By Olivia R. Weidner, DHIT Global Intern | December 10, 2020
On Friday, December 4th, 2020, the Digital Health Institute for Transformation (DHIT) hosted the fourth and final installment of Season 3 of the DHIT Frequency: “Cross-Border Synergy.” This season, DHIT is proud to be partnering with the Government of Québec and the Hospital Center of University of Montreal (CHUM) in producing this webinar series. This collaboration will bring a broader, cross-border scope to the meaningful conversations surrounding digital health technologies.
Season 3’s lineup included four episodes, which occurred biweekly. As COVID-19 continues to influence every aspect of our world, this virtual series sought to maintain and strengthen connections across the global digital health community. From October 9th to December 4th, the DHIT Frequency hosted executives and thought leaders from across healthcare, life sciences, social sciences, technology, and innovation to discuss the advances, opportunities, challenges, and barriers to digital health across the United States and Canada.
Each segment was co-hosted by DHIT’s President, Michael Levy, and Kathy Malas, Associate CEO of Innovation and AI at the Hospital Center of University of Montreal (CHUM). The series spotlights distinguished guests from across the ecosystem to discuss the state of digital health. Last week’s featured speaker was:
- Dr. Patrick Quinlan, CEO and Co-Founder of Hippo Technologies, CEO Emeritus of Ochsner Health System
Season 3 of the DHIT Frequency series spotlighted different domains of healthcare delivery in the digital age, including mental health, pediatrics, and aging in place. The fourth and final episode of Season 3 covered the topic of consumer-focused care. Friday’s episode featured one distinguished speaker: Dr. Patrick Quinlan. Dr. Quinlan is the CEO and Co-Founder of Hippo Technologies, although he’s held a number of different roles throughout his career. Quinlan served as CEO Emeritus of Oschner Health System for over fifteen years, and has been recognized by Healthcare Magazine as one of the most powerful physician executives in the United States. Quinlan helped Oschner navigate the fallout of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and he used this experience to provide the audience with meaningful insights about how we approach the current COVID-19 crisis.
In the United States and Canada, cases of COVID-19 are on the rise. With an increase in gatherings over the recent holiday, this trend may continue to worsen. Co-host Michael Levy points out that over fifty million Americans passed through TSA checkpoints over Thanksgiving weekend, and it can take at least two weeks to see the net effect of this behavior. As Canada responds to the surge in cases, the Government of Quebec effectively “cancelled” Christmas gatherings as a preventative measure. Moving forward, both countries seek to contain the spread and manage the ongoing crisis that is the pandemic.
Dr. Quinlan has experience responding to a disaster of similar magnitude. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Quinlan helped Ochsner and his larger community recover. According to Quinlan, the success of Ochshner’s response was not random; it was calculated and built on a sense of trust established over time. Quinlan tells the audience:
“Our response was not an accident. It was the product of design and great people being assisted to do what they do best. If we want to think about how we can best respond to disaster in general, which by definition is unexpected, we need to be prepared to work and act together. This requires an organization built on trust, practice, and performance.”
The response of the Ochsner team was assisted by the aid of community members. Quinlan tells viewers that the highlight of his career was witnessing the heroism, selflessness, and patience of those around him. According to Quinlan, this was the rule, not the exception: there were “countless” people helping from the outside, saving people in their boats and asking for nothing in return. Meanwhile, within Oschner, many of the patients were far more concerned for the well-being of the staff than they were for themselves.
The fallout of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the pandemic of today are obviously very different situations; as Malas points out, the fear of contamination and infection seen with COVID-19 is something that simply isn’t present with natural disasters. However, a more profound difference exists in the public response. Levy tells viewers:
“The one thing I see as majorly different between the response to Katrina and the response to COVID is the sense of the community rallying around the disaster. It seems like we’ve got this polarized view of the disaster today.”
In the United States, people are divided about what the response to COVID-19 should be. Compared with the response to Katrina, there is less of a unified effort on behalf of citizens to protect those in their community. The issue of masks continues to be hotly debated, despite scientific evidence to suggest their benefit. Regardless of the public response, Malas sees hope in the response of scientists and clinicians:
“In the first wave, the disease was unknown, even scientifically. The protocols were non-existent; we had to create everything. In the sense of coming together as a community, we saw academic and scientific centers coming together to address the unknown.”
The harsh reality of the COVID-19 situation is that there is so much that we don’t know. As Malas points out, the protocols had to be created from scratch. Still, Malas sees a silver lining in the way COVID-19 and other crises can lay a better path forward for the future. Malas tells the audience, “Crises and disasters help organizations maintain their resilience, adaptiveness, and agility. You develop coping mechanisms when you face disasters as an organization.” As the world moves beyond the current pandemic, it is our hope that the frameworks and procedures developed and implemented today will make things a bit easier at the dawn of the next public health crisis.
After over fifteen years with Ochsner Health System, Dr. Quinlan decided to pursue a different venture, and co-founded Hippo Technologies. At Hippo, Quinlan and his team are focused on delivering “true patient-centered care” which requires “identifying what patients want, how and when they want it, and how we can give it to them.” Within Hippo is the HIVE (the Health Institute for Virtual Education), which strives to take technology to where it’s needed and facilitate collaboration through group-sourcing solutions. Quinlan provides viewers with an overview of Hippo and the HIVE’s mission:
“The problem we’re trying to solve is the disease burden: how many people are sick, with how many diseases, and at what severity. The three determinants of the disease load are genetics, environment, and lifestyle. Of these three, lifestyle is the most amenable to change.”