L. Eleanor Herriman, M.D., M.B.A., a physician executive with 20 years of healthcare industry experience, was recently named Chief Medical Informatics Officer at Viewics. Prior to joining Viewics, Dr. Herriman was a Senior Fellow at Harvard Business School’s Institute for Strategy and Competitiveness, working with Professor Michael Porter on value-based healthcare strategy. She has experience in laboratory and pathology market research and strategy, as well as startup medical technology ventures.
Dr. Herriman has an M.D. from Baylor, an M.B.A. from Harvard, and a B.S. in electrical engineering from Rice, with a minor in bioengineering. I was intrigued by her varied background and wanted to know more about her. She graciously spent some time sharing her story and insights into her new role at Viewics. Here is part two of my interview with her. (Click here to read part one.)
Heidi: As the Chief Medical Informatics Officer, how do you see yourself moving Viewics toward taking the power of healthcare data and extending it beyond the lab, into the larger health system?
Eleanor: I think the role has a lot of dimensions to it: on the executive team, helping to shape that strategy; with the engineers and product developers, helping to design the applications; with marketing in terms of thought leadership; with sales in education as we evolve our approach to selling. There’s going to be a lot of education. I see a lot of my role being education — especially in the early days. So it’s going to be product development, thought leadership, helping to — especially in the near term — identify the most promising applications and start alpha piloting those at different sites as soon as we have them ready. In many ways, it crosses different functions, which I enjoy. I think it’s a very good fit for me.
Heidi: What do you think healthcare institutions could be doing better in regards to data analytics?
Eleanor: I think that these days there may be too much of an emphasis on assembling massive amounts of data and not enough emphasis on the strategic aspects of analytics — asking the right questions of your data and knowing what you want to get out of it. What may be lacking is the intelligence side of it — the output and the algorithms. Instead of big data, I think it should be smarter data. I feel like bigger is not better. The lab is the perfect example because I’m sure many health systems have lab data in there somewhere, but if they don’t understand what it can do for them, particular types of tests and what they might mean in predicting things, then what’s the point? It’s lost in there with 90 other variables, and it’s all just mushed together. People hear about big data and big data mining, but unless you are very sophisticated in knowing how to do data mining and draw out particular clusters, it’s not going to help you, in terms of analytics, to have huge amounts of data just put together in one warehouse. It can help you in other ways, like in terms of care coordination, but not for intelligent applications. I think that’s one of the things that some health systems may be realizing now.
“Instead of big data, I think it should be smarter data. I feel like bigger is not better.”
Heidi: What do you see as the challenges to adoption of data intelligence tools by health institutions?
Eleanor: One of them is major installation of EHR systems. Any healthcare system that’s in the midst of an Epic or a Cerner major installation, they’re going to be unfortunately hung up on that and that’s going to make it difficult. It doesn’t have to, but sadly I think the IT departments may use that as an excuse to say that they can’t do anything else. If it really truly is a major installation, it can, in fact, be a block to other systems. Senior management could say they don’t want to move in any other directions until they get the EHR installation figured out, which I think is a mistake because these other intelligence applications can, in fact, be quite facile and do not have to involve EHRs. That’s the beauty of going with something like a Viewics lab solution: it doesn’t have to tap into the EHR. But it can be seen as a challenge. I think that there are always issues of data access, systems, and interfacing that come up.
And then the other issue is the cost point. I believe that the opportunity here is to come up with solutions that serve all levels of the market, because Medicare and other payers are going to continue to lower reimbursement rates. Things are going to continue to be painful for healthcare systems and hospitals as the transition from fee-for-service to value-based purchasing continues. And certainly not all levels are going to be able to afford major IT system overhauls. So, there are going to need to be systems that are similar and at a lower price point that can provide predictive analytics and population healthcare management support that don’t involve drawing upon all data sources and cross-EHR integrations. That’s why I think Viewics has a great opportunity to serve smaller healthcare systems. They need solutions, too. And without something like Viewics, those systems are going to find it challenging to pursue because of financial considerations and their own informatics capabilities and resources. It’s going to be challenging for them to obtain the tools they need otherwise.
Heidi: What do you feel is the greatest accomplishment of your career so far?
Eleanor: I think it’s what I did for the College of American Pathologists. I was very proud of that work. I created this report for them called Promising Practice Pathways, which was a major piece of creative work on what are the future models for pathology and labs based on where the healthcare market is going, and defining the value of lab testing. That was such a challenge, and it took some real creative thinking about how to do it, where could I get the source, and how to go about it. There was a lot of independent work I did when I was at G2 that I was very proud of, that I think influenced a lot of people in the industry, and that came from some thought leadership work I was proud of.
Heidi: Having spent the last year working with Michael Porter at Harvard Business School, what about that experience can you bring to the team and to Viewics customers?
Eleanor: Michael Porter has a very advanced framework and approach to how healthcare institutions and systems need to be competing and operating in the new marketplace, and it’s all based on competing on value. He is working with leading institutions around the world, including the Cleveland Clinic, Mayo, MD Anderson, and others. I am now very deeply versed in this. It has links to what we’re doing at Viewics in that the tools we’re going to be providing certainly relate to the outcomes side as well as some of the business processes. The cost denominator Michael Porter talks about relates to it as well, because it relates to business processes and what’s called time-driven, activity-based costing. So, I can certainly bring the direct knowledge and experience there to our clients and, given that we’re moving toward a consultative approach, weave that in where and how it’s relevant. Professor Porter is a real leader in how people are thinking about the major healthcare systems and how they’re reforming. I’m sure our major academic clients would be interested in hearing more about his value-based agenda. And, as I think through how we’re designing our tools, and as we talk about opportunities for how our customers can use our tools, that will all be relevant to put in that context.
We’re very excited to have Dr. Herriman on board. With her wealth of knowledge, she will assist us in becoming more consultative to our customers, and help define our product roadmap. We look forward to a long and fruitful relationship with her as we help our customers navigate the evolving landscape of value-based healthcare.