The Brightest Minds Speak Up

Jay Srini has an unusual trajectory in the field of healthcare. After receiving a bachelor’s degree in chemistry in India, she earned a master’s degree in computer science at NYU and began her career in the financial industry on Wall Street. She has since worked in education, the steel industry, banking, and healthcare. She sees a common thread running through all the sectors she’s served, as they strive to improve consistency, efficiency and innovation through technology.


Jay appreciates the unique challenges in healthcare in the transition from a pay-per-visit model to value-based care. She was chief innovation officer with UPMC Health Plan and is a board member with Pittsburgh Regional Health Initiative. In her current role with SCS Ventures, she creates strategic relationships between innovative organizations, financial partners and academic institutions. Jay is a HIMSS Fellow and current member of the HIMSS Innovation Committee.  


HIMSS:  What do you see as the most important new innovations in digital health?


Jay:  First, I think it’s important that we no longer create these divisions such as “digital healthcare” – just as we don’t differentiate e-banking from banking. It’s all one in the same, just different components.


I see broad technologies evolving in healthcare. First, is 3D printing for prosthetics. It’s an example where digitizing data has led to deep innovation – and so simple that even high school students are doing it. 3D printing took a quantum leap recently, with a group of Tel Aviv scientists who’ve gone into cardiac tissue engineering. For the first time in the world, they’ve made an entire 3D printed artificial heart using a patient’s own cells. The digital is meeting the physical – and it’s amazing!


The second trend I see is innovation available to the masses. For example, major industry players are using machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) to help physicians screen for diabetic retinopathy and diabetic macular edema: two eye conditions that can lead to blindness. Another company has created AI software for this same use and had their product validated by the FDA.


We’ve also seen radiation oncologists using a crowd-sourcing contest to find the best AI solution for segmenting lung tumors for radiation therapy. They used the information to know where to provide radiation in lung cancer patients, and to improve the process from eight minutes to about seven seconds. With image analysis of serial scans, they can use deep-learning models to predict patient survival outcomes with greater accuracy than when using clinical factors.


And lastly – CRISPR and gene editing has now advanced to the point of altering malfunctioning genes.  This takes us to another point in the evolution of healthcare. The past couple of years have dramatically moved us to a new paradigm, but some of the same problems continue to plague us as before in other segments.



HIMSS: What do you see as the most pressing needs on the healthcare horizon?


Jay: I always tell my students that there are four variables in healthcare: price, quality of care, timeliness, and access. You can’t sacrifice any single one of them. That’s the inherent challenge in healthcare.

I love what our U.S. Health and Human Services secretary Alex Azar II says: “Our vision is a healthcare system where every American patient feels he or she is being treated like a person, not a number; where your doctor has one focus: not what procedures to order or how to bill you for them, but how to keep you healthy and well.”

Population health is a pressing need. We all know death is inevitable, but it doesn’t have to be premature or painful. We need to make changes in lifestyle and the way medicine is practiced, making integrative care not just an add-on, but part of a comprehensive approach with treatments – like aromatherapy or meditation, or acupuncture for pain management – and apply that same approach with physical and behavioral health.

Access to care is another pressing need. A decade ago, a couple thousand people had access to telemedicine. Now it’s up to about seven million. How do we provide the best level of care to everyone – in their homes or elsewhere?

And we tend to think that good health is all because of the clinical world, but the research shows that accounts for about less than 12 percent. Individual behaviors, social circumstances and the environment a patient is in – this data on social determinants of health needs to be collected in a standardized, comprehensive way. We have the algorithms in place. Now we need to move to the next level, making it a science with deterministic outcomes, irrespective of patient population.



HIMSS: How do you benefit from being on the HIMSS Innovation Committee?


Jay:  I think it should be called the Collaboration Committee – because innovation is putting together multiple views to come up with outcomes you wouldn’t have thought of individually. That’s what we do. It can lead to transformative innovation. A great example was of that is when a bunch of tech-minded individuals got together with a group of more clinical individuals. They came back with a design for a bedside ultrasound which neither could’ve come up with on their own.



HIMSS: Anything else on your mind?


Jay: When I first joined the innovation world, I confess that the whiz bang of robotics or unexplored technical advances were of interest to me. As I have gotten my gray hairs, my understanding of innovation has changed.

We need to think broader. If you have hunger, you can’t have health. We need to provide healthcare across the spectrum. And how can we design smart cities, so people can walk to work – since lifestyle is responsible for 65 percent of the chronic diseases? And how do we address the tsunami of climate change – from droughts to floods to diseases, such as the multidrug-resistant fungal infection sweeping the U.S.?

 A lesson for us in medicine is to look at social media capable of disseminating accurate information but also inaccurate information, especially regarding vaccination. We can’t ignore this and say it’s just politics – before we have more outbreaks such as measles.

Whether you’re a clinician or technologist or behavioral scientist, the new generation of innovators – while they will have a deep understanding of one of these domains – must have a footing in all of them.


The views and opinions expressed in this blog or by commenters are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of HIMSS or its affiliates. Please note that HIMSS is a vendor-neutral organization and references to external brands, products and services are not official endorsements.