How the Mayo Clinic applies empathy to digital transformation

Medicine doctor and stethoscope in hand touching icon medical network connection. Image source: Adobe Stock/ipopba.

The healthcare industry has always faced challenges when it comes to technology implementation — from regulations to privacy concerns. Healthcare technology such as recordkeeping systems, billing applications, and patient self-service tools are in need of a transformation.

The underutilization of AI in healthcare is yet another example of how this critical industry is lacking technologically, as just 5 percent of healthcare organizations are currently using artificial intelligence tools, according to Johns Hopkins University.

However, the future of healthcare technology is bright thanks to agents of change like Sam Usem, senior enterprise architect of the Mayo Clinic. As a leader within the Mayo Clinic’s IT department, Usem serves as an advisor who guides the prestigious organization’s technology investment and deployment strategies.

Image of Sam Usem.

Over the years, Usem has held many titles, including marketing manager, marketing automation supervisor, and senior manager of digital analytics strategy, for major brands like 3M, U.S. Bank, and McDonald’s. He is also an Adobe experience expert who understands the importance of personalizing the customer journey — from appointment reminders to targeted treatment messaging for every consumer’s health needs.

During a recent conversation with Adobe, Usem shared his thoughts on the future of technology in healthcare and revealed how the Mayo Clinic is laying the foundation for patient-first journeys through the strategic use of applications.

What is your role, and what part in particular is most exciting to you?

I hold the position of senior enterprise architect within the IT department. My role revolves around supporting the Center for Digital Health as a primary technology advisor, operating from the office of the CTO. While my previous experience has primarily been in sales, marketing, and digital strategy/operations, this is my first official foray into the IT field.

Unlike my previous roles, where my influence stopped short of impacting the underlying technology infrastructure, my position within IT has provided me with a valuable opportunity to deepen my understanding of the engineering involved in our technology stack. I am then able to relay this knowledge to our digital and marketing partners in a manner that resonates with their functional areas.

At the same time, I communicate the needs of other departments to IT in the hopes of creating a collaborative environment with unified goals. As a result, this position has allowed me to bridge the gap between different teams, ensuring that everyone works cohesively.

What first pulled you toward a role in healthcare?

I thrive in areas and practices that demand you to harness your problem-solving skills across teams in order to achieve positive outcomes. Healthcare provides endless opportunities to accomplish this, and Mayo Clinic’s interdisciplinary focus when providing care makes this field — and this organization specifically — a place that I feel I can thrive in.

Is there an emerging trend/technology within healthcare that excites you most? What do you think its impact will be?

Increased adoption of at-home remote diagnostics by care providers, combined with the increasing availability of high-speed internet investments across the country, is driving towards two amazing possibilities.

The first is that patients in rural areas will be able to access care and monitor their health at a level of speed that only patients in areas with high-speed internet have been able to leverage for years. At the individual level, this will transform people’s health in real time.

The second is that wearable tech like Apple Watch as well as prescribed remote diagnostic tools are accelerating the collection of healthcare data at a pace that we’ve never seen before. Our ability to collect and manage this data at scale will enhance healthcare marketing and empower advances in our understanding of medical data.

At Mayo Clinic, I get a chance to be involved with teams at the forefront of this transformation, leading the way with the Mayo Clinic Platform and partnerships like we have with Google Cloud to leverage generative AI in search to obtain faster and clearer answers for those seeking health information.

“We need to approach our digital products with a sense of empathy, making sure that we also guide and ultimately teach our users how the tech is being leveraged and how they can influence and ultimately tailor it to deliver a better experience for them.”

Sam Usem, Senior Enterprise Architect, Mayo Clinic

What surprised you most upon joining your current organization?

The way that the mission of the clinic is ingrained into every action that we take. This quote by Dr. Will Mayo sums it up very well: “The best interest of the patient is the only interest to be considered.” Rarely does a week go by where I don’t hear at least one coworker mention this quote to help bring the focus back to serving the human at the core of the digital experience we are building.

Other companies that I’ve been at strive to have their “why” ingrained into their employees, but eventually, KPIs get overweighted toward shareholder returns. Our clinical practice does not just hold this belief and focus — every single one of us on the Mayo Clinic team feels that we play a vital role in delivering an experience to our consumers that is focused on them and their personal outcomes.

Is there anything specific that you’re bringing from your out-of-industry experience to transform how your organization engages with customers?

While at U.S. Bank, I was part of a group that was delivering our next best action (NBA) program through personalization and optimization tools. As the industry accelerated towards a customer-centric focus and customer data platforms (CDPs) were being increasingly adopted to drive relevant omnichannel communications, it demanded that our data tech stack be built around an event-driven architecture.

This was true when I led marketing technology strategy and operations at Sezzle, as well as rolling out a new digital experience platform (DXP) at McDonald’s.

Utilizing and continuing to build out a technology roadmap that leverages an event-driven architecture that enables cohesive omnichannel experiences has been crucial to the acceleration of our work in the area of digital healthcare delivery.

Read “Consumers Say Yes to Data-driven Health and Wellness Support” to learn more about the impacts of personalized healthcare.

What do you think will be an unforeseen challenge to delivery on your mission and objectives?

I think that many of us in the digital experience field assume that all human users of the technologies we build have a sound understanding of what drives those experiences. We cannot assume that everyone has a smartphone or smart device at home and knows the difference between being on a telehealth video call via a web browser-based experience or within a native application.

We need to approach our digital products with a sense of empathy, making sure that we also guide and ultimately teach our users how the tech is being leveraged and how they can influence and ultimately tailor it to deliver a better experience for them.

How Adobe can help

Modern technology like artificial intelligence is quickly becoming ubiquitous in every major industry, including healthcare. Not only does this technology improve consumer care experiences, but it can also be used to reach a hyper-targeted audience with personalized content.

Adobe Sensei taps into the power of generative AI and creates robust, engaging content that mobilizes audiences to take action. When combined with other Adobe marketing solutions, Sensei improves the quality of content and forges deeper connections with audiences.

Find out how Adobe Experience Cloud for Healthcare is leading the way for companies to create, manage, and orchestrate more personalized customer experiences. And to learn more about how innovators, including Usem, are using their marketing backgrounds to transform the healthcare industry, read the eBook Five Healthcare Changemakers on the Future of Healthcare Marketing.