“Like all emerging technologies, it is critical that we define the use cases that Blockchain can address — it’s best to start small and expand from there. In a business setting, we are not using crypto currency since the asset being exchanged is information. Organizations must be comfortable going beyond their company boundaries to collaborate and share information. We must proactively design security and privacy into the Blockchain. Lastly, we must be patient, as it takes time to prove the case and drive adoption. At the same time, I believe that if you think you are in control, you are moving too slow. We must continue with a sense of urgency to leverage technology to improve healthcare for the future.”
I had the pleasure of interviewing Lidia L. Fonseca, Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer, Quest Diagnostics. Lidia has been instrumental in developing the Quest Quanum brand of healthcare IT and data analytics offerings and the MyQuest patient app with 5.7 million subscribers. She leads Quest’s bioinformatics, focused on leveraging data for advanced diagnostic services, and efforts to digitally enable and standardize operations to better serve customers. Lidia received the 2017 Forbes CIO Innovation Award and was instrumental to the formation of the Synaptic Health Alliance, which is an alliance of leading healthcare companies (Humana, MultiPlan, Optum, Quest Diagnostics and UnitedHealthcare) focused on using blockchain to improve healthcare data sharing. She is also a member of the Board of Directors of Tegna, Inc. (NYSE: TGNA), and Q2 Solutions, a Quintiles and Quest Diagnostics joint venture.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
I grew up in Mexico and moved to the U.S. when I was 10 years old. I learned to speak English by watching soap operas, the news and CHiPs. I lived in the inner city of Los Angeles, which helped me to appreciate people from all walks of life. I was fortunate enough to have a great English Literature teacher in junior high school that encouraged me to apply to a magnet high school in the San Fernando Valley. While my new school was a 90 minute bus ride twice a day, it was certainly worth the strong education that prepared me for Berkeley, where I earned my undergraduate degree. After graduating from college, I went to work in the entertainment industry to gain work experience and save for law school. While at Sony, my boss asked me to “work with the IT guys” to solve a major challenge. This turned out to be a turning point, as I realized that I like solving problems. This is when I developed the belief that information is the oil of the 21st century. I decided to go to business school in the Netherlands, which, at the time, was the only program that offered an MBA and a Master in Business Informatics. After graduating, I joined Philips Healthcare to lead a global marketing and services team to launch a portfolio of services. That was my introduction to Healthcare in 1997 and I am still here…
Can you tell me about the most interesting projects you are working on now?
Besides the Synaptic Health Alliance, we are working on Quest’s next gen Consumer portal, which brings exciting offerings like direct to consumer testing, a family circle to help consumers manage the healthcare of their loved ones, a clinical trials navigator and revamped patient-friendly reports. We are currently rolling out our Quanum for Healthcare Professionals (HCPs) web site which gives providers a whole new experience, and offers additional digital services including online supply ordering and specimen pick up, lab order tracking and cool alert and messaging services. We have a couple of projects that leverage artificial intelligence like digital pathology, bioinformatics and chat bots for self-service and convenience. We continue to enhance our Blueprint for Athletes digital platform available to professional and college sports teams, as well as “weekend warriors.” We recently added a self-collection kit and reports that help athletes achieve peak performance. Lastly, we continue to build Quest’s analytics offerings to help Providers, Health Systems and Payers manage population health, analyze and act on clinical, reimbursement and operational insights. Never a dull moment.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I have been fortunate to count on a number of mentors who have taken me under their wing over the years. My husband has been a rock of support and encouragement over the past 23 years. Additionally, my mom has been an inspiration in my life. She had a tough life, losing her father when she was nine and married off at 13. She set an example of working hard, representing the classic story of immigrating to the U.S. for a better life. She sacrificed a lot of her time and worked multiple jobs to ensure that me and my siblings could get a solid education and have better options for the future. She is a spiritual person who never felt sorry for herself and worked to rise above her circumstances. While she only received an elementary school education, she was an avid reader, interested in what was happening in our local community and around the world. She encouraged us to have opinions, pursue our interests and be active in the community.
More recently, my current boss is a great source of inspiration and support — I recall a conversation we had about two years ago where he said, “I cannot imagine what your experience has been, as a woman and a Latina in technology. You have made it. You do not need to prove yourself.” Those powerful words helped me to relax into, and appreciate, the work I love even more.
And lastly, my twin sons have fueled my motivation to do my best and be someone that they can rely on under any circumstance.
What are the 5 things that most excite you about blockchain and crypto? Why?
The healthcare industry has been grappling with interoperability, completeness/accuracy of data and price/service transparency for as long as I can remember. At the same time, the industry is shifting from treating the sick to keeping people well. Technology, population health through informatics and digital services can help address these challenges. Blockchain is a promising enabler to improve the quality and completeness of data, enable interoperability and create a single source of truth that is accessible by all participants. I do believe that we can create a national critical infrastructure to speed up transactions and reduce friction.
What are the 5 things worry you about blockchain and crypto? Why?
Like all emerging technologies, it is critical that we define the use cases that Blockchain can address — it’s best to start small and expand from there. In a business setting, we are not using crypto currency since the asset being exchanged is information. Organizations must be comfortable going beyond their company boundaries to collaborate and share information. We must proactively design security and privacy into the Blockchain. Lastly, we must be patient, as it takes time to prove the case and drive adoption. At the same time, I believe that if you think you are in control, you are moving too slow. We must continue with a sense of urgency to leverage technology to improve healthcare for the future.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share a story?
Our family supports various community and charity events and organizations. One program that has been particularly significant to me is a mentoring program in inner city of LA at a park where I used to play. I recruited fellow college graduates to tutor local students in subjects like math, English, and science, as well as help high school students with college entrance requirements, tests and applications. It’s amazing how fulfilling it is to support a young person, standing where you stood many years ago, in their educational journey to improve their life.
What 3 things would you advise to someone who wanted to emulate your career? Can you share an example for each idea?
First, go to graduate school and take internships that will give you an opportunity to experience a company, a field or function in depth. This will help you hone in on what inspires you and ensure that you end up doing something you love. Second, take risks, especially early in your career. With failure and learnings, you will come out stronger. I always felt that each company I joined, I became a better executive with fewer mistakes that are less serious. Third, let others get to know you. This one took me a long time to grasp. People want to connect with you. When you are open, you get so much back personally and it creates an inspiring work place.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this 🙂
LeBron James is one of the most inspiring people to me. Can you imagine being drafted right out of high school into the pro basketball stage? Over the years, we have witnessed this young kid mature before our eyes. He was able to rise above his surroundings and succeed through hard work and discipline. He is a great leader and team player, knowing when to assist and when to go to the hoop himself. He has never forgotten where he came from, sponsoring programs that keep kids in school and being a beacon to his community in Akron, Ohio. He is an inspiration.
Originally published at medium.com