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HCA Healthcare CEO Sam Hazen touts technology and partnerships | HLTH Conference


Even with difficult economic headwinds, HCA is moving forward with its agenda to transform care, and partnerships are a key ingredient, he says.

Las Vegas - Even with the COVID-19 pandemic and its assorted challenges, HCA Healthcare CEO Sam Hazen says the company has emerged with a commitment to embracing healthcare technology.

Sam Hazen, CEO of HCA Healthcare, left, talks with Hemant Taneja, CEO and managing partner of General Catalyst, at the HLTH Conference in Las Vegas, Sunday, Nov. 13. (Photo: Ron Southwick)

Sam Hazen, CEO of HCA Healthcare, left, talks with Hemant Taneja, CEO and managing partner of General Catalyst, at the HLTH Conference in Las Vegas, Sunday, Nov. 13. (Photo: Ron Southwick)

Speaking at the HLTH Conference Sunday, Hazen said technology is the key to advancing everything from patient care to workforce development.

“We’ve come out of the pandemic with a very focused effort in digitizing HCA healthcare in ways other industries have done,” Hazen said.

Compared to other industries, Hazen acknowledged, “We’re woefully behind.”

“What’s exciting to me, our team …. sees the opportunity with technology as a solution to today’s problems and hope for tomorrow,” he said.

In his role, Hazen certainly understands the difficulties of the hospital landscape. HCA operates more than 180 hospitals in markets all over the country. Hazen has served as HCA’s CEO for nearly four years and has spent nearly four decades with the organization.

HCA, like other hospital systems, continues to deal with a labor shortage, which Hazen described as “a supply chain shock in the healthcare system.” HCA is struggling with inflation, which he called a “real issue in healthcare.”

While Hazen conceded inflation has pushed HCA into something of a resiliency mode, he said the economic pressures won’t deter the company from moving forward. He vowed to continue moving ahead with HCA’s innovation agenda, its technology agenda, the company’s plans to transform care, and its goals to improve workforce development.

He said technology can offer some relief from inflation, as well as easing pressure on healthcare workers.

As he looks to bolster HCA’s technology and continue moving forward, Hazen said developing partnerships will be critical. And that’s a lesson from dealing with COVID-19 since early 2020.

“We needed to partner with whoever to get through the pandemic,” Hazen said.

Now, HCA views partnerships as “a very important ingredient to accelerating our agenda,” Hazen said.

He sees potential in developing partnerships to expand the use of machine learning.

“Healthcare hasn’t instituted scaled solutions for machine learning to buttress the human learning,” Hazen said.

Hazen spoke enthusiastically about the potential of machine learning to help lead to better care. Machine learning can help doctors make more informed decisions.

“If we can help them make better strategic decisions for their patient populations, we can get a better outcome,” he said. Hazen also spoke of machine learning can aid nurses in detecting potential complications and help improve patient safety.

It’s important to remember that partnerships with other organizations on technology initiatives don’t always lead to immediate success, Hazen said. There can be bumps in the road along the way.

“Partnerships are not easy,” Hazen said. “Sometimes people get too impatient with partnerships and don’t realize it takes a while to get a rhythm.”

Hazen also emphasized the importance of partnerships in improving health equity, a topic getting plenty of attention at the HLTH Conference. He noted HCA’s recent partnerships with the March of Dimes and the American Heart Association to help leverage information to eliminate disparities in healthcare outcomes.

These efforts will require a great deal of work and are very complex. On health equity, Hazen said, “I don’t think HCA Healthcare can solve the problem. Partnerships can solve the problem.”

Before closing the session, moderator Hemant Taneja, CEO and managing partner of General Catalyst, asked Hazen if he had any advice for some of the healthcare technology startups looking to potentially partner with hospitals and health systems.

Technology companies need to understand that the healthcare industry is different from other industries tech firms have entered and disrupted, Hazen said.

“To really understand the healthcare system, you have to get into the healthcare system …

"You have to embed yourselves in,” Hazen said.

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