This is the first in a new series of Q&A articles where we interview healthcare industry trailblazers who brought their talent and experience to Innovaccer to help our customers accelerate innovation and digital transformation.
Dr. Anil Jain joined Innovaccer in August 2021 as our Chief Innovation Officer after a storied career at Cleveland Clinic, Explorys, and IBM, among other noteworthy accomplishments. We sat down with Dr. Jain to learn about his journey from the son of immigrant parents to provider, to HIT leader, to health intrapreneur and, now, one of Innovaccer’s digital transformation leaders.
Have a question for Dr. Jain? Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’ve focused my career on health information technology. I’m a physician and board certified in internal medicine. I’m also board certified in clinical informatics after obtaining degrees in both biomedical engineering (with specializations in computer science and electrical engineering), as well as clinical medicine at Northwestern.
After eight years in the Chicago area, I went to the Cleveland Clinic for my postgraduate residency and trained during the pre-electronic health record days when “digital” just meant using your finger. While at the Cleveland Clinic, it became obvious to me that healthcare across the board was far behind other industries when it came to technology. Given my background, I believed I could make some contributions.
I quickly balanced my time spent in the hospital and primary care practice, doing clinical research, and teaching, but I increasingly spent time on clinical informatics and health IT. I helped the Cleveland Clinic with the roll-out and subsequent optimization of its electronic medical record implementation. As a senior IT executive and physician IT leader, in addition to my day job, I frequently spoke at national meetings and got involved in a variety of technology-focused initiatives.
Among leading several “intrapreneurial” teams and projects, the one I’m most proud of is Explorys. I had invented a novel approach to aggregate, curate, and rapidly analyze large volumes of healthcare data and even built a working prototype. In 2009, I caught the entrepreneurial bug and worked with two other cofounders and spun out my innovations to create Explorys.
In 2015, Explorys was acquired by IBM (among other companies) to form Watson Health, and seemingly overnight, I became an executive at IBM as their chief health information officer. I left at the end of 2020 to advise and do some consulting in the digital health space.
Throughout my career, I’d been following Innovaccer and would frequently get updates from colleagues whom I admired about the immense opportunities that Innovaccer had provided for them. When the time was right for both me and Innovaccer, I joined in August 2021.
I was especially excited to see Innovaccer’s growth and the approach that the company was taking with its Data Activation Platform, its ability to attract and retain provider clients, and its very quick delivery of incredible value. At the same time, I saw gaps and opportunities that someone of my background could help fill.
However, most importantly, I joined because I would have an opportunity to work with some incredible people and make a difference for the company and its clients.
As chief innovation officer, I have the privilege of leading a talented, experienced team of product leaders to strategize and operationalize how a data activation platform-powered healthcare cloud could and should build or partner to address the most pressing challenges that health care providers, plans, and life sciences companies are tackling.
My team and I work with engineers, data scientists, business analysts, etc., to empower our customer innovation teams to deliver personalized solutions through application, or application components (application programming interfaces, data models, algorithms, workflows, and more) and accelerate our clients’ digital transformation needs.
My goal is to lead the team with a pragmatic, clinically meaningful, and entrepreneurial lens so that we continue to experience the phenomenal growth that will fuel further innovation investment.
First, no day is exactly the same, but my typical day is made up of managing and interacting with our internal teams here in the U.S. and abroad. A rewarding portion of my day is engaging with current clients about the work we’re doing with them, the challenges we’re helping them address, and thinking through opportunities for us to co-innovate and make our clients heroes.
Of course, there’s also the excitement of meeting future clients to explain how Innovaccer can help jumpstart their digital transformation and occasionally address very specific questions that they may have to support our sales executives.
And finally, I spend a good amount of time engaging with the broader industry. For example, I’ll have speaking engagements and will occasionally moderate virtual round tables. I attend national meetings at which we’re invited to speak or we’re showcasing our work. It’s always exciting to see the attention that Innovaccer gets in these forums.
It’s new each and every day. Without a doubt, my favorite part is meeting our amazing clients and hearing all the wonderful things that we’re doing with them as part of the Innovaccer relationship.
I think Innovaccer is at that sweet spot where we’re not so small that we have challenges we can’t tackle but not so big that we’re burdened by overly bureaucratic processes or too many cooks in the kitchen that can lead to analysis paralysis. When we all agree to go in a certain direction, we can mobilize very quickly and get things done.
It’s this characteristic that allows us to meet our client’s expectations and why we’re recognized as Best in KLAS in multiple categories, which is a statement about how much we delight our clients.
We’re growing quickly and need great people to join the mission. I believe Innovaccer is perfect for talented, hard-working individuals who have a passion to make a difference in the healthcare space. People who have a fundamental recognition of how data, analytics, workflow automation, and change management all come together to digitally transform the way that healthcare is delivered, the way healthcare is reimbursed, the way people engage in their health, and the way that products and devices in the life sciences space are developed.
Of course, experience and expertise help, but curiosity and drive will get you a long way. We need people who aren’t afraid to be uncomfortable or pushed to take moonshots and meet some of the health tech challenges that other, bigger companies have tried to tackle and failed.
One is teaching. I’ve trained hundreds of medical students, medical residents, and fellows who have gone out and had careers of their own. I’ve been a mentor for dozens of folks over the years. I’m very proud of that. It’s been an incredible experience for me, and I believe that my mentees and students got something out of it as well. I continue to lecture for a healthcare MBA program, and I’m an advisor for a local university’s health informatics graduate program.
The second accomplishment is being able to publish with some incredible colleagues. I’ve had the opportunity to publish in major journals, including the New England Journal of Medicine, the Annals of Internal Medicine, and the JAMA Archives of Internal Medicine. I’ve been able to author books and book chapters and co-author several white papers. It’s incredibly rewarding to contribute to a body of knowledge that others can use as a platform for their research.
My third accomplishment is being invited to participate on regional, state, and federal committees. I was engaged in Better Health Greater Cleveland for many years, served on the Governor of Ohio’s Health Information Partnership Advisory Board, and most recently was appointed by the Senate Majority Leader to serve on the federal Health Information Technology Committee (HITAC) and advise the Department of Health and Human Services and the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) for Health IT, as well as represent a former employer on meetings at the White House’s Office on American Innovation.
Another accomplishment is Explorys. Spinning Explorys out of the Cleveland Clinic was not easy. I incubated an idea, built prototypes, interviewed entrepreneurs, built a business, hired hundreds of people, and then was fortunate to be acquired by IBM to form Watson Health.
However, the most important accomplishment is what my wife and I have partnered to build together—our family. We raised three amazing kids (now adults), all incredibly bright and successful, and each of them have charted their own paths to make a difference in their own way. It’s a lot easier to work hard when you know what you’re working for and with the support of the family.
Six months in, much of what I’ve accomplished at Innovaccer has been supporting our collective teams to think about the problems we solve in a more clinically meaningful, interoperable, and modular way. In some ways, it’s more of a philosophical underpinning that helps people start to see that the world of data and analytics is more than just contemplating the challenges of value-based care and population health. Liberating the data and activating insights from the data is relevant to many problems that our clients have. Sellers have told me that they appreciate the approach that I’m coaching them on.
However, over the next six months, I hope to accomplish more. We need to grow our data models and digital analytics footprint and really start to look for new use cases that drive the operations of healthcare systems in a much more efficient manner. As they say, “No money, no mission.” It’s important to start expanding our support of that.
One goal is to be much more robust and relevant in addressing the challenges that payviders and health plans have. They need solutions and capabilities that are unique to them and their role in the ecosystem. Finally, digital health companies and life sciences organizations desperately need an innovation platform. I’d like that to be the Data Activation Platform powering the Innovaccer Ⓡ Health Cloud.
The one person who has had the biggest impact on my career was my father. He was an IIT Mumbai engineer who immigrated to the U.S. in the late ’60s. He disobeyed his family. Instead of taking over the family business, he was the first in his extended family to go to college and came to the U.S. for graduate school with little money and no social support.
Unlike many Indian immigrant fathers at the time, his advice to me was that there would always be expectations of what you should do, what you could do, and what you shouldn’t do. He told me to always ask myself what I wanted to do and why I had the right to do it. He said to diligently chase after that passion, rather than doing the safe thing, the easy thing, or the thing that everyone expects from you.
He practiced what he preached. My father was my biggest cheerleader. When I changed my undergraduate major multiple times, decided to go to medical school instead of pursuing a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering, chose health information technology at Cleveland Clinic instead of a lucrative private practice, quit an attending physician position at a leading healthcare system to pursue a dreams of a startup, left IBM to pursue other opportunities, and then most recently, joining Innovaccer—he was there to support me.