Digital Leaders at Kaiser and J&J on Staffing, Acceleration

August 11, 2020

In this keynote conversation from InnoLead’s Charting the Future event, two innovators from the healthcare sector discuss sudden shifts caused by COVID-19. Prat Vemana is the Senior Vice President and Chief Digital Officer of the care consortium. Marc Leibowitz is Johnson & Johnson’s Global Head of Digital Health. 

Two takeaways from the conversation follow. 

How COVID-19 Accelerated Change in Health Care 

When discussing the rate of change in 2020, Vemana compared the experience to watching a sped-up video. “I feel like…2020 is asking digital to play at a 10x speed,” he said. “There is an expectation that we are going to deliver at a faster pace.”

Vemana pointed to telehealth as an example. According to Vemana, prior to the pandemic only 12 to 15 percent of patients received care through telehealth. As of July, 80 percent of outpatient care and 90 percent of specialty care took place remotely.

According to Leibowitz, these new digital experiences are not only safer, but also a “fundamentally a better experience” for the customer. Leibowitz speculated that this more convenient experience will allow changes to persist long after the pandemic. “We’re trying to be extremely user- or customer-centric,” he says. “This is really forcing us to be that way.”

Creating Nimble Teams 

Both Vemana and Leibowitz entered the healthcare field with experience in different sectors. Vemana spent years in retail with senior positions at Staples and Home Depot. Leibowitz previously held positions at Dropbox and Google. Both discussed the benefits of bringing people with varied experiences into their organizations.  

When hiring, Leibowitz says he looks for candidates that have computer science, digital, and data science backgrounds. These skills can then pair with subject matter experts at Johnson & Johnson. “I’ve tried to…bring folks that come from a very different background…and just expose the rest of my colleagues to how people like that think about the world and how they break down problems,” he said. “People that come from…digital operationalization backgrounds, break down problems in unfamiliar ways. [That] really helps people to sort of wrap their head around, ‘Okay, there’s a different way of actually looking at this.'” 

Vemana added that he also looks for candidates that can navigate the challenges of a large company with an entrepreneurial mindset. “You need people with a good combination of a diplomat and an entrepreneur,” Vemana said. “How do you actually work the system to have the patience and understanding of what it takes to actually be successful in healthcare, and what it means to transform healthcare, but also have innovation and fire in the belly?”