Engaging Patients with New Technologies: A Conversation with Chris Young


The Pulse spoke with Chris Young, Vice President of New Market Development and Incubations for Ascension Health. Chris covered a range of topics related to new technologies in healthcare: how Ascension is leveraging them to engage patients today, their longer-term impacts on the healthcare system, and policy topics relevant to their adoption. Chris will sitting on our panel "Are We There Yet? Tech's Role in Consumer Health".

Pulse: Can you tell us a little about your background and current role?

After graduating from the University of Chicago, I went to work in healthcare consulting after having worked for a bank. I first came to Ascension in 2001 for a brief consulting job with in our Nashville market to help with the formation of St. Thomas Health System. Eventually, I went on to serve as the Chief Information Officer there, and was later promoted to be the regional CIO and VP for Ascension Information Services.

In my current role, I lead innovation for Ascension. In that role I am responsible for our virtual care platform, which includes business-to-business, direct-to-consumer and at-home health monitoring. Additionally, I source and lead a variety of pilots focused on next generation technologies and processes for healthcare.


Pulse: How is Ascension leveraging digital health technology today to deliver high-value care and engage patients?

Our digital consumer engagement breaks down into four main categories:

(1)  Personalized marketing and communication

(2)  Getting people in the door – the “digital red carpet.” This is where we connect consumers to online scheduling and empower individuals to self-triage their care.

(3)  Event-triggered navigation. When something happens, we provide information most relevant to your context. We’re building this out over the next several years and it’s a quickly moving effort that requires a lot of collaboration.

(4)  Our “CMO of the home” program, which is about enabling an archetype we call “alpha daughters,” the women who influence the family’s care-giving. Think of a 37-year old mother of two, and all the things she has to plan for or deal with. We’re building a comprehensive platform she could access seamlessly.


Pulse: What are the major challenges in maximizing the impact from these new technologies?

Meeting customers where they are and meeting the demands relevant to the occurrence of the events. For example, if we provide technology to schedule an office visit, we need to also make sure we deliver on the time and efficiency promised for the visit. They need to be able to see a doctor promptly and have a delightful experience sitting in the waiting room.

This is a promise that extends across all populations. Ascension is a Catholic system and is very much committed to serving the needs of the poor and vulnerable in our society. To best meet their needs, we shouldn’t have to compromise on access, efficiency or affordability. One example is through the use of virtual care.

Another challenge is removing barriers and working with consumers holistically. This is how we help people manage their health and wellness. On this front, we’re interested in working with non-traditional players aligned with our Mission. As a national health system, we’re well-poised for others to leverage our resources.


Pulse: What are the key problems you’re looking to solve both 1-3 years out, and 3-5 years out?

We want to profoundly engage in communities in a meaningful way. We want to address problems sooner rather than later and engage patients in in their own health with personalized solutions. Longer-term, new technologies will make that easier and easier as they evolve.


Pulse: We hear a lot of predictions about Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Blockchain’s role in the future of healthcare. How do you see them playing out?

For blockchain, I see four main opportunities:

·      First, on identity management. Long-term, it will help on identifying management and help prevent fraud and abuse.

·      Second, pre-authorizations between payers and providers, where smart contracts will help us reduce friction.

·      Third is adjudicating claims through blockchain. That’s something that won’t happen right away, but when it does, it will take a major barrier out of the system.

·      Finally, Blockchain will play a part in bringing together data. Healthcare data isn’t connected. People could be empowered to give rights to all different types of data, such as when they went to a pharmacy or last saw a doctor, in a normalized and standardized framework.

With artificial intelligence, we’ll see a lot of action. There are a number of tools that will enable consumers in a robust way and organizations in handling consumers. Over time, we’ll see an increased number of clinical applications. We’ll also see more use in population health management, through combining people’s health record with other types of data.

I like to quote Bill Gates “people overestimate what will happen in two years and underestimate what will happen in 10.”


Pulse: What will large health systems', such as Ascension’s, strategy will be as these new technologies mature, what will they build vs. buy and own vs. partner?

There are many of schools of thought. For us it’s on a case-by-case basis. We’ve found ourselves to be very good at finding what works and either scaling it out or owning it outright.

It will be difficult for a health system to attract and retain the talent needed to build some of these new technologies. Organizations should do what they’re really good at, and for us that’s caring for those we serve. We’ll use these tools in a thoughtful way when appropriate.


Pulse: Can you talk about some of the main policy issues to consider for new technologies, such as telemedicine, as they emerge and mature?

When discussing virtual care, the biggest issues will be cross-credentialing and licensing and how to make that easier. It will have to happen over time and the key question is: how do we make things a little easier and at the same time protect the public from things we don’t have to have happening? Our solutions must be thoughtful and evolutionary.

There are policy issues across industries that will eventually impact healthcare. I am thinking of the automobile industry and the policies that will eventually govern robotic innovation.


Pulse: To wrap up, what’s one area or topic related to new healthcare technologies that people aren’t focusing on today?

People know the concept of IoT. They aren’t paying attention to the generational issue and that the 65+ age population will double in the next thirty years. It will impact how we use caregivers, how we deliver care and how we interact. We are close to the world of sensors and bots, but we have to think about how we start pulling everything together to deliver better care. 

Daniel ZimentComment