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Digital innovation transforms Novant Health

  • Staff Writer
    Staff Writer

Not every healthcare system has a “Chief Transformation Officer.” It’s a title more likely to be found at CVS, Conagra, Viacom or CBS.  But healthcare is an industry under transformation. The way healthcare providers get paid for their products and services is continuing to evolve. 

That’s why leading health system Novant Health tapped Angela Yochem as their Chief Transformation and Digital Officer. She oversees the digital transformation of this network of physician clinics, outpatient facilities and hospitals with nearly 800 locations with over 2,400 physicians and 37,000 employees. 

Unlocking Novant Health’s technology power – and the best-yet patient experience – through digital innovation

Yochem attributes Novant’s appetite for risk and innovation as the driver behind their technology investment before and during COVID-19. Crucial to this was Novant’s framing of the IT team as in house digital product and service creators, who could build on existing tools or systems rather than merely maintain and support them. As a result of its positive, agile approach to technology, and overcoming of IT barriers, Novant not only survived the challenges of the pandemic but is positioned to thrive in the future. 

In fact, Novant is now so confident in the power of its technology that it recently added a state-of the-art cancer center – with no waiting rooms for patients. Yochem and her colleagues are so sure Novant’s ability to harness data analytics, proven by the management of its OR and telemedicine capacity in 2020, will enable these patients to be scheduled for appointments with no wait times. 

Swift decision making transformed medicine onsite and online in a time of crisis

COVID-19 caused ORs around the world to close. At most healthcare facilities, this resulted in big declines in revenue, decreasing OR caseloads and a backlog in elective surgeries that continues to this day. Novant Health stands out as a system that not only avoided these negative impacts, they actually saw improvements in key metrics in the last half of 2020, including a 2.3% increase in OR case volumes and a 3% increase in prime time utilization compared to the previous (pre-COVID) year. 

Novant’s adoption of digital technology, coupled with speed and agility in decision making, allowed it to pivot quickly when the pandemic hit in March 2020. Then, healthcare facilities needed to establish telemedicine very quickly. Simultaneously, they began shutting down ORs — the economic engine of most hospitals. 

Yochem, along with other leaders on Novant’s perioperative side, understood they would need to open their ORs back up, and decided to do it with technology. Instead of cutting back on their technology budgets, Novant partnered with LeanTaaS and invested in building out a tech capability to facilitate optimizing their OR schedule. This was a remarkable decision-making process and illustrated the forethought, foresight and quick movement of Novant’s leadership team. 

Novant Health’s digital innovation involves building technology for its own future

Yochem explained, “While we’re focused, like everyone else, on expanding access to care and improving quality, we tend to address these issues very aggressively with cutting edge technologies, with truly unprecedented access to data, leveraging our capability set there, as well as unconventional partnerships with a variety of third party types. We do a lot of co-creation work. We don’t just buy what’s commercially available. We don’t just build internally. We do a lot of the things in the gray area in between, and the appetite for leveraging digital capabilities is helping to make our communities healthier. I haven’t seen as many CEOs, boards, clinical leaders and leaders across a variety of domains be as focused as ours have been on leveraging these contemporary and differentiating methods.”

The pervasiveness of this forward-thinking attitude proves that people, process and technology put together can transform almost any core process, like finding open time in the OR. It translates all the way down to the clinic level and the scheduler level, leading to future cancer patients being seen the moment they arrive on-site. 

Novant’s commitment to innovation will continue into the post-COVID world. Yochem’s top three goals as VP of Innovation are: 

  1. Exploring new capabilities in spaces adjacent to traditional health care that can be applied to serve their communities and generate additional revenue for the organization;
  2. Continuing the journey of applying advanced technologies to some of their more difficult problems. This includes enhancing access to care, addressing quality of care, and using advanced cutting-edge capability, such as the work LeanTaaS has done with Novant. 
  3. Expanding the digital health portfolio of products and services. When Novant physically shut down for COVID, there was a period when they conducted 20-25,000 virtual visits a day. That was accomplished with very few tweaks to their operations, because of the robust digital health capability that they already had. Even today, months after reopening, Novant still conducts 2,000 virtual visits a day on average. This allows for access to care that may not have been otherwise available.

To learn more about Novant Health’s commitment to innovation and digital transformation, listen to Forbes Books’ Radio full interview with Angela Yochem or read the case studies on Novant’s success in optimizing both infusion centers and operating rooms.

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