Interview with Aetna’s Digital Health Evangelist Brian Ahier on Mobile First Podcast
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Mobile First is the Inflection Point of the Exponential Curve of Information Technology (Ep. 36)
Brian Ahier is a nationally known worker in digital health with a focus on health data exchange, use and analytics. He is the Digital Health Evangelist at Aetna working in their Medicity business. He specializes in digital health, EHR, health information exchange, population health management, and IT infrastructure to support new payment and care delivery models.
Brian sits on the Consumer Technology Task Force, a Joint Collaboration of the Health IT Policy and Standards Committees which makes recommendations and provides insight on ONC/HHS projects and initiatives with a consumer focus to ensure the person remains at the center, engaging the experience and feedback of both patients and providers.
Here are the highlights of our conversation with our guest:
Brian had always been a technologist and had always believed that the internet will be huge. He shares to us a time when his mom had Alzheimer’s and they had been frustrated in the way the data about her health was presented over to him and his siblings via fax machines. The quality of care and the outcome was not good, the information to make good decisions was not there and it had caused a lot of stress and money to the family until their mom passed away. He was angry at the health system and wondered why the health care system is so uncoordinated if the technology is there to help out. That is when he decided that he will participate and make a difference.
The goal is to keep people out of the hospital so Brian shares that we should look at lesser beds and not building new hospital wings (except if it’s for a pediatric cancer or something we need). These hospital beds will no longer be necessary, sort of an exponential decline, as the exponential growth will be brought about by technology caring for people in the community. Computers are now accessible everywhere instead of just in one main frame and a mobile phone has more computing power than computers just 10 years ago.
Brian shares that we are in the inflection point of the exponential curve of information technology so you have to think mobile first. If you look at the price point of a computer, the processing speeds continue to increase and other data points towards validating this fact.
Anyone who tries to improve health care has to recognize the exponential growth factor. Look at the emerging trends and technologies so that, three or five years from now, you can accurately forecast where you are going to be in terms of technology capabilities.
Health care, at its core, is humans caring for other humans so it has to be local and community-oriented. It is local more than anything because if you have a relationship with somebody, it is much easier to build in behavioral modifications. You have to tap into the people who care about the individual – these are the people who love you, your church group, people you play bridge with, etc.
Everybody talks about gaps in health care and it’s true but we should realize that gaps in data are the ones that lead to gaps in care. That is why it is really vital that we get all the health information to the right person to the right place at the right time so we can provide the best care possible.
Brian shares his secret to success: learning more from his failures rather than his success.
Rapid Fire Questions
- What is your definition of innovation?
Innovation is when you are able to see something that is beyond the normal practice.
- Would you put more emphasis on the idea or the execution? How would you weigh each of them and why?
It’s almost 50-50 but it also depends on where along the journey you are. In the beginning, the idea is everything but in the end result, execution is everything. You can have the greatest idea in the world but if you can’t implement it, then what good was that? So overall, it will be 70% for the execution and 30% for the idea.
- What is your biggest learning lesson on your journey so far?
It’s learning how not to read a book but its cover. Maybe at first you are not too fond of someone because of differences but when you get to know somebody more, it gets me surprised every time how essentially good humans are after peeling back some layers.
- What is your favorite business book?
Where Good Ideas Come From by Steven Johnson
The Innovator’s Prescription by Clayton M. Christensen
Casino Healthcare by Dan Monroe
- What is your favorite digital resource?
Fierce Health IT
Heathcare IT News
- What is your favorite app and why?