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Improving the patient experience

A Q&A with Joshua Newman, Chief Medical Officer and GM - Healthcare and Life Sciences, Salesforce

What got you interested in healthcare and healthcare IT initially?
Through family medicine training, I developed a deep passion about improving the health of patients and the system. When I practiced medicine in the early 2000s, we used paper to manage patient care. We learned tricks to foster an effective patient relationship such as writing down personal notes in the margins of the page, including spouse and family member names, upcoming trips, and pet’s names. I wondered if we could capture and streamline these conversations using technology to improve how healthcare is delivered. Through medical school, residency, fellowship and being on faculty at UCLA, I practiced, and built and managed numerous web applications including those for medical residency administration, billing and clinical care, and to promote collaboration between physicians and to ease the adoption of electronic medical records systems.

Tell us about your role at Salesforce.
I am the Chief Medical Officer and General Manager of Healthcare and Life Sciences. I lead both a team of industry experts responsible for success across providers, payers, pharmaceuticals and medical device organizations, and a product management organization that is designing Health Cloud. We help our internal sales, technology, and customer success teams speak the language of our customers as well as promote health specific solutions across all of our Salesforce products.

What has been your most rewarding career experience and accomplishment?
The most rewarding would have to be those memorable patients for whom I made a crucial diagnosis, connection or intervention that had a great impact on their health. From a Health IT standpoint, the most rewarding has been releasing Salesforce Health Cloud. As a physician technologist, coming out with a health IT platform that has the power to solve such important problems at scale is really a privilege and a total blast.

“I would encourage organizations to put patients at the center and take advantage of modern technology to redefine the way they engage and build relationships.”

How has the evolution of our healthcare policies affected the role Salesforce plays in this industry?
Aging populations and the influx of enrollees mandated by the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and increasing regulations around both outcomes and value present new opportunities for Salesforce along the entire continuum of care. As healthcare organizations respond to these pressures, they invest in the kinds of tools that Salesforce has delivered successfully for 17 years across all industries. We’ve seen good progress in the last ten years in digitizing healthcare thanks to EHRs and government incentives such as Meaningful Use. However, EHRs are not built to maximize patient engagement, much less solve all kinds of modern challenges. As we shift from fee-for-service payments to value-based reimbursements, healthcare professionals need solutions where they can share in the risk and reward of patient outcomes. And as all organizations work to improve the patient experience in response to both competitive pressures and a desire to improve health, they need these same tools. This is where Health Cloud comes in as a patient relationship platform layer on top of the EHR.

As the healthcare industry becomes more competitive and accountable for patients, how would you advise healthcare systems and life sciences companies think about patient engagement?
I would encourage organizations to put patients at the center and take advantage of modern technology to redefine the way they engage and build relationships. This requires innovating on agile and scalable platforms that can bring together the entire healthcare ecosystem to collaborate and engage. It leads to deeper patient relationships and operational efficiencies, including maximizing reimbursements, reducing readmissions and increasing patient volume through improved customer satisfaction and loyalty.

If you think back to your days as a practicing physician, how do you think you would approach healthcare IT systems that enable patient engagement?
It’s ironic because while in practice I had almost no capacity or reward for deep patient engagement. Usually we called patients in extremely urgent cases, but otherwise we generally didn’t engage. Fortunately, that has changed because of both the health value of strong patient support and the business benefit of better patient experience; everyone is sensitive to the importance of patient engagement. By providing tools that are engaging, intuitive, flexible and attractive, we can enable and inspire healthcare professionals in ways they haven’t ever known.

You have an interesting trait. Tell us about that.
I have been a rock climber and mountaineer since college. Because of that experience, before and during the first two years of med school, I worked as a stagehand/high steel rigger as part of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) union local #2 in Chicago--setting up concerts, conventions and theater shows at some of the biggest venues in the city. For concerts, I was essentially a roadie; working with AC/DC, The Who, U2, Rolling Stones, Barry Manilow, Yanni, Stevie Nicks, and hundreds of other bands. One day, I set up the Rolling Stones show in the morning, went to a full day of med school including anatomy lab, and later that night saw the show backstage, and took down the show that evening. Pretty full day.

What kinds of activities do you enjoy in your free time?
My newborn son is the best and most interesting thing in my life these days. I could spend endless hours with him. Besides that, I love to surf and cook/eat.