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February 6: Today on TownHall Karla Arzola, Chief Information Officer at Rocky Mountain Human Services speaks with Sanjeev Sah, SVP, IT Strategy & Cyber at CommonSpirit Health. Sanjeev shares his humanitarian journey from Nepal to Tanzania. How does the mission of providing healthcare in developing countries translate to his work in IT? How is he leveraging technology not just for operational efficiency, but as a tool to save lives and deliver care? Sanjeev discusses the stark contrasts and similarities in operational technology needs between hospitals in developing versus developed countries, and how these insights can provide an atypical perspective on the future of healthcare technologies, such as AI and data-driven decisions.

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Transcript

 This transcription is provided by artificial intelligence. We believe in technology but understand that even the smartest robots can sometimes get speech recognition wrong.

Today on This Week Health.

Electricity can just go off without notice, and when it goes off, all the computers shut down because the generator is not like ours, where it automatically kicks on.

It takes almost 30 minutes before it even kicks on, and then you will have some duration of electricity. Imagine the entire time you don't have electricity and then you are still operating and taking care of patients.

Welcome to Town Hall, a show hosted by leaders on the front lines with interviews of people making things happen in healthcare with technology. My name is Bill Russell, the creator of This Week Health, a set of channels and events dedicated to keeping health IT staff current and engaged.

We've been making podcasts that amplify great thinking to propel healthcare forward for over five years, and we want to thank our show sponsors. who help to make this happen. Armis First Health Advisors, Meditech, Transcarent, and UPerform. We thank them for investing in our mission to develop the next generation of health leaders.

Now, on to our show.

Welcome to one more episode of This Week Held Town Hall. today I have the pleasure to introduce our guest Sanjeev Saha. Sanjeev is a system vice president for IT strategy and cyber fusion at Common Spirits. So good morning Sanjeev.

How are you

doing today? Good morning, Carla. Thank you for having me.

Of course. No, thank you for sharing the space with us. super excited about our conversation because there's something that you did in the last couple weeks that I found that it was extremely important and it was very, it was a humanitarian cost, right?

but before we start with that, let's start with you telling us about yourself, about your background, your new role and you can talk a little bit about merge with Centura into Common Spirit, but I'm going to let you go through that information

that sounds great.

Thank you again. So yes, my name is Sanjeev Saa. I serve as system vice president for IT strategy and cyber fusion at Common Spirit. This is a new role for me. I previously served as chief information security officer for Centura Health, and now it's a division of Common Spirit Health. Common Spirit is one of.

nation's largest non profit health systems with over 140 hospitals, over 2, 200 care centers in 25 states, and with 150, 000 employees. At Common Spirit, we strive to build more resilient communities, advocate for those who are poor and vulnerable, and innovate how and where. Healing can happen both inside our hospitals and out in our communities.

We are committed to a mission of serving all people, especially those who are vulnerable, while advancing social justice for all. For me personally, even in technology role, I connect very closely with this mission and I have made that my leadership purpose in life to be closely aligned with the mission of the organization.

And

speaking of mission, it kind of falls into our topic of today. You recently came back from a mission trip but you have done this before. And I know this is like you said this aligns with your personal purpose. And I want to hear about it, right? There's a lot of things that we.

In this country, take for granted, and we're talking about AI and we're talking about like all this things we're talking about the future. And you go back to this country and they're just trying to leave and trying to figure it out how to make you know how to take care of their patients and they'll have all the technology that we have.

So, you went to this trip. Tell me about how were you selected? How did this happen? super excited to hear about it.

Yeah, no, that's a great question. And I'd love to share more with you about this particular mission trip. But you know, my personal journey started with a trip to Nepal last year as part of Centura's Global Health Initiative.

The particular trip had to do it supporting the Helping Mothers and Babies Survive program that Centura's Global Health Initiative partnered with hospitals around the world. To assist with, especially in communities and countries where this was and this has been a big challenge.

So I went on that trip last year. I had an amazing experience partnering with the hospital in Nepal and assisting with my expertise assessing their needs and then working to provide and support for those needs, again, in support of the program. The trip to Tanzania came about as part of Common Spirits overall mission.

Since 2004 Common Spirits Mercy Hospital Foundation and Mercy Hospital in Durango, Colorado have supported mission work in Ambulu, Tanzania, through a variety of giving initiatives. Initiatives have included partnerships in terms of providing scholarship to girls. Small business loans for women and support of the Darida Hospital through volunteers and equipment and support for the Darida Nursing School.

So this year our visit and mission billed as a medical mission trip was also Similar in that it was a needs assessment and then while in the country, we assisted with our expertise and anything else we could do to support the activities for this hospital.

I believe you mentioned It was a 200 bed hospital, if I'm not mistaken, And so, but before we get to that, tell me about your journey, right? How do you get there? How long did it take you to get there? How many people were part of this trip? Yeah.

Yeah, so this, you know, you asked about how did I part of this trip. Well, I volunteered to be part of the mission trip.

Again, to lend my support for performing the needs assessment and then determining technology needs. Again, lending my expertise to help address some of the issues while on site and then also assessing both the near term and long term needs to provide care to patients and caring for the communities where we went.

So as far as in the scope was assessing the needs. The trip there wasn't a brief one. It took it took many hours and several flights to get there. But let me just tell you, I was so excited to be part of this trip for me exploring new places. people cultures, and then immersing yourself in the local community.

It's just, a fascinating opportunity. It, in the kind of mission that we went on, that doesn't come very often. And so, I didn't mind the trip. Duration at all it included those flights and then about a five hour drive within Tanzania from the airport getting to the Drarida Hospital.

And so you mentioned you've done this before, you went through a mission trip in Nepal, and you kind of had an idea of what to expect. Was it what you were thinking? Was it different? When you get there, were there any surprises?

Yeah, you know, the exciting part of my observations when I was a first timer going to Tanzania, there were others on the trip that had been there before.

So, we'll probably have slightly different Observations and perspective, but my perspective was that there are lots of similarities just wonderful culture, amazing people, I even found the geography, a bit similar to Nepalese geography, but I'll, I'll tell you, seeing wild animals right next to the road is not something that I was used to.

So that's definitely different. We found our friends and colleagues at the Dareda Hospital just amazing, welcoming. But you know, the realities are in developing countries, you find many of the needs to be very similar, yet I also learned that Solutioning needed to recognize local variations, taking into account local realities.

A simple example would be, let's just say, you needed a medication that wasn't available at the hospital, it turned into placing an order at a pharmacy that's at least three hours drive away, and by the time you order that medicine, get it on a bus that is traveling this way and then you meet the bus along that roadway to go pick up that medicine and bring it to the facility so the patient can have it.

That's 24 hours or more before that's possible. And so just giving you a sense of when we think about similarities and differences, lots of similarities in terms of people and cultures are highlighted, but the needs can be very grave and drastic given that this particular hospital is in a very rural part of the country.

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 Yeah. And again, going back to the things that we take for granted, right? So you have eight days. To be there and to make your assessment, but I'm sure you're, your team is thinking there's so many things that we can do while we're here. What do you, how do you go about the assessment? How do you focus?

Because I mean, there's so many, again, there's so many opportunities. How do you focus your time to make sure that you make the best out of it?

Yeah. So, you know, we're very purposeful about our visit. Even prior to the visit, we interacted with the leaders. And administrators and clinicians at the Derrida Hospital in planning for the visit, because you really want to make the visit as effective as possible when you get there, so that you could kind of perform the kind of tasks that you need to perform to really do the work that we went for.

So it included hospitals needs assessment, right? Looking at male, female, pediatric, maternity wards, or IT needs across the whole facility. And these are many small buildings interconnected with walkways nothing that you may imagine in our part of the world, very large.

Basic in terms of its construct. So then we took time to, the clinicians on the group took time to do leader rounding in all units, understanding nursing and physician practices and processes and education needs. Those of us with technology background, we partnered with our IT colleagues and went building by building, unit by unit, department by department, understanding.

The needs what we found was that, when we think about technology needs. It can be like you said earlier about AI this and AI that well, we found the needs to be very basic very foundational. I'll give you an example of it. Electricity can just go off without notice, and when it goes off, all the computers shut down because the generator is not like ours, where it automatically kicks on.

It takes almost 30 minutes before it even kicks on, and then you will have some duration of electricity. Imagine the entire time you don't have electricity and then you are still operating and taking care of patients. Similarly, we found the internet connection is just not reliable at all and it can be expensive.

So while the computers are connected locally at the facility, they're not connected to the outside world. So you don't actually have persistent internet connection with any bandwidth. And so being able to work on the internet is a luxury. So anyways, I wanted to highlight a couple of those opportunities for you, but we're very methodical in terms of conducting the assessment, highlighting what the priorities were, and then looking to assist while we were still there.

And so for example, to address the need, between the electricity going out and power not being there for the computers, we acquired small UPS batteries that could save enough power so that computers could remain operating for the time being so that patients could still receive care documentation and so on.

And we've, we solved for that while we're still there.

And so that's a big challenge and you, and I believe you also mentioned that at some point you guys were able to get some equipment and do some training. And again, such a short period of time and you were able to solve a problem, but that entails potentially changing some of their practices, right?

And for them to learn how to do new things. And one of my questions to you is, how, receptive and adaptable were they? Because in our world, it takes sometimes months. or years to implement something, right? People are like, well, we're going to change our process and could do forever, but there is like, we're here, we have to act upon it.

We have to do something about it. And people have to be receptive of that knowledge. So what was your experience in that matter?

Yeah. Just the most fascinating observation I had was that every person was humble, eager. to partner and learn. In fact I should highlight this, people doctors, nurses, clinicians, administrators, those are really titles that we're used to in our part of the world.

For Dareda Hospital, it's as simple as just wanting to take care of patients that have, emergent needs. and need care and they have traveled miles either on foot or by vehicle climbing down the mountains to come see and get some care. Every person who works there is fully dedicated to why they are there.

their heart and mission are tied in close proximity. And so what we found was that when we brought a set of tablets understanding through our dialogue prior to going there that could be helpful. We found nurses and physicians wanting to learn how to use it. And I'm not exaggerating at all.

Within an hour, learned how to access EMR on the tablet, how to document using the tablet, how to look up images, and then actually interact with patients with those tablets. So, while it's a tablet and it might sound like, do we really have to have tablets? Just imagine what it does from a care experience, appropriate and accurate documentation perspective, and availability of that information for other parts of the processes for the facility.

So there were doctors and nurses that are just hungry to learn and use technology, which is sometimes not affordable, or I should say many times not affordable, not available from the resources that you have available. And we only found people wanting to learn and just grab as much as possible in terms of knowledge.

So our physicians and nurses that were part of The visit held training and held learning exercises and you know, left with a lot of good insights and knowledge that would benefit patients in the short run. And then the partnership continues even when we're not at the location. And what we've learned about each other relationships that we've developed gives us an opportunity to engage a bit more closely, even though we're remote.

What a humbling experience. And I can imagine for you sort of like a reminder of what we're here to do, right? We're all here to do, take care of our patients and our communities. And I cannot imagine how that changed, right? Your could change your perspective, because, we come back, we forget, and then we see those situations.

And that's when we realize that we're extremely Absolutely. Absolutely. fortunate to be able to have the things that we have. And so from your perspective, after your experience, why will you tell the leaders in our country, the healthcare leaders in our country, what will be your message?

Yeah, that's a wonderful question.

I would just love to share this with you. Ultimately, as healthcare leaders, We have this amazing opportunity. We're all mission oriented. We all strive to have a defined leadership purpose. And when that purpose is aligned with the mission of our organization, both locally, or globally it provides us with these fascinating opportunities to fulfill in our individual as well as our organizational purpose.

The message that I would have for my friends and colleagues in the healthcare industry for sure would be that this could mean, applying and lending one's expertise in the communities that we have an opportunity to engage with by helping. For example, expand access to care in our own communities, making care equitable helping advance care outcomes and experience for every patient.

And as technology leaders, we can leverage technology and innovation to simplify workflows create operational efficiency and really help reduce overall cost of health care. So to me, it's the connection with the purpose and the mission that then gives opportunities to be able to do that in our own communities.

And then when we can get to do that across the world it just makes everything even more worthwhile. So that would be my message to my friends and colleagues in the industry.

Thank you for that. we are extremely lucky to have you as part of our community. And we, I'm looking forward and we are looking forward to, to hear more of what you have to offer.

I know that you have a ton of ideas now in your new role. Congratulations, by the way, I'm super excited to hear what's coming. We know what's next for you and thank you so much for your time. We really appreciate the story and sharing all this experience with us. It's again, it's eye opening and we, and it's something that we all need to hear.

Because again, it brings us back to what we need to be focusing on, right, which is serving our community and serving our patients. And, just whatever resources we have, just apply those. And it doesn't have to be technology. It could be simple stuff.

Well, thank you. Thank you so much for having me.

It's great to, have this conversation with you. I appreciate you giving me the opportunity to share this aspect of my experience and look forward to working with you in doing what we can for our communities right here at home.

Absolutely. Thank you. My pleasure, by the way. Thank

you so much. Take care.

I love this show. I love hearing what workers and leaders on the front lines are doing.

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