Provider digital health chief and venture capitalist talk AI, partnerships

Photo: Michael Hasselberg

Michael Hasselberg, RN, PMHNP-BC, chief digital health officer at the University of Rochester Medical Center, and Dr. Justin Norden, a partner at GSR Ventures, a $3.5 billion assets under management venture firm investing in early-stage digital health companies, are jointly attending HIMSS23 and have a lot on their minds.

From burnout to partnering with startups, from generative AI like ChatGPT to best-of-breed health IT, the two executives have quite the stack of expertise.

Healthcare IT News sat down with them to get their opinions and advice on a range of subjects as they attend the big HIMSS23 show.

Q. What is the most pressing issue or trend facing healthcare information technology at this moment as the industry gathers for HIMSS23?

Norden: Burnout, staffing and improving the experience for the clinical workforce are top-of-mind for healthcare executives across the country. The question is: How does a health system address these challenges in an environment where clinical revenues are decreasing and budgets are tighter?

Partnering with technology startups offers health systems an ability to enhance the capabilities of their clinical workforce. Historically, in healthcare we have often missed the mark with technology – adding burden to our workforce, decreasing the efficiency of clinical care, and significantly increasing cost. Healthcare leaders have an opportunity to integrate emerging AI solutions to reverse this trend.

As an investor, I’m always worried if a young startup can survive through the long healthcare sales cycle. What can really help startups is if their solution is aligned with the No. 1 priority for health system leaders – today that’s their clinical workforce.

Hasselberg: Unfortunately, technology in healthcare has traditionally not made the lives of clinicians better; for proof, look no further than electronic health records. Too often, technology has done the opposite, pulling clinicians away from spending time with their patients and loved ones outside of their jobs.

Today we are looking to change that. For health systems, the most pressing issue by far is using technology to augment the clinical workforce, which is on the edge of burnout as a result of COVID-19 and labor shortages.

Health systems today are looking at new frontier technologies, such as generative artificial intelligence and telemedicine, to decrease administrative burdens on clinicians.

Additionally, the build-up of point solutions on a health system’s technology stack is unsustainable from an IT resource and financial health state. As a result, health systems are looking for more platform solutions and looking to get rid of technical debt on the point solution side.

Q. How are investors and chief digital health officers collaborating to help solve these pressing challenges?

Norden: For investors, working closely with health systems is a win-win. It allows us to match the exciting technologies and startups we are seeing from the heart of Silicon Valley with real on-the-ground issues facing health systems across the country today.

By collaborating closely and sharing notes, it allows for evaluating opportunities as they come up for both sides and helps to prioritize where we should spend time. Realistically, to fix our problems in healthcare it’s going to take a village. As investors, we can funnel the best technologies to the innovative health systems that will take advantage of them.

Hasselberg: For health systems, partnering with venture capitalists allows us to develop new pipelines into promising technology. Health systems can learn from VCs around diversification of our traditional investment strategies that might help us generate new revenue streams from the value we provide to digital health startups.

By partnering with VCs, we can provide insights into the most pressing problems facing health systems, and VCs can in turn help us find the “best-of-breed” solutions in a crowded market. Conversely, health systems can help “de-risk” VC investments by becoming early pilot sites for the technology companies that have obtained VC investment.

Q. What innovations should CIOs, CMIOs, CISOs, CHDOs and other health IT leaders at provider organizations keep their eyes on in the year ahead?

Norden: We are amidst the most exciting technology wave we have seen in years, if not decades. The pace of innovation in what is happening with AI, such as foundation models and large language models, is astounding.

We are starting to see burgeoning healthcare applications for a number of key tasks, and this is only going to accelerate in the months to come. Health systems that move to adopt the right technologies will see huge advantages in efficiency, time and cost over their competitors.

Hasselberg: Without a doubt, during the next year all eyes will be on advances in generative AI, large language models and computer vision, and how these technologies will play a role in healthcare. Due to massive popular attention on ChatGPT, for example, there has been a significant amount of speculation on how it could affect the future of the healthcare industry.

While largely unproven due to their novelty, large language models such as ChatGPT offer promise in simplifying documentation, improving patient education and reducing administrative burden on clinicians. Further into the future, the technology could play a valuable role working alongside clinicians, aiding them in improving the accuracy of diagnoses and the quality of treatment plans.

Follow Bill’s HIT coverage on LinkedIn: Bill Siwicki
Email the writer: [email protected]
Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.

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