CIO Spotlight: Novant Health’s Angela Yochem Is Using AI And Drones To Get Surgeons And Medicines To Patients Faster – Forbes

A Novant Health hospital

Novant Health

When she was 11 years old, Angela Yochem’s father taught her to write code and play the saxophone. She took to both, but at college she ended up selecting the sax over software, pursuing an undergraduate degree in music. The choice was easy, recalled Yochem: “No one stood up and clapped when I wrote code.”

The hiatus with software didn’t last long. After graduating, Yochem decided to take coding classes in night school and they started her on a career journey that’s led to her current role at North Carolina-based Novant Health, one of the U.S.’s biggest regional health groups with 37,000 employees and 2020 revenue of $5.7 billion. As chief transformation and digital officer of the nonprofit, which operates 15 hospitals and more than 600 clinics, she’s won applause from colleagues and peers for her willingness to promote experimentation in a heavily regulated industry that’s traditionally been slow to embrace digital change

At a recent Forbes CIO Next event and in a follow-up interview, Yochem talked about several different initiatives she’s championed since joining Novant Health almost four years ago, including the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to speed up the treatment of stroke patients, virtual reality tech to reassure young kids having scans and drones to deliver urgently needed equipment and medicines.

 AI accelerator

In treating strokes, time is of the essence: The sooner an occlusion in the brain can be spotted, the better the chances of a patient’s survival after surgery. Novant Health has been using computer vision algorithms to help its neurosurgical teams analyze brain scans to detect problem areas faster. The cloud-based system that Yochem helped bring in uses what it has picked up by churning through vast amounts of prior scans of stroke patients to predict the outcome of a new patient’s scan before a CT or MRI scanner has completed its work.

Angela Yochem, chief transformation and digital officer, Novant Health

Novant Health

Since Novant Health introduced the tech in 2019, it has helped save hundreds of lives, according to Yochem. In combination with other measures, it has also reduced the health system’s average response time for strokes—which, at 38 minutes, was already impressive—by an additional 10 minutes. In some cases, the technology has even led to people being taken out of scanners and into operating theaters before neurosurgeons have reviewed their scans because the algorithm has predicted the presence of an operable occlusion. (A human specialist still scrutinizes the full scan while patients are being transferred to be sure.)

The system sends neurosurgeons results via a mobile app so they can get to an operating room (OR) faster. “If someone’s having a stroke, every second counts,” said Yochem. “We need to get them out [of a scanner] and get them in the OR.”

What’s striking about this, aside from the impact on patient care, is that it took only four months for Novant Health to implement the service after learning about the algorithms’ existence. That may seem like an eternity to CIOs in some other industries, but by the relatively glacial standards of change in healthcare it’s quite impressive.

Yochem, who was previously the CIO of retailer Rent-A-Center, has brought aspects of the retail industry’s approach to …….


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