The Reach of Healthcare: Serving One Vision, One MissionOct 22, 2021
By: Alexis Wheeler, Marketing & Creative Social Media Intern
Dr. Fran Ayalasomayajula, Msc.D., MPH, MSMIS shares her mission to positively impact lives and transform healthcare. Fran is an executive healthcare strategist and technologist who continues to serve the interests of populations around the world in an effort to improve the quality of healthcare, increase health literacy and patient engagement.
Alexis: Tell our audience a little bit about your background as a digital health technologist and strategist (as part of HP’s worldwide healthcare division, Head of Digital Healthcare Strategy), what innovations do you devise to advance and deliver improved healthcare outcomes?
Currently, as the Head of Digital Health Strategy, Worldwide at HP, I lead the organization in devising strategies and innovations designed to advance and deliver improved clinical outcomes and better population health. Prior to HP, I worked for major healthcare institutions, including PAHO – WHO, CDC, BMS, and UHG.
The work I do is a lot of fun and there is a lot to be done. I am really excited about the company’s mission to help the lives of all people everywhere. To ensure digital health equity in general, and to be sure people have access to the technology keeps me busy. Our goal is to improve access and experiences for the better, for those who are the recipients of care and those who are the deliverers of care.
Alexis: Tell us about your journey, mission, and role as President of Reach Thought Leadership(Reach I-Belong, Inc., Happy Mama, and Save Moms).
Fran: As the President and Founder of I-Belong, Inc., a 501(c) a not-for-profit digital lifestyle membership organization, whose mission is to provide everyone with access to the resources they need in order to live a healthy lifestyle. With members spanning from coast to coast and ranging in age from 8 to 80 years old, I-Belong is creating a diverse community joined together by one common set of goals: Live Healthy. Be Happy.
The national “Save Moms” campaign is a population health program led by Reach that is actively combatting maternal death and injury in the United States and abroad. Millions of mothers give birth every year without any problems. But the maternal dream doesn’t come true for all…15% of all pregnant women develop unexpected complications that are unpredictable and sudden. Knowing and watching out for the signs and symptoms can help avoid preventable maternal death and injuries. Reach and Reach's partners offer tools to support you during your pregnancy and beyond. We provide whole woman wellness solutions that nurture you through the most tender stages of motherhood.
Alexis: What approaches do you take to serve the population as an executive healthcare strategist and promoter of driving change through thought leadership?
Fran: The first thing is to address problems at a global scale and acknowledge that data points are just indicators that something else is wrong. We must look at a few dynamics such as encouraging people to embrace lifestyle modifications, but also the acknowledgment that we are an aging population. Although we are living longer, unfortunately, people are living longer with chronic conditions. Technology plays a role in making the necessary lifestyle and behavioral modifications to improve their conditions.
A lot of programs are created, people love them at first, but the novelty wears off. How do we create dynamic and entertaining ways to keep people engaged? You have to make it simple and take it one step at a time. Also being deliberate. Understanding who your audience is and what the needs of your audience are. If your target population is an older adult population for example, then over emphasizing the use of a smart phone device may not be the right approach. Not to say that older adults cannot be successful at using smart phone devices, we know from the data that they tend to be more successful with and gravitate more towards devices that have larger screen sizes, that have keyboards. That generally makes sense. As we age, we have more trouble with our eyes and our hearing, dexterity, and our hands. You have to have the right expectations, write things down, make it simple, and understand your target audience and what they are asking for.
Creating personalization because everyone is unique and different, and their experiences with their conditions are different. Some intricacies show up in patients that help to make a difference in moving the patient along their care journey to promote better outcomes. Helping people understand is important. I believe we come into this world with the same goals and objectives. The same aspirations. They might appear slightly different, and we may take a separate path to achieve this. If you can connect with that, that piece of humanity within you then you can connect with anyone and everyone. That is what makes the true difference.
Alexis: You are spread fairly thin, being involved in multiple initiatives and global organizations, what is the driving force for you to improve clinical outcomes and better the population’s health especially maternal health?
It’s who I am. If I am going to do something, I want It to be significantly meaningful. I want it to feel like even if it’s that one starfish that I threw back into the ocean, I meant something to that one starfish. That is my motivation to get up in the morning. I normally start my days around 4:30 and end them pretty late. It is challenging. I am a mom with small kids, and when I tell them about projects that I am working on that are intended for moms' lives to not be lost. When I hear that my son listens to some event that I was on, warms my heart that they know that the work I am doing is meaningful to her and her family. That is why I do what I do.
The area of maternal health gets to me because we know so much about the data. Approximately 900 women are currently dying because of preventable causes such as hemorrhages and preeclampsia. There are also silent indicators. The signs and symptoms are often silent ones like blood pressure. They don’t know what is happening and by the time they find out, too much time has elapsed. The continuity of care and communication between healthcare workers and the expectant mother is key. Blood pressure (as an example) is a silent killer. There are simple things to make sure every expectant mom is continuing to get care is something simple we can do.
Alexis: What has been the most challenging part of improving the quality of healthcare and increasing health literacy?
Fran: Everybody is a know it all. Most of the time we all sit around thinking that we have the solution yet clearly, we don't have all the answers or solutions because the problems that we continue to face are the same old problems. Sometimes I wonder whether these challenges in quality and literacy aren't just the reflection of our failure to not only admit to the problems and the reality of what's creating the problems that we have but also our failure just to take on accountability and responsibility for those problems.
Often in the industry, we tend to point to something else outside of our institutions, outside our own teams, as being the source of the issues that we face. However, I think that if we were all more willing to look within, recognize and tend to our own areas of deficiency that the industry as a whole, the quality of care, and the end results or outcomes for patients would be a whole lot better.
Alexis: How can we support you in the measures you are taking to improve better healthcare for populations and clinical outcomes?
Fran: Continue to stay focused on delivering excellence and high-quality products and services. The other thing that's paramount is that we continue to bring forth thought leadership drawing awareness not only to the needs but also the solutions and the availability of solutions. I think it's incumbent upon all of us to stay very vigilant in our efforts to highlight the gaps and challenges in the industry as well as remain steadfast in our commitment to bring forth solutions.
Alexis: You recently have added new partnerships for the Happy Mamma, Save Moms applications/programs to further enhance the end-user experience, what do you think is the biggest asset that Sonder Health and BehaVR bring to the community?
Fran: Reach really looks for partners who have an outstanding reputation in their area of specialization. Both Sonder Health and BehaVR are highly specialized and provide us the opportunity to directly respond to the unique needs of women, be it needs related to breastfeeding or addressing anxiety, or even bonding with newborns. I'm really impressed by the comprehensiveness of the services and solutions that both companies offer, and I think that combining that with an outstanding reputation within their respective disciplines both made for optimal partners for us. Our faculty and staff come from leading institutions from around the world. So, the level of rigor that goes into the identification and qualification of partners is stringent. In our opinion, both represent the top in a class of what each respective field has to offer, and we are honored to incorporate the complementary products and services to the work of reach.
Alexis: What is one thing you want our readers to know about you?
Fran: With over 30 years in the healthcare industry, I started in school as pre-dentistry in my undergrad work and decided that wasn’t the way I wanted to go in terms of participating and being involved in the healthcare sector. I liked the policy side, international development, and doing things community based. That’s when I decided as an undergraduate to double major in international relations and Spanish literature.
I studied in Japan right after the Kobe earthquake and spent time studying the communities affected by the earthquake in a culture and country that were immigrants in Japan and sort of life under the radar. Those who were undocumented were not really being supported after the earthquake.
I did another large portion of my work in Mexico. I minored in Asian studies and at that time of my life, I had studied Japanese for many, many years. If you want to be good at making policy changes and changes within the community needs centering around healthcare, then it would make for a good balance to understand the dynamics that are going on politically focusing on comparative studies. Adding to that, my graduate work in public health allowed me to have that strong background, discipline, and knowledge on the international development side the policy side, but then also be able to have that foundation in epidemiology and community health.
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