of Data Integration is not an Option

A lack of integration with legacy healthcare systems is like trying to swim and not get wet. It’s not possible. If you want to be a serious player, you need to take the plunge. You need to be comfortable with healthcare data standards, the ugliness of integrating non-standard healthcare data, and handling different kinds of formats.

That is why we see a set of digital health players crafting a clear strategy on data integration. Some do not see data integration as core and choose to work with partners who are experts at handling integration and do it efficiently. That way these new players can conserve bandwidth for true product innovation and differentiate themselves.

EHRs Should be Central to Your Integration Strategy

Major EHRs continue to expand their road map on digital capabilities in aspects of patient engagement, care delivery and other admin functions. The biggest argument for health systems to go with an EHR first approach is the seamless integration of the EHR modules with the core workflows. While staying with the EHR reduces risks for health IT execs, what we observe is that the most progressive health systems go for best-in-class digital tools and integrate with their EHR.

This is all the more reason that digital health players should not solely focus on their product and get blindsided by the importance of integration. Many apps are registering themselves in the EHR app galleries and advertising their integration with the workflows.

Key Insights on Innovating the Healthcare System Together

The Nashville Healthcare Council (the Council) is where healthcare leaders come together to deepen their knowledge on the challenges and opportunities facing the U.S. healthcare system.

I was privileged to be one of the 33 healthcare fellows selected for the class of 2022. For the last five months we have explored an array of topics via engaging speakers, simulations and in-person experiences. This has been a life changing experience and has given us all a renewed sense of purpose for creating a better healthcare system.

In this post I’ll share some of the key insights I gained, as well as what U.S. healthcare leaders are thinking about and prioritizing in our industry.

Viewing the U.S. Healthcare System From a Global Perspective

The curriculum at the Council this year explored the complexity of the healthcare system through the lens of increasing healthcare costs, silos, lagging policies and a lack of health equity.

I found it fascinating to take a broader view of the U.S. healthcare system and hear perspectives from clinicians, economists and policy makers.  Many described our system as a healthcare marketplace and perceive it as a “sick care” system where healthcare is not considered a universal right.

The Need for Collaboration & Innovation as Healthcare Leaders

We shifted the focus of the program towards reframing challenges as opportunities to find solutions.  With this shift, I walked away with a new mindset and a better appreciation for the collaboration required between different innovator styles—from radical to adaptive—for true innovation to happen.

The emphasis on collaboration inspired me to work with a classmate on organizing a panel discussion with Emids Founder & CEO, Saurabh Sinha, and Neil de Crescenzo, President and CEO of Change Healthcare, where I previously worked. This panel explored the power of data, as well as the current limitations of meaningful clinical data, which will continue to drive more innovation and policy changes in the US Healthcare system.

Designing the U.S. healthcare market with the patient in mind

One panel discussion from the Council fellowship altered my way of thinking about how to solve the silos and complexities in healthcare. Simply put: if we design a healthcare system with patients and their families (the consumer) in mind, rather than a system that tries (and often fails) to meet the needs of the disparate stakeholders such as payers, providers, and pharma companies, the consumer-oriented system would actually better serve the needs of all, and in the process spurring and driving innovation across the landscape.

Looking Within to Create Dramatic Change as a Leader

My final takeaway was about my evolution as a leader—that to change the healthcare system from within, I must first look at what I can do within my own organization and career.

I’ve learned that in any organization, the top sets the tone, the middle creates the mood, and the bottom creates the buzz.  As CFO, DE&I Executive Sponsor, and leader of the Integration Office at Emids, I am committed to shaping a culture within our organization that values collaboration, inclusion and innovation, and that focuses our DE&I initiative on improving health equity.  I believe there is tremendous opportunity to achieve all these goals at Emids while continuing to transform and scale.

Final Thoughts

Coming from a family of physicians and having worked in healthcare companies for much of my career, I am keenly aware through personal stories and experiences that every country’s healthcare system is complex and siloed, (not just the U.S.)  This is in large part what has motivated me to work in the healthcare industry—to improve health outcomes and ultimately, the quality of living for all. I am grateful for the opportunity to learn from and share my knowledge with the 33 thought leaders in the Nashville Healthcare Fellows class of 2022.  I’m especially grateful  for experiencing the  re-imagined curriculum facilitated by Council Fellows Chair, Michael Burcham, the amazing slate of guest speakers, as well as for interactions with the program founder, Senator Bill Frist.

As a leader, I embrace the concept that healthy tension between stakeholders leads to better solutions. I believe that leaning into these healthy tensions can ultimately transform today’s siloed healthcare system into a more innovative healthcare system of tomorrow.

I look forward to partnering with the amazing Nashville Healthcare Fellows alumni with whom I’ve shared this life changing program—to make that happen.

Top 3 Healthcare Data Challenges from Industry Leaders

Thanks to the digital economy, data is now the new gold. In the healthcare and life sciences industries, data is improving the lives of patients and making it efficient for providers to deliver care in novel ways.

A deluge of data, however, comes with its own set of challenges. To get a better understanding of these challenges, we speak with several leaders in the healthcare and life sciences industries to see what issues they’re keeping an eye on.

Interoperability challenges, healthcare data fragmentation, and building trust around consumer data use are some of the themes that come up. Let’s take a deeper look.

Interoperability Challenges

As healthcare goes digital, interoperability issues pop up for organizations looking to update their tech stacks.

Interoperability—the smooth exchange of data among computer systems and software–is especially a challenge for payer organizations, says Minalkumar Patel, CEO and Founder at ABACUS Insights Inc. That’s because healthcare data isn’t always available where it’s most needed, Patel says.

“Interoperability is about whether an individual’s data can be at the right place for that person—that person could be me as a patient, could be me as a physician on behalf of a patient, a caregiver, to make whatever decision we need to make.”

Minalkumar Patel

CEO and Founder at ABACUS Insights Inc.

Patel adds that interoperability is about making the lives of individual patients better, and less about the exchange of data alone.

“At the end of the day as a physician, I don’t get up thinking about bits and bytes, and AWS and cloud. I think about, ‘how do we make an individual consumer patient member’s life better?’”

Abhijay Datta, Head of Data Engineering and Analytics at Emids, says healthcare has come a long way in terms of electric health records (EHR) adoption. But with a flood of health tech start-ups trying to make an impact on the patient and clinician experience, challenges around integration remain. “For these health tech innovators to succeed, the key is to integrate with their customer’s legacy systems and avoid creating another data and process silo,” he says.

“The big challenge I see for interoperability is how well the industry embraces the innovators through safe, meaningful, standards driven data sharing with them and take the full advantage of digital transformation as witnessed by other industries over the last decade,” he adds.

Healthcare Data Fragmentation

Former Chief Data Strategy Officer at Emids, Nilesh Patil, points out that healthcare data currently does not have a central location where it’s housed, and that is creating barriers for how data can be used. “We need a centralized health data bureau where a patient can share their data and where care providers can use that data,” he says.

Patil adds that payers and providers need to come together for this to happen, with the end goal of making it easier for patients to access their own data.

Bob Darin echoes a similar sentiment.

Darin is the Interim Chief Executive Officer at Blue Health Intelligence. A lack of rules of engagement across the healthcare industry is partly why healthcare data is fragmented, Darin says.

He wants the industry to get down to the semantics of how we define data. “We talk about data, but what exactly is data? Is it images? Is it the clinical encounter? Is it the demographic?” Darin asks. “When you don’t semantically define what it means, it gets really, really difficult because everybody’s defining it by their own rules,” he says.

Building Consumer and Patient Trust

Getting consumers to trust healthcare organizations with data is a key challenge many healthcare leaders think about. Carmen Lux, SVP of Global Delivery at Emids, says the healthcare industry has a way to go before it gains the trust of patients and consumers around data use.

“If we’re not willing to share our data because we don’t know what you’re going to do with it, how are we going to get patients to really help us connect all the data?”

Carmen Lux

SVP of Global Delivery at Emids

Lux points out it’s important for healthcare organizations to be transparent in how they use patient data. It fosters trust, she says.

Patil agrees. “To build trust with patients and consumers, we need to create a data federation where patients can access their data,” he says.

Meanwhile, Datta says many patients today appreciate that their medical records support clinical research and help improve the quality of healthcare. Creating trust with patients, however, involves making their lives easier, he says. “Studies show that patients’ trust in the system increases when they can personally feel the convenience. Since healthcare is a deeply personal relationship between patient and caregiver and the health system, it is imperative for the system to be able to clearly explain concerned patients where their data would be used, and give them the assurance that they are in control of their own data.”

Looking ahead, Darin says healthcare can learn from the consumer-packaged goods industry in how it has garnered trust among consumers. “They have done it by essentially giving customers discounts in return for their data, often through gift cards and loyalty cards,” he says.

Whether that can work in healthcare remains to be seen. But healthcare leaders agree that garnering trust among patients and healthcare consumers is a necessity in this data-driven age.