The Brightest Minds Speak Up

Santosh Mohan
athenahealth
Head, Platform and ‘More Disruption Please’ Ecosystem

Santosh Mohan was raised in India in a family of academicians, with the belief that “knowledge alone can take people to places where money and power cannot.” He earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Engineering and Bioinformatics in India and a Master’s in Business Management and Clinical Informatics from Duke University. Santosh leads the athenahealth ‘More Disruption Please’ ecosystem bringing together entrepreneurs, investors, clinicians and industry experts to fast-track new technologies to market and foster next generation healthcare innovators. He previously served as Digital Solutions Management Fellow at Stanford Health Care, worked on technology-enabled innovation at Cerner Corporation and Duke University Health System and crafted IT best practices at The Advisory Board Company. As former Chair of the HIMSS Innovation Committee and recipient of a HIMSS Founders Leadership Award, Santosh says, “Technology that connects doctors to patients has always been my biggest passion and personal calling.”

HIMSS: What are the most important innovations you’re seeing in digital health?

Santosh: First, I would say it’s the emerging platform economy. We’re building great momentum in health IT for openness: open source, open standards, and open APIs that can fuel and support an app economy where everybody succeeds – the app developers, the platform company, the hospitals and clinicians, and the patients. We’re beginning to see adoption of open tools to build applications as well as apps that are further engaging patients in their own care journeys. Truly open platforms invite innovators by demonstrating market opportunity and make it easy to build with and succeed – ultimately driving innovation and competition instead of stifling it.

And secondly, the onslaught of AI (artificial intelligence) and machine learning in both understanding healthcare data and extracting applicable insights from it. What excites me is the potential for taking AI and machine learning beyond the usual aspirational conversations to actually helping with important work that needs to be done today to remove burden from providers and multiply intelligence of existing data.

Using AI to automate our most time-consuming, expensive, and burdensome administrative work may not be a moonshot innovation that will blow your hair back, but this important work can change doctors’ lives, reduce overall costs of healthcare, and increase quality of care.

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

Santosh: On the technical side, there is still a pressing need to continue to build interoperability and push for data liquidity – not just API connections, but a deeper level of openness to ensure data is transferred seamlessly and legibly.

On the operational side, there’s a huge need to lift the sheer amount of work from the physician’s plate. "Burned out", "overworked", "run down" aren't exactly the words we should be using to describe our doctors.  It’s crazy how they must tick every box and tie every order and respond to every request for authorization or payment in what’s become a very complex system, leaving them to wonder if the patient even got the care they needed.

It’s high time we have our eyes keen on bringing humanity back to the moment of care. We need to be lifting our providers and staff from their desks and enabling them to connect more deeply, more regularly, and more universally with the patients they care for. We need to tackle the root causes of physician burnout – including ensuring that organizations are equipped with the tools, resources, and latitude needed for staff to succeed.

HIMSS: For you personally, what’s the value of being on the HIMSS Innovation Committee?

Santosh:  It’s very rewarding to collaborate with a team of experts to evaluate emerging technologies and use cases. We help solve some of the most daunting challenges innovators confront on their journey to build, implement, and scale innovation.

We understand how fellow innovators often feel challenged by limited resources, a risk-averse healthcare mindset, organizational silos, and difficulty transitioning ideas and projects to implementation. So, we’re always looking for proven practices to go beyond these challenges to succeed and thrive. We draw on successes and pitfalls of others as well as our own to share ideas that can work for the broader community. All this collaborative, meaningful work by the committee motivates me with a sense of purpose, satisfaction of accomplishment, and commitment to the community.

HIMSS: Any other thoughts?

Santosh: We must innovate in the open. Whether it’s tech vendors or health systems, innovation shouldn’t happen in a vacuum. Not enough good comes from the awesome work happening in pockets of siloed organizations. Healthcare’s biggest conundrums will not be solved by any point-to-point solution.

Now more than ever, we need to embrace open-ended platforms that bring together the best developers and innovators in the world—across vendors, entrepreneurs, and health organizations—to leverage our collective potential to transform healthcare and collaborate in a way that tests and speeds innovation for the industry at scale. We must demand this level of openness and rally behind the players who advance it.