Digital Transformation Expert Series: Scott Snyder, CTO, Safeguard Scientifics

Enterprise Mobility Exchange contributor and Editorial Advisory Board member Gene Signorini sits down with Scott Snyder, CTO of Safeguard Scientifics, to discuss the state of digital disruption

In the Enterprise Mobility Exchange’s Digital Transformation Expert Practitioner interview series, we spend a few minutes talking with individuals who are hands-on in exploring opportunities and dealing with challenges imposed by emerging digital technologies. We recently spoke with Scott Snyder, PhD, who serves as Chief Technology & Innovation Officer of Safeguard Scientifics about digital transformation in the healthcare industry. Scott is focused on shaping Safeguard’s future technology vision, expanding its innovation ecosystem, and helping Safeguard’s partner companies fully leverage the new wave of emerging technologies. Prior to his current role, Scott was President and Chief Strategy Officer at Mobiquity Inc., a leader in delivering innovative mobile and digital solutions for enterprises.

Eugene Signorini: In your current role as CTO at Safeguard, you spend a lot of time identifying and working with startups in the digital health market. In your previous role at Mobiquity, you worked with clients in healthcare and life sciences trying to take advantage of digital technologies. Given these two perspectives, what do you think has prevented digital healthcare from reaching critical mass?
Scott Snyder: I think it really boils down to three things: first, a lack of integration with the way care is delivered today, such as ignoring the clinicians and how they do most of their work in the EMR; secondly, lack of outcomes measurement to show that the solutions are actually having an impact on patients and cost of care; and finally, lack of reimbursement from payers as consumers alone cannot fund these solutions at scale.

ES: Despite some of these challenges, what digital health technologies are finally beginning to gain traction currently?
SS: We are seeing solutions that leverage sensors and the Internet of Things plus analytics to reduce the effort on behalf of patients and clinicians to collect and analyze data -  like Propeller Health - and coaching apps that drive real outcomes - like Welldoc or Omada.  We are also seeing progress in precision medicine where there is a critical mass of data to apply machine learning, such as Syapse for cancer care.

ES: In your role, you work with both digital health startups in your portfolio, and also scan the market for the next wave of digital health technologies. If you look 3 to 5 years out, what emerging technologies will impact healthcare organizations?
SS: Definitely sensorization and IoT where data collection can be integrated into wearables or even clothing to collect clinical grade biometrics. Another area is Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning to supplement clinical decision making and risk assessment. And also digital engagement to shape positive patient behavior – roughly 40% of premature death is due to lifestyle choices.

ES: As you mentioned, data will play a critical role in healthcare, as it will in many different industries, at least according to the hype. What do you see as the hype versus reality of artificial intelligence and machine learning as it relates to healthcare? 
SS: As we have seen with MD Anderson shutting down their Watson program for Cancer Care, AI is not a silver bullet and needs large training sets of data along with thoughtful integration into the current decision flow and user set to be successful.  Suggestions versus Mandates will also be a key approach to drive adoption vs rejection.

ES: While we've talked exclusively about technology, the reality is that healthcare is inherently about people - doctors, patients, caregivers. How do organizations strike the right balance between digital experiences and the personal/human touch?
SS: This is critical and most of the digital health solutions that actually gain traction are well integrated with human-based solutions.  For instance, elderly patients may still need a clinician to call them, but maybe they can start reporting some of their progress and vital signs via Alexa. 

ES: Finally Scott, we know that many companies, whether due to funding, culture or organizational structure, aren't adept at identifying and implementing new technology.  Specifically, how can healthcare organizations structure or adapt themselves to capitalize on emerging digital technologies?
SS: They can certainly scan the horizon and partner with venture capital firms to share the risk of investing in and piloting early stage solutions.  But they can also create more of an API-based testbed for start-ups and innovators to plug into and test out their solutions quickly with a large enterprise. 

ES: Thanks for your insights Scott. Healthcare is certainly an exciting opportunity for digital solutions.
SS: I agree Gene, and thanks for the opportunity to discuss it with you and your audience.

For more on where digital transformation in healthcare is headed, find out about the Enterprise Mobility Exchange: Healthcare event taking place June 12 and 13 in San Antonio, Texas, by visiting the website here. The Exchange will bring together dozens of senior-level IT executives to network, benchmark, and share information across the healthcare industry in an intimate, closed-door setting.