Exploring Digital Transformation Trends in the Healthcare Industry
The Enabling Digital with Systems Plus podcast series explores how CIOs can capture opportunities by looking at and beyond technology and data to propel their organizations into the digital forefront.
The podcast series looks at how independent thought leaders and visionaries from the tech industry across the globe bring their ideas to scale within the business world, sharing innovative, path-breaking insights with our listeners.
We interview experts on trends and best practices for IT leaders. We talk monthly with tech thought leaders on 21st-century business topics like innovation, digital transformation, AI, automation & Tech talent.
Guest Expert details:
Bashir Agboola is an award-winning Information Technology Executive/Chief Technology Officer with extensive experience in Information Technology strategy, executive management, technology-driven transformation and operations, enterprise cloud computing, as well as cybersecurity. He has ean extensive experience developing and leading teams to deliver business value through the alignment of IT strategic goals with organizational objectives. Bashir is a frequently sought-after subject matter expert speaker at industry events, with extensive technology industry and Healthcare IT experience.
- The impact of AI in the healthcare sector
- AI in diagnostics and personalized medicine
- Using data to improve patient experience
- The importance of data interoperability in healthcare
- Standardization platform for medical records
- Regulatory framework for data sharing and interoperability
- The evolving role of tech leaders today
Sapan Choksi 0:00
So hello, everyone. Welcome to enabling digital systems plus Podcast Series. Today. I’m excited to welcome Bashir Agboola, CTO at Hospital for Special Surgery. He is a technology thought leader and a digital evangelist in the healthcare space. Bashir, Thanks for joining us today.
Bashir Agboola 0.19
Thank you very much for having me Sapan, and it’s a pleasure to be here and to share with you and your listeners, my insights and also learn from you as we go along.
Sapan Choksi 0.32
Oh, our pleasure. So let’s, let’s kick it off. Can you tell me a little bit and our listeners a little bit about your background and your current role? And to be honest, I’m especially interested in your journey from Nigeria, to where you are today.
Bashir Agboola 0.49
Okay, so I grew up in Nigeria, and began my education and my professional journey there, I studied computer science at the bachelor’s and master’s degree levels then began working there. And then I had the opportunity to emigrate to the United States, when a company a local company here in New Jersey, hired me came in and began providing services for their clients in different sectors. And one of the sectors was in health care. And I ended up doing systems administration, for that company at a healthcare organization and that eroded my way into healthcare. I’ve been in healthcare now healthcare technology over the last over 20 years. In my current role at the Hospital for Special Surgery HSS, I have oversight. I’m a vice president and chief technology officer there. I have oversight of infrastructure and operations and also technology, and strategy, assisting the organization in developing a technology strategy that aligns with its desired business outcomes, and also in implementing those technologies strategy or working together with the larger IT team and the various operational business areas in the organization. Prior to coming to HSS, I worked for a number of years at another top-tier healthcare organization in the area, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. It’s an academic medical institution focused on research and care in the areas of Oncology at HSS, on the other hand, where I’m currently, we are focused on musculoskeletal care. We are the global leader in musculoskeletal care in orthopedics, we have patients come to us from all over the world. And we cater to our patients across locations in New Jersey, Connecticut, New York, and Florida. And we cater to a global patient population.
Sapan Choksi 03.09
That’s, that’s amazing. And both institutions you mentioned are highly reputed and well-known across the globe. So I want to ask you, actually, you know, what, sort of on all our minds these days, which is AI and chat GPT with all the buzz, how do you see the impact of AI in healthcare in the healthcare sector in general?
Bashir Agboola 3.30
These are exciting times to speak with both clinicians and technologists. And you pose this question You see, there’s a lot of excitement, a lot of buzz in the industry right now, just thinking about the potential impact that artificial intelligence has, particularly when you think about tools like chat GPT, the opportunities in the areas of improving diagnostics, in personalized patient care or precision medicine, and also in improving the operational efficiencies of our care system. So if you just think about diagnostics, this is one area that already there’s a lot of work and development over the last several years. There are many, many companies out there today that have done work in computer vision in, you know, being able to use AI to analyze medical images, you know, X-rays and MRIs and CT scans. And that if you think about the potential for that, of that, to, you know, assist us with access to care, you know, we don’t have enough of the technology available in many parts of the world, even in underserved parts of the, excuse me the Western world, we do not have as many radiologists or facilities to do those video graphical imaging processes. Now with AI being able to analyze images, and in some cases, better, or at least as good as a trained radiologist. I mean, that’s, that’s just the potential to improve access, for care in that in that space is great. Also think about the one thing that we have a lot of in healthcare is data, every interaction, every touch point that a patient has, generates data in, in some form or the other. Ai, one of the capabilities of much of the AI technologies we’re looking at is its ability to analyze vast amounts of data. And with that, we’re able to really personalize care, you know, you look at the data for patterns, and determine also what would work best with each person, you know, the whole idea of precision medicine, treating the individual person based on their unique circumstances and situation and characteristics, as opposed to just generalized treatment, which is how medicine has been practiced for centuries. And now with the opportunity to provide personalized patient care, that’s just going to help to reduce cost and improve the experience of care. And then also the other dimension, which I talked about operational efficiencies, much of the cost in healthcare today, I do too, perhaps, inefficiencies in care delivery. And we can make patient care to delivery better, faster, and get better outcomes if we can improve, you know, different processes that we have. So there’s an opportunity there. And there are lots of efforts underway to explore how AI can help improve operational efficiencies, make clinicians more efficient, and reduce the burden that they feel as part of delivering care. And we can talk a little bit more as we continue the conversation.
Sapan Choksi 7.2
Certainly, actually, you talked about data, and in this area, the amount of data collected is huge. And, well to draw a parallel, we do a fair bit of work with retailers. And they taught us from experience, I presume that patient experience is equally important in your sort of in your field. How do you envision and I know you’ve touched on it, but how do you envision the data that’s being collected to sort of create that hyper-personalization, really creating that next level of patient experience that we know that especially in the retail space, for example because you see that right? And most people don’t think of it in the hospital space, but and hence, I’m trying to draw the parallel, how do you see that evolution of the patient experience based on the data that’s been collected?
Bashir Agboola 8.18
So you know, today’s consumers and we’re all consumers in one form or the other we come to healthcare with an expectation of certain service levels, you know, we’re used to many of us are used to being able to interact with retail or financial services firms in a way that we’re able to get personalized services. They sort of seem to know when you shop on many of the big retail websites, they know what you want, and they know what you’ve bought before and when you buy something, they let you know when you’re going to when your orders gonna get delivered, you know, so they know how to use data. Even when you wish when you’re shopping and you’re missing something that you forgot to buy something they will prompt you and say, Hey, maybe you need to buy this as well. They will upsell you. So in healthcare, there are opportunities to take advantage of data to improve healthcare in terms of one, just predictive medicine, being able to look at the pattern in health records of a person, and to be able to predict their predisposition to particular diseases or health conditions that might be adverse to their well being, and being able to say, hey, you know what, right now, there is no problem. But from what we know, from the analysis, the analysis that we’ve done on this person’s health record, they might be predisposed to coming down with diabetes, a few years from now, or some other health conditions. And if they take, if they make this change, and this lifestyle change, and that lifestyle change, that condition can be avoided. And they can actually have a better quality of life. So, this is helping us to shift attention and investment in care, to the beginning of the healthcare delivery value chain, which is wellness, you know, by being able to cater more to wellness, we’re able to keep more people healthier for longer, as opposed to waiting till people become sicker and more expensive to care for. So the opportunity to use data in that sense is great. The expectations are that you know, people won’t have access to the data. You know, one of the problems we have traditionally in healthcare is for interoperability, but at least in the US, and in many parts of the world. For data interoperability, you know, often you go to a doctor, and you provide a ton of data, they do a bunch of tests, and if you have to go somewhere else, sometime later, you might end up having to repeat much of what you did previously. Right. Just because, you know, the data that was collected or generated at the other place isn’t readily available at this new place. Those are problems that I have been working on that and then AI and other technologies can assist in bridging those gaps. But I think there are a lot of opportunities ahead for us to improve patient care by taking advantage of new technologies and the volume of data that we have.
Sapan Choksi 11.40
That is very exciting. So how do you then navigate the whole regulation that’s so well, so entrenched in the healthcare sector? And how do you how you, as a technologist, sort of, well, leverage technology in general to navigate the regulation?
Bashir Agboola 12.04
You know, healthcare is a highly regulated industry, and rightly so, you know, this is, I mean, there’s nothing like health, right, health is probably the most important thing to all of us. Because without health, we really don’t have much else right, you know, how our health leads to many other things it enables security in it enables our well-being in many aspects of our lives. So health does need to be regulated, but with regulation on, unfortunately, comes lots of friction. And many times when we’re trying to deploy technology to solve some of health care’s problems, the regulations don’t keep keeping pace. With advancements in technology, we now saw an experience, we saw an instance where regulations were relaxed, in favor of technique, technology, enablement of care delivery over, you know, last three or four years, three years or four years with the pandemic, right, you know, many regulators, many localities reduced, you know, removed regulations that would have prevented virtual care or forms of virtual care. And that allowed us to quickly respond to the pandemic and continue to care for people. And fortunately for us, we’re able to still carry forward, but some of those rules that were relaxed, about sort of being reversed in different areas. And of course, that’s going to make things a little bit more challenging going forward. But the good thing is we’ve seen what we’re able to do when regulations and policies, healthcare policies and the impediment. And then I’m not suggesting by any stretch that we don’t need health care policies or regulation, we absolutely do. But the problem that we have is just that unfortunately, the policies and regulations don’t move in in good cadence with advancements In, in care delivery and in technology, and we just need to somehow figure that out so that we can move faster and better forward.
Sapan Choksi 14.23
Yeah, no, that makes a lot of sense. I mean, the pace technology moves at his, not the pace regulation moves. Very rare. It’s a very interesting observation and actually correct. So you touched on virtual care or telemedicine as it used to be known. You know, it’s been around for a while, but, the post-pandemic, it has taken on a new sense of purpose. So how were you able to support this change?
Bashir Agboola 14.50
Well for me, you know, for me, particularly in the infrastructure and operations side, when the pandemic hit back in the spring of 2020, one of the things we had to do was enable our organization to and this is, you’d hear the same people similar, other CTOs would tell you pretty much the same thing. We had to enable the organization to shift how it did what it did, you know, and in our case, in the case of healthcare, a big part of that shift was enabling the move to telemedicine, telehealth, by ensuring that infrastructure was there to support that, you know, some of the things that, you know, you wouldn’t ordinarily worry about, or think about, you know, internet bandwidth, you know, security to support, you know, cloud services. And these are things we work on day in, day out, but now on a different scale, on a scale that many, many institutions had not contemplated before, then, and at the same time that many of the clinicians were also providing those services from home, not even from the, you know, work was from within the four walls of the hospital, but now they’re also providing virtual service from home. So, the patient is virtual, the clinician is virtual, and there was a lot of that going on, as well. Right. So enabling that, that was that those were really exciting times for us. And, you know, we were successful in enabling that and proving out that, you know, virtual care, telemedicine can walk. Now, beyond that, a lot is going on across the industry, particularly in the areas of what some would call the last mile, last mile of care delivery, which is really bringing care directly to the people that you’re trying to care for. And, you know, there are many, many advancements, you know, with the use of IoT, Internet of Things, and Internet of medical things, devices, like wearables that people have in their homes that they have on their persons that can now be integrated into caring for them. And those are really just opening up lots of opportunities to improve access and to improve the quality of care.
Sapan Choksi 17.17
No, that’s pretty cool. So the other question, sort of, that I had was, you know, I think we’re all in the midst of this whole digital transformation journey, and most organizations are on the path. And of course, you know, based on whatever I read about, about your journey, you know, you felt that, you know, wherever you’ve been, you always try to impose that and everybody’s on this digital transformation path. So what are some of the key initiatives that you are sort of focusing on in the near term to well have a significant impact on HSS?
Bashir Agboola 18.02
Yeah, so you know, with digital transformation organizations are often focused on you know, optimizing or digitizing the channels of service, the channel through which they provide service, right, to their customers. And, or digitizing the products that they provide, as well. And often less so on operations within the organization in terms of how people within the company do what they do. You know, the one easy way to think about this is so let’s say your digital business, you know, your customer, you interact with your customers through digital channels, and everything to the outside world looks like it’s all you know, digitize and all that but within your own organization in terms of how people do what they do daily, day in, day out, you still have many paper-bound processes, right? You know, you’re missing out you’re losing opportunities for improvements there and employees also come to work with certain expectations they expect, you know, for things to be digital all over Like, you know, we look around us everywhere we go shopping, banking, and so many things are digital. And so the expectation is even within the companies that there should be more of that. So one of the areas of focus for me and my team has been to make sure that we provide more of that digital experience, the digital employee experience, to make what everybody does even easier for them to make their access to services easier and more efficient. So we have a project to implement a digital assistant, AI-enabled digital assistant within the company, we’re also looking at using the same technology as part of our patient engagement, but our initial focus more focused on the immediate phase is on the employee side of the organization. So anything to make, remove friction for the employees, in terms of what they need to do, really yields dividends in terms of how well they’re able to take care of our customers, our patients. And so that’s one of the things I’m focused on. And then some of the classic is of opportunities that we have in it like so IT Service Management is it’s even more important now that IT rebrand itself as a digital service provider to the organization. Because, after all, you know, we have internal clients, you know, fellow colleagues in the organization, there are clients, and they have expectations of how they want to consume services. And those expectations are influenced by the digital experiences outside of the organization. And so we are focused on improving IT service delivery and repositioning IT as a service organization to the company.
Sapan Choksi 21.12
So just touching on that a little bit and also piggybacking on something you spoke about earlier, the example you gave is that imagine I went to one place for a test, and then I go to another place. And I got to, you know, I go to a doctor, and they make me take more of the same test, even though I just take them. So do you foresee some kind of a standard platform, or something to that degree, so taking shape or over a period? Because I agree with you, I mean, it happens to all of us, right? And you go for your second opinion or something like that. And all of a sudden, you get this laundry list of tests again, and are like, Oh, we just took them? Why can’t you just take it from there, etc? It just, it just becomes very, very cumbersome, to say the least. But then again, it goes hand in hand in terms of the whole service delivery mechanism, and how IT and the whole digital world has to think about how you create that seamlessness. So do you know, I know, in a perfect world? That would be yes, but do you see the standardization, and platformatization, of these things coming into the picture soon?
Bashir Agboola 22.29
I think so. Because there’s just given how much work already going on in that space, from different angles. So you have some of the big EMR vendors, some of the big electronic medical records vendors like Epic, and Cerner, trying to tackle that problem, Albeit from within their particular ecosystem. But you have them nonetheless, trying to improve interoperability and the ability for participating institutions to share data, you have some of the technology companies providing tools on their platforms, I know how Apple on the iOS devices, does have a technology that allows you to share your records with institutions, your medical records with institutions, right from your handheld, smart, smart device. So you’ve got that, and then there are regulatory, you know, regulatory frameworks have been developed. And some already extend that into, you know, ease, that data sharing and interoperability their policies that have gone into effect that will hopefully in the next as we go forward. I assist with that. And one of the recent rules that went in, on is what’s called information blocking, which is a rule that dictates the requirement for healthcare providers to share data back with their patients. And it provides guidelines for how they should do that, and penalties for institutions that fail to do that. So it’s all coming together. It’s been slow. It’s been painful, but it’s going to happen. And then when we think about some of the potentially enabling technologies that we have, like blockchain technologies, one of the areas that people have been exploring for a number of years now with about blockchains in healthcare is data sharing and interoperability. That’s one of the just given the decentralized and secure nature of distributed blockchain platforms. It potentially could help address aspects of that problem. And then number of projects out there, that we’re tackling that. So it’s all going to come together, and we’re making, we’re making progress towards that.
Sapan Choksi 25.02
Now, that makes a lot of sense. And I can see how blockchain can be a huge enabler for this initiative. No, fantastic. I’m going to ask you one last question. It’s a little bit of a broad question. But, you know, and it’s a two-part question, but definitely very interested in your opinion. So what, you know, what do you think of the evolving role of tech leaders today, and how should technology leaders sort of, you know, think about how they partner with their counterparts, business, etc? And the second part of the question is, what advice would you have for someone who’s a newbie coming into the technology space and wants to become a computer comm sci major or something to that extent? What advice would you give them?
Bashir Agboola 25.57
Okay. So, So traditionally, you know, technology leaders were considered prime as primarily responsible for managing IT systems and IT infrastructure, keeping the lights on, and, you know, just providing deployments for the technology, infrastructure of the organization. If anything, over the last several years, at least over the last few years, it’s become increasingly clear, you know, as organizations become more and more digital, irrespective of the sector, it’s become increasingly clear that technology leaders are not just plumbers in terms of maintaining the underpinnings of your technology, infrastructure, but also that they are responsible really, for identifying emerging technologies, you know, assessing the potential impact of those technologies on your business, and your business model. And then implementing those technologies strategically to drive the business outcomes that the organization is looking for, you know, more and more businesses get enabled or disrupted with technology, irrespective of what sector you’re in technology can be a huge enabler for your business. And it could also be a huge disrupter for your business. So that means technology leaders now have a more business-focused role to play in the success of the business. They’re no longer just, you know, the geeks in the back of the room, ensuring that their computers and the data center or the cloud, you know, systems are up and running. Know, they actually an effective technology leader needs to have a good insight into what’s happening on the business landscape, in the sectors that they are in, as well as in the technology landscape to understand, you know, what’s the impact effect of emerging technologies on your business? And What technologies do you need to assist the business in doing what it’s trying to do and what it needs to do to remain successful now and in the future? So it means to be a successful tech leader, you need to, you know, be a successful business leader understand business, understand technology, understand innovation, innovation is a big part of being a successful tech leader these days because there’s so much change happening either directly and indirectly, through technology that you have to not only know how to innovate, but also how to help cultivate the culture of innovation within your organization. And so tech leaders, innovators, as well, and they have to be good communicators, able to foster cross-functional collaboration across the organization and able to move quickly, you know, and it will enable adoption of agile practices within the organization. So, being a tech leader today is not what it was, I would say, even 10 years ago, it’s been it’s become increasingly more business focused more agile, more definitely more innovative in terms of how about look, in terms of advice to, you know, professionals that are just beginning their journeys in this space, I would say this is exciting times, honestly, I feel excited when I look at developments that’s happening when I look at what’s happening with generative AI, and the potential that it has to create new business opportunities to expand, you know, businesses, and really to change how we even do IT operations. It’s huge. So I would say to anyone, you know, any young technologist, new technologist coming into the industry, you this is exciting times, and you gotta be ready and willing to keep learning, accelerated learning is important, you have to be able to learn fast. And, broadly learn fast, go deep and broad, go deep and broad. What do I mean by that? It means that, you know, when, just as we’re talking about AI, now, you got to understand what’s, what does this mean for my area? What does this mean for what my business does, and then you go deep in learning more, get it, go beyond the shallow understanding of what we’re talking about, you know, have a good understanding enough to be able to advise your business and, and help your business with that understanding, and then go broad in the sense that you also want to see what else is happening in the landscape. You don’t want to be so narrowly focused on one thing that you miss what’s happening elsewhere, broadly speaking. So it’s exciting times to be in technology. I when I talk to young folks, I say hey, if you’re thinking about what to do, and you’re not sure, of a career choice, give technology a look. It’s a good place to be in for a long time to come. So I hope that’s helpful.
Sapan Choksi 31.16
Oh, sure. That’s some fantastic advice. And I definitely echo it, for sure. I think it’s we’re living in some very, very exciting times. And, as you rightly said, technology has become a huge enabler. And, today, technologists are seen as partners, as opposed to those geeks in the back, or the people just managing the plumbing. So definitely, you’re seeing more and more of the business lead into technologists and as we forge ahead, it’s that we’re looking at a very, very bright and bright future from a technology point of view. So thank you. Appreciate your time. And it’s been fantastic talking with you.
Thanks, Sapan. I enjoyed our conversation.
Fantastic. And that’s a wrap