On the 13th episode of Enterprise Software Innovators, hosts Evan Reiser (Abnormal Security) and Saam Motamedi (Greylock Partners) talk with Bashir Agboola, Chief Technology Officer at Hospital for Special Surgery. HSS is one of the preeminent medical institutions in the world, specializing in orthopedics and providing care to patients from over 100 different countries. Today, Bashir shares his perspective on digital transformation and the changes HSS implemented in the wake of the pandemic, the exciting new technologies HSS is deploying to improve patient outcomes, and insights into upcoming step changes in the healthcare industry.
As with many organizations, the pandemic uncovered the need for HSS to accelerate digital transformation initiatives that had actually started years before the pandemic upended society. Bashir describes a 3-pronged approach to digital transformation centered around products/services, channels of customer engagement, and operations. As the pandemic changed working conditions nearly overnight, the importance of operations was on full display: “It took the pandemic to get many organizations to recognize the need for that third piece which we can call the digital workplace strategy as a sub-component of an overall digital transformation strategy…some companies had to scramble to send people home when the pandemic broke because they weren't set up to work remotely.” Like many other IT executives, Bashir witnessed first hand that the upheaval of the pandemic was the signal HSS needed to see the need for true digital transformation.
With the pandemic as a catalyst for change, HSS transformed into a digital, remote-first working environment, seemingly overnight. From an operational standpoint, Bashir explains that in 2019, less than 1% of HSS’s workforce worked remotely. Fast forward to March 2020, and that became over 30%. With regards to providing care, for all of 2019 there were only about 1500 telehealth sessions; that number ballooned to over 123,000 by the end of 2020. Without a strong foundation and an emphasis on a multidisciplinary approach to digital transformation, these changes would not have been possible. For a mission-critical industry like healthcare, it speaks volumes to the importance of technology deployment at scale during trying times.
Beyond operations, HSS has continued to innovate with technology across the organization. Long-heralded as an orthopedics leader, HSS was the first institution to develop the full knee replacement nearly 50 years ago. Today, they’re embarking on using 3D printing technology to print joints for acute procedures. Together with a European company, HSS is harnessing the technology for speedier and safer procedures where new joints are made to patients’ specific needs. 3D printing offers the ability to create more complex shapes than traditional machinery. HSS’s use of the technology is sure to have a positive impact on patients moving forward.
Like many other guests, Bashir is excited at the prospect of AI and its implications for the healthcare industry. He sees the potential in AI allowing healthcare to reach people that historically have not had the opportunity to receive treatment: “If we get it right, it's going to revolutionize care delivery from many dimensions. We talk about the health inequalities that exist in society, with the urban poor, the rural communities that have restricted access to care. With AI-enabled treatment programs, you can take care of people that are long distances from where the care providers are, whether using technologies with computer vision to analyze skin conditions to do radiographic analysis of images, MRIs, or CT scans. All of those things would expand access.”
Looking ahead towards the future of healthcare, Bashir sees care moving towards the front of the “care value chain.” Currently, there's an emphasis on the end of that chain, which means helping someone after they’ve become quite sick. The new paradigm calls for more care at the beginning of the chain with a focus on wellness and prevention to avoid hospitalization. Additionally, with the advent of virtual care centers and more ambulatory settings, the future is closer than we think. Bashir sums it up: “To put things in perspective, for the first 150 years of HSS, surgery was only performed at the hospital. In the last five years or so, we've opened a number of ambulatory surgical care centers, where now, you go in, you get that meniscus tear repaired and you go back home. You don't have to stay in a hospital setting.” Forever a technologist, Bashir is excited to see where the industry goes as it harnesses next-generation technology to help more of the population lead healthy, productive lives.