Feb 07 2020
Patient-Centered Care

Healthcare Leaders Need to Be Tech 'Evangelists,' Says Dr. Cheryl Pegus

More chief medical officers are taking the pulse of technology needs and deployment.

From ensuring quality care and educating providers to managing organizational culture, chief medical officers have no shortage of responsibilities.

But as electronic health records, value-based reimbursement, changing consumer preferences, data-driven wearables and artificial intelligence grow in scope and necessity, CMOs find many new challenges on their plate. That, in turn, is broadening the role, requiring leaders to be tech-savvy, financially focused and highly collaborative with vendors and business teams.

HealthTech recently spoke to Dr. Cheryl Pegus about the balance. Pegus, president of consumer health solutions and CMO at Cambia Health Solutions in Portland, Ore., is also a cardiologist. 

HEALTHTECH: What is the CMO’s role in addressing technological changes in the industry?

PEGUS: CMOs must be evangelists in order to have physicians begin to utilize these technologies and trust them. They play an important role by making sure that they themselves understand the technology and are able to articulate what the clinical value proposition will be; however, on any given day, we all must recognize that today when a patient is sick, they want to see a physician, not a technology solution.

HEALTHTECH: How do you collaborate with different stakeholders to shape purchases and policies?

PEGUS: We have a solutions enterprise strategy shaped by our chief artificial intelligence officer and our CIO. We also have someone who leads our technology solutions, our CIO, an operations area and our actuarial, strategic finance and data analytics groups. We sit together as a team to explore how we strategically bring solutions to the fore, with the consumer at the center.

The actuarial finance lead will look at the overall cost implications as we look at the business case value for our physicians and health plan members. The AI lead might say that there are algorithms we can use for this particular solution. Those conversations happen every week.

READ MORE: Find out how healthcare organizations use AI to boost and simplify security.

HEALTHTECH: How do you meet the demands of a tech-savvy patient population?

PEGUS: I read journals and health IT materials. I also attend several conferences. We have a private equity business within Cambia called Echo Health Ventures, and we’ve invested in companies that are bringing in innovative solutions. Evaluating these companies and solutions by ensuring that there’s a value proposition for our health plan members is probably 20 to 25 percent of my job.

Dr. Cheryl Pegus


HEALTHTECH: Can you discuss a technology implementation you helped oversee to shape care delivery?

PEGUS: In August, we released a new technology platform solution called Patient Priority Manager. It draws from different data sources — pharmacy, claims data, lab data — and runs through an AI algorithm to identify high-risk patients. It then delivers real-time, simplified, actionable information to care managers, pharmacists and social workers so they provide personalized information to health plan members.

HEALTHTECH: What changes will most affect healthcare technology in the years ahead?

PEGUS: Simply the amount of data. In the old days, health insurance companies would have information about labs and which physicians you’re seeing. Now, consumers have access to that data and want to see it incorporated with the data from their Apple Watches or Fitbits. The quantity and quality of data require a different lens, and you truly need AI tools and algorithms to make it useful, personalized and actionable. 

Illustrations by Harry Campbell/Theispot

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