Synopsis: In this AI Leadership Insights video interview, Amanda Razani speaks with Ben DeBow, founder and CEO of Fortified, about the AI technology hazards found in the health care industry and how to handle them.

Amanda Razani: Hello and welcome to the AI Leadership Insights series. I’m so excited to be here today with Ben DeBow. He is the founder and CEO of Fortified. I’m Amanda Razani, and I’m excited to get started with some information first about Fortified. So what services do you provide?

Ben DeBow: Yeah, we are an organization that helps organizations around data, both managing data platforms 24/7, but also consulting and helping with analytics AI, which is the hottest topic these days, as well as enabling people for digital transformation.

Amanda Razani: Wonderful. And I believe you’re also an author. Can you share a little bit about a book you recently published?

Ben DeBow: Yeah, it’s a very proud moment because over the last 20 years in technology, I’ve seen certain things that have been challenging the organizations around the world, around technology, and wrote a book launched last year in August called End of Abundance in Tech, and it’s focused on helping organizations understand how they could find efficiencies and technology to help them with digital transformation, but also keep on enabling the business to leverage technology without breaking the bank.

Amanda Razani: That is sure a key concern of business leaders these days, how to not go over budgets and be as efficient as possible with budgets and costs, so.

Ben DeBow: Yes. One of the things that is interesting when you think about that statement is, organizations are trying to do more with technology. We’re going to be talking about AI today. All these organizations are saying, “How do I leverage AI? How do I leverage data more?” Well, they already have 30 years of technology, so how do you do this while balancing or keeping your budget at 0% growth for next year? And that’s the challenge, is how do you do more with the same or less?

Amanda Razani: So can you share a little bit more about that? Let’s just talk about AI, because that seems to be the biggest topic of the year, is implementing AI technology. And it’s advancing very rapidly, so can you share your thoughts on this?

Ben DeBow: So number one is, everybody’s trying to figure out, how do I leverage AI, or better understand, or at least test out AI for my business? And it’s a challenging conversation for most, because most businesses do not have the skill sets, may not have the data ready, understood, classified, and ready to be able to support and feed those AI models. Ad/or else, I probably don’t have the talent and skill set because there’s only around 50,000 truly classically trained people in AI. So how do I still better position my organization to take advantage of AI without having those people? And one of the things that we’re telling organizations is really focused on two different aspects. One is, make sure that you have a solid enterprise data strategy. Because if you have a solid enterprise data strategy, you understand the data, it’s clean, you could have access to it and it’s classified, well, now you’re better prepared to feed that and support your AI initiatives, because AI needs clean data to feed those models.
The second piece of that strategy is leverage the other 70,000 companies’ AI services that they’re already investing in, and figure a niche need within your organization that you guys can leverage tomorrow to maybe solve a business problem. And what that’s going to give you is, it’s going to validate your hypothesis on what works and what doesn’t work, and then you’re going to get some business value out of it a lot more quickly than you investing in a large AI initiative, unless you’re one of those big companies that has millions and millions of dollars to spend.

Amanda Razani: So let’s backtrack a little to, you were bringing up data, and I know that’s another big issue of the day is how to best harness the data and utilize the data. A big one is collecting it in real time, and then how do you take that data and analyze it properly in moving forward? So can you share a little bit about that, and from your experience, where is the roadblock for most companies as far as data?

Ben DeBow: The challenge is, just like us as humans, we’re sort of data hoarders as organizations. So organizations have 10, 20, or 30 years of legacy applications that all have data. And a lot of those applications were not designed to, I call it lifecycle data out. A lot of those applications also have the data in their own database or file system, et cetera. So when you look at an organization, one of the biggest challenges for organizations is how to create that enterprise data strategy so that I could access all the relevant data and also find the valuable data that’s very important to me. But because there’s so many silos and so much data, it’s very hard for organizations to understand and answer those simple… What we think are simple questions. So that’s one of the biggest challenges is just understanding what do you have, what is of value to you, and where is that at?

Amanda Razani: So it comes down in part to just better communication and breaking down those barriers.

Ben DeBow: Yeah. So when you think about these organizations, communication’s something very important that you just said is, if I need data, a lot of times I’ll request it and then I go create my own copy. And then I start to develop and I call it model off of that. Well then, another part of the organization is doing the same thing with not necessarily the same analytics, but leverage the data. Now I have three silos of data that is really all the same data, and that’s creating those complexities. But if I start to communicate and then also have that better data strategy, I could logically grant access, therefore I have one copy of data and everybody’s using it through their own vision or view, what we might call a semantic model, to do their business functions.

Amanda Razani: So let’s talk about the companies who are really behind, especially, we see a lot of this in the healthcare industry, companies running really old technology. So what’s the first step if they try to implement newer technologies? What is the first step, and then what tips do you have for them throughout the process to make sure it’s a smooth process and the end goal is the result they want to achieve?

Ben DeBow: One of the challenging challenges in healthcare industry is there is a lot of regulation, there for a reason because there’s also a lot of bad actors out there. So I think when you think about the regulation, it helps and it hurts. It helps in a sense of it is protecting the data, but it also hurts us in a sense of there’s a lot more security restrictions around it. There’s a lot more policies and procedures around it. So what we just talked about, sharing of data, easily accessing the data, those are the challenges that organizations have to work around and design into their models, on how do we share data with an organization where there is patient safety and PII data that is in there that we still need to honor?
So if I’m going to create this big data warehouse or data lake, what data do I need to de-anonymize or anonymize, and what data do I need to not have over there to better protect those patients, or the medical records, et cetera. So what we want to be able to do is still create that data strategy and understand, what type of data do I have, what are the business questions that we’re trying to answer? And it’s about communicating and just applying the technology, and providing and creating that solution for them to be able to answer those questions.

Amanda Razani: Sometimes I feel like, from my experience, a lot of times the healthcare professionals, they claim they’re digitally transforming their processes and really it seems to me like all they have done is digitize their processes, because I’ll fill out all this information over and over again on a tablet, and you would think… It’s just as if I was filling it out on paper, but oh, I’m filling out on a tablet, so you’ve digitally transformed? No.

Ben DeBow: Yes. Yeah. What you think about, you walk in a doctor’s office and they still give you the piece of paper with the clipboard and pen, and you’re asked to fill this out or sign those waivers, those NDAs, that “I’m not liable for anything” forms. What do you notice about those forms? They’re scanned the five thousandth time, right, so then they’re going to go digitize it. So a lot of this is these systems aren’t talking to each other, the integrations aren’t there, and that’s sort of what you’re seeing. So you’re seeing the digitization of the data, but you’re not seeing the integration of the data or the systems. And that’s why I can’t, and I have to, recreate that data entry each time as you’re seeing, whether or not you go into the E.R or your general practitioner or maybe you go into a specialist. I’m recreating that data on the admittance or the taken.

Amanda Razani: So we’ve talked about AI, and I know the healthcare industry is trying to advance and evolve and be innovative and digitally transform. So when you look at how fast some of these technologies are advancing, where do you see the future of healthcare in, say, maybe a year from now?

Ben DeBow: I see a lot of great things around what AI and some of these other technologies can do. When you think about the CAT scans and the digital images that these organizations have, the AI technologies can read those with remarkable accuracy, right? And where that is really helping with patient safety, reducing the time to an accurate… Not prescription, but I forget the word, you could probably fill it in for me. Diagnosis. That’s really enabling those organizations. And I think as you start to see one problem solved, people are going to start to apply that to that area that’s one removed, to then go and apply AI to those other areas, or technology to those other areas.
Remote doctor and screening is another area. I’m wearing an aura ring right now. So I think a lot of these other devices that are capturing this data are really enabling doctors and nurses and other practitioners to have access to data they’ve never had before as well. So I think these wearables is another area that are enabling these medical professionals to really take advantage of, how healthy is Amanda, how has she been over the last week? Because when you go into that doctor, they’re going to ask you a whole bunch of questions. What about if you could show them how healthy you have been through some of your device data, that you approve that they see?

Amanda Razani: Wonderful. Well, if there’s one key takeaway you can share with our audience today, what would that be?

Ben DeBow: I think lean into AI, understand that it’s not going to take over the world. We still have our cell phones, cell phone calls dropped. We still have a lot of other challenges with just pure technology, mute on Webex, etc. But we do want to leverage it. And the one thing that I want to emphasize, especially around the medical community, is this, there is an amazing number of diseases and other things that we can solve, leveraging technology, but how do we share data across organizations and enterprises where we can truly help people and not just make another dollar? So that my ask is, or for organizations to be able to share in the appropriate, secure, private way so that we can leverage technology to solve the next disease.

Amanda Razani: Absolutely. Well, thank you so much, Ben, for coming on our show and sharing your insights with us today.

Ben DeBow: Yeah, you’re welcome. Thanks, Amanda.

Amanda Razani: Thank you.