The Future of Health Tech and Advice for Women in Tech – from 4 Incredible Women who work in the Industry #ShePower #FutureofHealth

Thank you Providence St. Joseph Health for sponsoring this post and for being such a huge driver for innovation in healthcare!

It’s always amazing to see incredible women in tech, so today, I wanted to highlight and talk to some amazing women who are part of the innovation group at Providence St. Joseph Health. They’re working on some really exciting projects in health tech, so I have interviewed them about that. We’ve also talked about the future of health tech, and they gave some incredible advice for other women in tech!

So, here are the amazing women who you will be hearing from today:

Sara Vaezy – Chief Digital Strategy Officer at Providence St. Joseph Health.
Lisa Mason – Director of Design, User Research and Product Analytics at Providence St. Joseph Health.
Nicole Peoples – Software Engineer at Providence St. Joseph Health.
Maryam Gholami – Vice President of Product for Digital Innovation at Providence St. Joseph Health.

Here’s our interview!

1. What are you currently working on, and what do you do as part of that project?

Sara Vaezy:

We, as a group at Providence St. Joseph Health Digital Innovation Group, are working on something we call the Same-Day Care Platform. We also have another name for it – DEX Care, which is short for Digital Experience Care. What we’re working on is a platform that allows our patients and ultimately, patients at other health systems too to engage in the same-day care.

Imagine you wake up in the morning. You feel like you have the flu, and you just need to see somebody now. We’re building a technology platform that lets you book an appointment on that same day or do a virtual visit with your provider, which is essentially like FaceTime – and in some of our cities, you will actually be able to call a provider to your home. Think of an Uber-like or Lyft-like experience, that’s what we’re working on.

In particular, my role is actually more on the business side, so I’ve got great partners on the product and technology side, but I’m working on creating a company around this. We’re going to be building a new company and spinning it out of Providence at the end of this year. I’m currently hiring a CEO and we’re going to be raising financing pretty soon. I handle a lot of the new company creation, as well as business development. So making sure that we can get this out to market, convey the value proposition to other health systems and get it out there for as many patients to use as possible.

Sarah Vaezy

Lisa Mason:

Currently, I’m working on a project that is a redesign of the mobile application. Our mobile application does a really good job of helping patients schedule virtual visits or retail visits, but it’s not really set up to go much beyond that. What I’m doing is redesigning the product so it can handle more features, more functions and be more responsive to our patients’ needs.

Nicole Peoples:

I am a front-end developer working on DEX Care, so we do the front and web-facing UI for everything around DEX Care. We are doing a lot of the express care scheduling, so if you’ve ever seen any express care that you might see in Walgreens, for example, those are our little clinics. We actually do online scheduling for that, as well as our new virtual care, which we’re trying to get out to 100% of all of our clients. We’re also going to be working on home care – so we do all of that. I mostly do front-end UI, but I do some back-end work.

Maryam Gholami:

We’re working on various projects, but I’m going to tell you about my favourite one. My favourite one is the Same-Day Care Platform. If you think about our mission and the goal that we have, it’s to bring access, convenience and affordability to every consumer out there, including the poor and the vulnerable. One of the issues that are happening in the healthcare world is, there is a shortage of doctors. We are actually supply-constrained, so as a consumer if today, I get sick and I need to talk to a doctor, in the US actually, it’s not that easy to just go ahead and book an appointment with your primary care doctor. The Same-Day Care Platform enables consumers to book an appointment with the retail clinic nearby, so they can hopefully walk to that, or if it’s not convenient, they can do a virtual visit.

That means they can talk to someone through chat or through video, or they can actually summon a doctor to come to their home. That’s pretty convenient when a whole family is sick with the flu. Hopefully, that doesn’t happen to that many families, but it’s pretty convenient to just ask the doctor to come to your home. Same-Day Care Platform is one of my favourite projects because the problems we are solving there are quite diverse. We basically want to make sure that access to healthcare is frictionless. So think about booking an appointment but doing your payments, filling all those forms when you go to a doctor’s office – all that becoming digitalized and as convenient as possible, like travel, boarding pass-ready.

You asked about my role, so I have a team of product managers, product designers and technical program managers who work very closely with our engineering team to incubate problems that are not solved yet in the healthcare world. We incubate that. Then, we make it available to Providence Central’s hospital system. Then, after that, we make it scalable so that other health systems or any entity out there can benefit from it because ultimately, our goal is to help every patient, every consumer out there.

“I have a team of product managers, product designers and technical program managers who work very closely with our engineering team to incubate problems that are not solved yet in the healthcare world.”

2. In your opinion, what’s the future of health tech?

Sara Vaezy:

There is so much potential! So what I’ll just say is, I think I take the concept of disruptive innovation a lot and look at what a lot of folks that have insurance or are what we call higher in the market get. We bring those same services to as many people as possible. I think really, the future of health tech is in democratizing services, and in particular, care delivery, which is one of the most important things. We need to get affordable, accessible care in the hands of as many people, every single human being in the world and in the United States in particular. I think that’s the future of health tech: making affordable, accessible care available to all.

“I think that’s the future of health tech: making affordable, accessible care available to all.”

Lisa Mason:

That’s a really interesting question. From my perspective, because I’m dealing mainly with patients, what I see is a blending of wearable technology with big data and the doctor’s data. If you think about devices like Fitbit that can track your heart rate, your sleep patterns, your exercise patterns – it’s kind of a black box. It would be awesome if your doctor could have access to all of that data and information so you can do early diagnosis. And to get to eventually being able to remotely monitor you and help you with your medications!

Lisa Mason

“If you think about devices like Fitbit that can track your heart rate, your sleep patterns, your exercise patterns – it’s kind of a black box. It would be awesome if your doctor could have access to all of that data and information so you can do early diagnosis.”

Nicole Peoples:

Just based on being in the healthcare industry for two years now (I wasn’t actually in it before I joined Providence Health), it seems like really, the future of healthcare is where we’re going. So providing virtual care, providing resources for people who don’t feel like they actually need to be at their primary care physician’s office every time something small happens. The ability to get quick access. For people my age that I know, we’re constantly looking to get in and get an answer as quickly as possible, rather than scheduling two weeks out.

That was a huge reason that I was drawn to this particular product. I think that we are actually heading in the right direction, and I really see the future of healthcare as moving even further into virtual care. I’ve heard there are some apps that now are trying to do body scans, different things where you can actually see the body and interact with the person, and you don’t have to actually be in the chair with your physician. Anything in that direction is where I think we’re going. Not that I don’t think it’s useful to have an actual physician to go to, but if there are ways that we can diagnose without making people go into an office, then I think that’s where we will be heading.

“I think that we are actually heading in the right direction, and I really see the future of healthcare as moving even further into virtual care.”

Maryam Gholami:

That’s such an awesome question because there is just so much to do. I talked about the problems that we need to solve, right? There is a shortage of doctors. We are supply-constrained, we have a problem of access and convenience, and I would say, affordability and cost is an issue that needs to get solved. 

Now, if you think about what’s happening on the technology side, there is all this data and information that’s getting collected, right? Most of the doctors now, they document the patient’s health information in an Electronic Health Record, in an EHR. Then, simultaneously, there are all these wearables and IoT devices that consumers are purchasing more and using more. Your Apple Watch is actually tracking tons of data about your health, right? Adding to that is all the information about genomics that’s coming. So the question is, how do we take all this data and then all the advancements that are happening in machine learning and artificial intelligence and solve at least a couple of problems that I see, right?

One is access and convenience and the shortage of supply, and the second thing is, all these tasks that humans are doing in the healthcare space, that are really not our forte. They’re not really meant for humans. I’ll give you some examples. There are tasks that are just difficult for humans to do. We are not able to take all that data and analyze it, do that heavy computation in real-time and do the job that we need. Or even accessing certain pieces of information from all the pool of data is something that doctors and providers are going to need help with. That’s the one that, with predictive analytics or artificial intelligence, we can address. On the other hand, there are tasks that are really dull. When you go to a doctor today, actually, that happens in our retail clinics. If the provider has to come and collect your payments or write your information on their physical form, that’s quite boring. Or if a patient is just staying at a hospital, asking a nurse to come to turn on and off the lights for them – that’s boring. These problems are getting solved, right?

For example, now, you have Alexa devices that are getting implemented in senior care homes or in hospitals, and you can actually just ask Alexa to do that job for you. Or on our platform, on our Same-Day Care Platform, we are digitalizing many of these things like payments or patient intake and digital registration so that a human doesn’t have to do the dull task. I will say there is another category that I think needs to be solved by technology, and that is tasks that are, to some degree, dangerous, not safe or dirty like waste management in a hospital. It shouldn’t be our job, right? Humans are there to give care and have that human connection with the patients and consumers. I think that the trend that’s going to happen is that many of these are going to get automated, and our caregivers are going to be augmented with very good tools around them in the future. Of course, for patients, what it also means is that you don’t necessarily have to go to a doctor.

You can actually get monitored by all these devices and the analytics remotely, or better than that is, the information is there. They can predict what may come my way, so they can say, “Hey, Maryam. You’re not getting your exercise, and guess what? You’re going to have heart problems. We can see that in your data, so get out there.”

Maryam Gholami

3. My final question is what advice would you give to women who are just entering the tech industry?

Sara Vaezy:

I have a lot of different things that I would suggest! But a couple of different things: one, be resilient. In particular, and I haven’t worked in technology outside of healthcare, but I can say that health tech, or healthcare IT, is a very rapidly transforming industry. Healthcare has also been changing a lot, in particular, in the last 10 or so years – and change is hard. Transformation is hard, and just be resilient and keep pushing. Don’t get discouraged, so that resilience, I think, is really important.

Then, get your hands dirty. Be willing to try new things and really get in there with the details so that you know why certain things work and why other things don’t work. In particular, in the context of your provider, so doctors or nurses or other caregivers, so I think those two, getting your hands dirty, being resilient, those are two of the biggest things that I’ve done that have served me pretty well.

“Be willing to try new things and really get in there with the details so that you know why certain things work and why other things don’t work.”

Lisa Mason:

My advice for women entering the tech industry is: do you, and there are so many books out there that tell you to lean in or how to get to yes, but if those don’t match your personality, it’s not going to work for you. You need to be true to who you are and find positions, mentors, bosses, companies that understand that being you is an asset to the organization. They need diversity, so changing isn’t going to work.

“My advice for women entering the tech industry is: do you, and there are so many books out there that tell you to lean in or how to get to yes, but if those don’t match your personality, it’s not going to work for you.”

Nicole Peoples:

I feel like there’s a lot of advice I could give, but most of it is really just getting to know other women in the industry so that they can see that there are other women there. What I’ve noticed is that women are just afraid to join because they don’t recognize that there are other women that are part of the industry that they can talk to and have support from. There are a ton of really fantastic groups in most people’s areas when they’re entering. We have Women Who Code here in Seattle along with tons of other organizations that you can get to know and get involved with. I recommend getting involved with these groups so that you do have that support system.

I do recommend having a mentor. It doesn’t have to be a woman or a man, but just always have a mentor that’s going to be there for you to help you with your support system. I really think support systems are the most important part of anything. You can learn. I believe that every woman can just learn how to be in tech and be a good engineer, but if you don’t have the support behind you, you might not want to stay there. I’m less concerned for people in their learning journey than I am in the support journey.

Nicole Peoples 

“I believe that every woman can just learn how to be in tech and be a good engineer, but if you don’t have the support behind you, you might not want to stay there.”

Maryam Gholami:

I can tell you what has helped me in this space. I’ve been working in the technology space for over 15 years. I studied Computer Science when not that many women were in that field, so throughout my career, definitely, there have been many challenges. Let me just say that the challenges may be for anyone in their career, woman or man, but of course, because we are a minority, the world is starting to understand that they really need us there. There are more challenges for us. It’s really important for women to make sure that throughout their career and journey, they have mentors, and not just one mentor, multiple mentors. You need mentors who can give you advice and guidance on what to do in certain situations. But you also need the ones who can motivate you and lift you up when you need that or the ones who have done this work, and they can help you. Of course – I talked about the importance of having mentors – it’s also important to pay it back or pay it forward and mentor others and have mentees. That’s something that I’m really passionate about doing. I will say that’s my number one advice.

“It’s really important for women to make sure that throughout their career and journey, they have mentors, and not just one mentor, multiple mentors.”

Then, number two is joining the healthcare space. Having been in healthcare tech for over six years now, I can tell you that it’s one of the best industries to explore. The reason for this is that when it comes to healthcare, more than 90% of the household healthcare decisions are actually managed by women. Women take care of their own health. They take care of health of their loved ones, even their extended family. It’s just something that we as women care about a whole lot. Whether you’re a software engineer, a product designer, project manager, it’s really important for you to understand the problem space you’re working on, and I think you can have a big influence in that space. I encourage everyone to look at this space, and then, for those of you who love to live in Seattle, we are hiring!

Watch our interview here:

Thank you so much, Maryam, Sara, Lisa and Nicole for sharing your insights in the industry and that incredible advice. You’re working on some really cool projects that will change the world, and I’m so excited to see where you take them. 

Photo by Ilya Pavlov on Unsplash

If you want to find out more about Providence St. Joseph Health and the awesome projects that they’re working on, you can do so here.

Please let me know in the comments what you think about the future of health tech and whether it’s aligned with what Maryam, Sara, Lisa and Nicole were sharing today, and which advice did you find the most relatable? 

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