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Kaiser Permanente CDO on health care digital transformation



Most leaders who talk about a digital transformation like to highlight companies building innovation from the ground up. Tesla is a common example.

Prat Vemana, the chief digital officer (CDO) for the integrated health system and insurer Kaiser Permanente, prefers to talk about the Mercedes-Benz EQS — the all-electric sedan from a world-famous automobile brand.

“It’s about taking a traditional business model and preparing to lead in a digital world,” said Vemana, previously the chief product and experience officer at Home Depot and a keynote speaker at the upcoming VentureBeat Customer Experience Summit. “Mercedes took the best of what they had, the best of what electric vehicles offer, and went to market with the best possible experience in electric.

For Vemana, the key question for companies in the midst of digital transformation — in health care or other verticals — shouldn’t be how to build a Tesla. It should be how to build an EQS.

Entering health care’s third wave of digital transformation

As Vemana sees it, digital transformation has happened in three waves in health care. Electronic health records (EHRs) were the first wave, while the second was the digitization of physical processes — such as writing prescriptions and sending them to the pharmacist or helping a patient who contacts the call center to schedule the right kind of appointment.

In both the first and second waves, though, there are still analog processes. Many EHRs aren’t integrated, so health systems fax records back and forth. Not all prescriptions can be processed and not all appointments can be scheduled without a phone call.

What’s more, Vemana said, the second wave of innovation is largely focused on workflow optimization within health care organizations. It helped clinical staff look up information or helped payers manage claims and detect fraud. It didn’t focus on the patient.

The third wave is a digital-first experience that also puts the patient first. “What we’re shifting is how we can take the data and intelligence and make it valuable for patients to manage their own health and wellness,” Vemana said. “We’re starting with the patient and working backward — it’s about me, my family health, and my medical conditions. That’s what we’re clearing a path for.”

Moving from data to intelligence to support patient care

Not surprisingly, data and analytics play an important role in this third wave of digital transformation.

Three data sources help to understand what’s happening to a patient and whether it’s serious, Vemana said. There’s the personal data, which comes from EHRs, insurance claims, and, increasingly, from a host of patient-generated sources. There’s the operational data, which allows clinical staff to see how others with the same medical conditions at the same facility were treated. And there’s the medical data that defines what medical conditions are and how they differ.

Having the data is one thing, but being able to use it is another. “The thing I learned from retail is that applied intelligence is the most important thing,” Vemana said. “Can you apply the intelligence for real-time decision support? That requires connections between the data and the digital properties,” which includes the EHR as well as other clinical applications.

To help clinical teams derive intelligence from data, Kaiser Permanente has created a data lake in Microsoft Azure, centered its infrastructure on data marts, and hosted its analytics tools in the cloud. The key to getting this set up in place was an emphasis on collaboration, Vemana said.

“It’s not uncommon to see health care get buried in the waterfall method and wait for approved business cases. So we started to bring physicians and technologists together to define the key results and metrics, train the teams, and align the use of data with our value-based care operational model,” Vemana said. “We came together to solve the problem. Now we can assess a patient’s condition, navigate them to the right intervention, and provide the right level of guidance.”

Driving a better experience before a visit even happens

Back in 2016, former Kaiser Permanente CEO Bernard Tyson said virtual visits accounted for 52% of all visits to the health system. At the height of COVID-19, that number spiked to 80%. Kaiser Permanente stands out among its competitors — a recent survey found that only one in four health systems have at least 25% of patients using telehealth in 2021.

Still, Vemana sees room for improvement. “We’re very successful at digitally-enabled health, and it’s truly a blessing,” he said. “But if you look at the activity, the majority of it is the post-visit experience.”

It’s important for patients to be able to access lab results, view visit notes, or conduct a follow-up without going to the office. But Vemana says he sees more value in providing guidance before the visit — like the EQS, looking at what’s already working well, and applying it in a new way.

“Today’s system is adherence and compliance. That’s transactional,” he said. “How do we move that to an experience? If I have asthma, I know I need to see a doctor every six months. But what does my environment look like? What foods should I avoid? How can I live better knowing more about my condition? That’s what we’re migrating to. When you’re much more aware of your overall health, we can turn that into a better experience.”

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The FTC files suit to block Microsoft’s Activision Blizzard acquisition



The Federal Trade Commission is suing to block the proposed acquisition of Activision Blizzard by Microsoft. It contends that the acquisition, if completed, would give Microsoft an unfair advantage over its competitors.

This morning, the four-person commission voted to issue the lawsuit. The three Democrat members (chair Lina Khan, Rebecca Slaughter and Alvaro Bedoya) voted in favor and the Republican (Christine Wilson) voted against. The commission allegedly met with Microsoft the day prior to discuss concessions, according to a report from The Washington Post.

If its news release is anything to go by, the commissioners weren’t convinced that Microsoft wouldn’t withhold Activision Blizzard’s popular games from competing services. The FTC cited Microsoft’s acquisition of Zenimax, and how games such as Starfield and Redfall became exclusive following its close.

Holly Vedova, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Competition, said in a statement, “Microsoft has already shown that it can and will withhold content from its gaming rivals. Today we seek to stop Microsoft from gaining control over a leading independent game studio and using it to harm competition in multiple dynamic and fast-growing gaming markets.”


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The FTC is not the only government body to express concern about the implications of the acquisition. The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority is currently investigating. It recently closed Phase One of the investigation, and expressed concerns in its issues statement.

The history of the planned acquisition

Microsoft announced its intention to acquire the publisher in January. Through this acquisition, it would become the regent of popular gaming franchises such as Call of Duty, Candy Crush, World of Warcraft and many others. Reportedly, it offered around $69 billion for Activision Blizzard.

The concerns about the scale of the acquisition emerged almost as soon as it was announced. The FTC reportedly moved to investigate the deal almost immediately. Niko Partners senior analyst Daniel Ahmad said at the time that Microsoft would have to pay Activision $3 billion if the deal was blocked.

The current focal point of the antitrust concerns is the Call of Duty franchise. Sony has repeatedly contended, in public statements primarily aimed at the CMA’s investigation, that Microsoft could undermine its competition via these popular and lucrative games. It could, according to Sony, either outright stop publishing them on Sony’s platforms, or it could offer them on its Xbox Game Pass subscription service. Sony claims Call of Duty on Game Pass would diminish demand for Sony consoles even if Call of Duty is still published on them.

Microsoft has, in turn, responded that its competitors have plenty of exclusive titles of their own. It’s also offered to sign 10-year deals with Sony, Nintendo and Valve (the company behind PC games store Steam) to offer Call of Duty titles on their platforms. It announced earlier this week that it has inked such a deal with Nintendo.

Brad Smith, Microsoft’s vice chair and president, said in a statement to The Verge, “We continue to believe that this deal will expand competition and create more opportunities for gamers and game developers. We have been committed since Day One to addressing competition concerns, including by offering earlier this week proposed concessions to the FTC. While we believed in giving peace a chance, we have complete confidence in our case and welcome the opportunity to present our case in court.”

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Airtable chief revenue officer, chief people officer and chief product officer are out • TechCrunch



As part of Airtable’s decision to cut 20% of staff, or 254 employees, three executives are “parting ways” with the company as well, a spokesperson confirmed over email. The chief revenue officer, chief people officer and chief product officer are no longer with the company.

Airtable’s chief revenue officer, Seth Shaw, joined in November 2020 just one month before Airtable’s chief producer officer Peter Deng came on board. Airtable’s chief people officer, Johanna Jackman, joined Airtable in May 2021 with an ambitious goal to double the company’s headcount to 1,000 in 12 months. The three executives are departing today as a mutual decision with Airtable, but will advise the company through the next phase of transition, the company says. All three executives were reached out to for further comment and this story will be updated with their responses if given.

An Airtable spokesperson declined to comment on if the executives were offered severance pay. The positions will be succeeded by internal employees, introduced at an all-hands meeting to be held this Friday.

Executive departures at this scale are rare, even if the overall company is going through a heavy round of cuts. But CEO and founder Howie Liu emphasized, in an email sent to staff but seen by TechCrunch, that the decision – Airtable’s first-ever lay off in its decade-long history – was made following Airtable’s choice to pivot to a more “narrowly focused mode of execution.”

In the email, Liu described Airtable’s goal – first unveiled in October – to capture enterprise clients with connected apps. Now, instead of the bottom-up adoption that first fueled Airtable’s rise, the company wants to be more focused in this new direction. Liu’s e-mail indicates that the startup will devote a majority of its resources toward “landing and expanding large enterprise companies with at least 1k FTEs – where our connected apps vision will deliver the most differentiated value.”

The lean mindset comes after Airtable reduced spend in marketing media, real estate, business technology and infrastructure, the e-mail indicates. “In trying to do too many things at once, we have grown our organization at a breakneck pace over the past few years. We will continue to emphasize growth, but do so by investing heavily in the levers that yield the highest growth relative to their cost,” Liu wrote.

Airtable seems to be emphasizing that its reduced spend doesn’t come with less ambition, or ability to execute. A spokesperson added over e-mail that all of Airtable’s funds from its $735 million Series F are “still intact.” They also said that the startup’s enterprise side, which makes up the majority of Airtable’s revenue, is growing more than 100% year over year; the product move today just doubles down on that exact cohort.

Current and former Airtable employees can reach out to Natasha Mascarenhas on Signal, a secure encrypted messaging app, at 925 271 0912. You can also DM her on Twitter, @nmasc_. 

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Airlines Finally Get Serious About Contrails. What Are They?



What are those puffy white plumes trailing jets high up in the sky? They’re called contrails, and scientists have long said they contribute to climate change.

Now some major airline companies are getting on board. Carries such as American, Southwest, United, Alaska, and Virgin Atlantic, and tech companies like Google, are working with the Rocky Mountain Institute to figure out which of these contrails are bad for the environment and what they can do about it.

“Air travel has almost a double-sized impact on global warming than what we thought it was before,” said Andrew Chen, an aviation specialist with the Rocky Mountain Institute, told The Dallas Morning News. “The most interesting dynamic is that the airlines are not shying away from contrails.”

Related: ‘The Fumes Are Unbelievably Bad:’ Residents Complain About Kyle Jenner’s Private Jet

What are airplane contrails?

Conspiracies abound about how the lines of clouds following jets are “chemtrails” released by the government in a secret program to add toxic chemicals to the atmosphere.

But scientists say that these clouds are, in fact, water vapor trails or condensation trails (contrails, for short) created by airplane engines. The hot, humid exhaust mixes with the colder atmosphere, causing a cloud similar to what you see when you breathe on a cold day.

Climate scientists believe contrails can trap heat in the atmosphere contributing to global warming.

Carbon emissions from jets have long been the target of environmentalists, leading many airlines to retool their planes to use alternative energy. But the industry is now getting serious about contrail pollution, as well.

“The science around contrails has become more clear in just the last few years,” said Jill Blickstein, vice president of sustainability at American Airlines told the DMN. “For example, we’ve known for some time that some contrails formed in the morning can have a cooling effect and that contrails formed at night were more likely to be warming. But we didn’t have a good sense of the net impact of all contrails. That warming impact has become clearer recently.”

Not all contrails have the same impact. The worst seems to happen at night when the earth is cooler, but the contrails block heat from escaping.

The good news is that airlines can avoid making contrails, but doing so may require changing flight patterns and burning more fuel, thus creating more carbon dioxide.

To read more about this, head on over The Dallas Morning News.

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