Susan Lucas Collins

Podcast: Susan Lucas Collins, Global Head of Healthcare Services at Twilio Inc

December 14, 2020
VectorCare Team

The Patient's Journey podcast was able to interview Susan Lucas Collins, Global Head of Healthcare Services at Twilio Inc. and Former VP of Strategic Partnerships at Salesforce on introducing ambient technology into healthcare, what organizations should consider when adopting new technologies, and lessons learned from the growth of telemedicine in 2020. Below are a few highlights from our interview, but be sure to listen and subscribe to The Patient's Journey podcast, linked at the bottom of the page.

Hi Susan, thanks so much for being here today. In your roles at Twilio and Salesforce you focus a lot on the intersection of technology and healthcare. However, when I look at the healthcare system today I often feel like we’re watching old medical TV shows with constant phone calls and antiquated faxing. Why do you think the healthcare system is so stuck in this outdated technology loop?

"This question comes up a lot, you know, and I often do take a bit of an issue with it myself. If you look at the clinical side of medicine, it's clear that providers particularly have been huge adopters of technology. Just in my lifetime, we’ve switched from plain old X-rays to these crazy hybrid imaging technologies that can tell us so much more about a patient’s condition. There’s been no lack of tech adoption in the clinical space.

What we’ve been lacking is the equivalent adoption in the business or administrative side of medicine, which I think is due to a lack of proper business drivers. For example, look at the growth in telemedicine that we’ve seen due to COVID-19: telemedicine has been around for a really long time, for decades actually. We didn’t embrace it or adopt it at scale until the mechanisms and economic drivers supported that adoption."

What do you think are some ways that we can really streamline the patient experience in our healthcare system?

"Well, we need to focus on patient experience, for one thing. In healthcare, we pretty routinely consider the providers to be our customers rather than individual patients, even though everyone is certainly mission driven to support patients and produce better outcomes.

The business as a whole is less about individual patient experience and more about creating best practice workflows and those kinds of things.

Because of COVID-19, we’ve seen a real growth in so-called practical focus and clinical efficiencies. We’re laying out how to navigate the system for patients: maybe we ask them to stay in their car and they’ll receive a text when we’re ready to treat them, and we’ll walk them directly to an exam room, let you know our visitor policy, walk you through mask-wearing procedure, etc. Because of the pandemic, there’s a hundred different things we’re working on to make the patient experience more streamlined when receiving care for the patient and also for the staff that are serving that patient."

One thing that we of course want to be wary of is undue stress on clinicians by requiring they adopt more and more technology without tangible benefit. In what ways are you seeing this balance play out?

"We’ve actually seen an enormous shift in the acceleration of technology this year, along with unanticipated benefits. I’m always the person introducing new technology, and so many times in my career providers will tell me “please, god, no more technology. I’ve had it up to here with learning more tech”.

But there are a lot of unanticipated benefits that we’re seeing relayed by clinicians now, let’s take telemedicine for example. When it started becoming more widespread, I had a couple of providers say to me “The notion of just having to take care of a patient through a video screen seems surreal. I don’t know how to navigate this”. But, interestingly enough, many came back to me after having some telemedicine experience and said things like:

“Y’know, I didn’t expect this, but the context that I got while speaking to a patient in their home environment or with a family member was really valuable additional information. It evens the power dynamic and makes the patient more comfortable to have an appointment in their living room rather than a clinical setting”

I had a pediatric specialist say to me that seeing a patient in their room, with posters on the wall and toys and things that were important to that kid, made for a far richer interaction than they expected. I think that’s a huge benefit that we’ll take away from telemedicine: better understanding of how to create better human connections between providers and patients. We want technology to be ambient, not intrusive to the circle of care. "

I think that’s a huge benefit that we’ll take away from telemedicine: better understanding of how to create better human connections between providers and patients. We want technology to be ambient, not intrusive to the circle of care.

Can you talk a bit more about healthcare tech being ambient rather than intrusive in clinical settings?

"Well, you shouldn’t have to be a highly educated technologist to deploy technology effectively. We need to deliver tech solutions in ways that are supportive and not challenging to the people who are providing care. This isn’t a new concept, but one that can definitely stand for some improvement in our space.

We need to deliver tech in a way that people only notice the benefit rather than the delivery mechanism. We’ve all gotten accustomed to having everything at our fingertips through our phones: rideshare, banking, food delivery, etc. I have all kinds of services at my beck and call through a little device in my pocket: that has huge implications for the necessity to simplify all tech delivery. Ambient technology means that you have what you need when you need it, but otherwise it’s non-obtrusive."

To listen to more from our interview with Susan Lucas Collins, click the Apple Podcasts link below:

‎The Patient's Journey on Apple Podcasts

‎Health & Fitness · 2020

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