Credit: Barbara Casey
For my leadership series, I had the amazing opportunity to sit down and interview: Barbara Casey, Chief Executive Officer for Nectar Strategic Consulting
Barbara Casey is an accomplished strategist and business advisor with over three decades of diversified health care, managed care, insurance, and management consulting experience.
Just prior to founding Nectar in 2020 right as the pandemic began, Barbara was the Global Healthcare Leader at Cisco, where she was instrumental in shaping the company’s worldwide healthcare strategy. At Nectar, her organization’s aim is to help health systems across the country use technology to transform the way consumers, patients, and their families access and experience healthcare, improve the ease of practice for clinicians and care givers, and to drive operational efficiencies and effectiveness in the process.
Nectar is part of the Pixel Health portfolio of companies, a growing healthcare technology ecosystem dedicated to developing and implementing the processes and technologies that make the delivery of healthcare better for patients and providers alike.
Barbara, thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
As long as I can remember, I’ve always been fascinated by what causes people to respond a certain way or make certain choices in particular situations. That’s why I wanted to study Psychology in undergraduate school. But I knew even then that I didn’t want to go into clinical psychology or behavioral science — I wanted to focus more on business and more specifically, the human side of making things work.
I am fascinated with the big picture and I like to serve as a translator who “connects the dots” across an organization. This mindset allows me to leverage my subject matter expertise about healthcare operations, strategy, technology, marketing, and finance, and then begin to address the specific workflow and process issues that may be getting in the way of seamless user experiences and service success.
What are your “3 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?
Here are three very important lessons I wish I knew years ago.
1) Always be prepared to speak. When I started out in management consulting, I was at the most junior level and my job was somewhat predictable, or so I thought. For several months, I did market research, prepared spreadsheets, attended meetings, etc. Until one day, I sat in on a board meeting with a large health system and my partner asked me to provide a summary of the day’s meetings with the Health Plan we were meeting with. Long story short, I wasn’t prepared, and I felt terrible about it. So, the lesson I learned very quickly: if you’re in the meeting, you’d better be prepared to say something and have a point of view.
2) As a leader, you’re not the “boss” of your team where they are working for you, but rather you’re a servant to your team, working for them. And, it’s actually a symbiotic relationship where if I work hard for them, they will work hard for me. And I don’t believe I can be successful until they are.
3) Don’t let anyone define or limit who you are or what you can do or be. You are the only person who can do that and even then (without others doing it for you) it’s challenging enough to take your own blinders off. Be limitless with yourself.
What do you think makes your company stand out?
At Nectar, I think it’s our ability to understand all the pieces and parts that contribute to make the experiences of access and care delivery better (people, process, technology). But even more importantly, we are able to help operationalize and execute these changes to achieve the outcomes the organization is looking for.
Our consultants are not just healthcare organizational experts. They’re doctors and nurses who’ve spent decades on the front lines. They understand the burdensome requirements of an electronic medical records system that forces them to stare at a computer screen instead of into the eyes of their patients. They know how frustrating it is to spend precious minutes logging into five different computers when they’re just trying to complete their hospital rounds. And they’ve questioned why all of this great technology still can’t get them home in time for dinner or to tuck their kids into bed at night.
So, we look at the reasons why and then go about helping hospitals to change and transform the way they communicate with their patients and improve the lives of their clinical staff by letting technology work for them, and not the other way around.
The Pixel Health family of companies’ capabilities also represent a unique aspect of our business. Most consulting firms specialize in either strategic planning or execution, but rarely both. We’ve brought together a handful of consultancies with varied strategy, human-centered design, clinical, regulatory, financial, operational, and services professionals in addition to possessing deep technological expertise. And we’re structured so every client has access to that expertise at no additional expense.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Right now, we’re working with clients to assess their digital health capabilities across the continuum of care. This helps them to get that high level assessment of how successfully they’re able to be digitally connected to their consumers, patients and their families — at a time (during and post pandemic) when it’s a necessity, not just a “nice to have.” This assessment is cross-functional and multi-disciplinary as no one function owns a consumer’s or patient’s digital health journey. It’s really a combination of inputs and visioning among Marketing, Strategy, IT, Clinical, Operations/Administrative, and Finance leaders. The approach is a very human-centered design one and seeks to compare experiences consumers, patients, and their families may have with a health system to those digital experiences they are having in the marketplace with other industries. Anything less won’t work well.
On the deeper technical side, working closely with our sister-company VertitechIT, together we’ve taken an industry-standard technology assessment tool – the Infrastructure Adoption Model (INFRAM), facilitated by HIMSS Analytics (a leading independent technology organization in healthcare), and we’ve developed a proprietary methodology for tying the results to clinical outcomes. We call it INFRAM+ and it helps healthcare organizations to understand what levels of infrastructure they need in order to achieve higher-order business or clinical capabilities. Unless the right level of networking, security, or data center solution and architecture is in place, the clinical and business applications or solutions will not perform as intended. Therefore, our INFRAM+ assessment helps to create that linkage between infrastructure and clinical/business operations performance and to raise awareness and alignment of an organization’s respective leaders that you cannot have one without the other.
Where do you see the future of healthcare post COVID? What are some healthcare trends moving forward?
COVID-19 was a huge wakeup call because healthcare organizations realized their own digital house was not in order, so to speak. So, they were caught unprepared for the digital needs that consumers and patients now have from their healthcare system. These healthcare systems are now beginning to drill down and revisit how to become more digitally relevant to the populations they serve.
They’re also learning that one digital tool for one population will not serve all. We all need to have a goal of meeting patients where they are and want to be to access and receive care. They need different ways to interact with consumers, patients, and their families at their convenience in their homes and businesses — not just in their hospital campus or doctor’s office. The most successful organizations out there will also be refining their segmentation models to identify even more specific population groups or cohorts. They will seek to understand these groups or individuals in a deeper way to drive true personalization, and will involve creating more unique and individualized solutions to target specific needs. Personalization and getting more granular is going to be critical.
What do you want the readers to know?
Patients and clinicians shouldn’t be bound by technology. They should be freed by it. We see Nectar and the rest of our Pixel Health family playing a pivotal role in helping health systems to envision bold digital health strategies, to select and apply the proper technologies, and to integrate them into the fabric of the healthcare delivery process to the benefit of all involved users and stakeholders.
If this pandemic has taught us anything it’s that we can’t wait for digital transformation to evolve. There will be another Covid-19, and another “something else” after that. The time to implement the technology, workflows, and processes to help us navigate the challenges these healthcare crises create is now.