Kaiser Permanente Appoints Home Depot Exec Its First Chief Digital Officer

July 30, 2019
Joins other health systems in looking outside healthcare for digital leadership
Kaiser Permanente has joined the increasing number of health systems appointing chief digital officers. Prat Vemana has been named the first chief digital officer for Kaiser Foundation Health Plan and Hospitals.

As Healthcare Innovation has previously reported, many health systems are tapping digital leaders from outside healthcare. Vemana is currently chief product and experience officer at The Home Depot. He also held leadership roles at Staples Inc. and Informed Clinical Sciences Corp. Other examples include Aaron Martin, chief digital officer at Seattle-based Providence St. Joseph Health, who previously worked at Amazon, and Eduardo Conrado, chief digital officer at St. Louis-based Ascension, who came to Ascension from Motorola, where he served as chief strategy and innovation officer. (Conrado’s title at Ascension was recently changed from chief digital officer to chief strategy and innovation officer.)

In a 2018 interview with Healthcare Innovation, Hillary Ross, senior partner with the Oak Brook, Ill.-based executive search firm Witt/Kieffer, said her firm was seeing healthcare organizations increasingly looking for leadership outside of healthcare. “It’s interesting to watch those organizations and how those leaders outside of healthcare are navigating,” she said. “Certainly, if you recruit outside healthcare, there is a going to be a learning curve for those executives. Do they speak the language of healthcare, and do they understand the intricacies; reimbursement, readmission, length of stay, hospital business operations? Those executives can transition, but it will take time and it will take strong healthcare leadership under them to help them with that transition.”

As chief digital officer, Vemana will report to Dick Daniels, executive vice president and CIO, with joint accountability to Bernard J. Tyson, chairman and CEO. Vemana will lead cross-functional teams across Kaiser Permanente to transform a full range of online and mobile interactions and digital experiences for its more than 12 million members, patients and customers, as well as digital tools and processes for its workforce.

Witt/Kieffer's Ross added that a CDO “should be reporting to the CEO, ideally, and a peer to the CIO. The best model is a tight partnership between the CIO and the CDO. In terms of partnership with other senior leadership, as well, this person really sits at the intersection of clinical, technology, marketing and senior leadership. It’s a very collaborative role to drive that organizational change.”

In this newly created role, Vemana will lead the ongoing development and execution of Kaiser Permanente's digital vision and strategy, in collaboration with internal health plan, hospital and medical group teams. “We've made tremendous investments in building our digital platforms and creating greater access for our members. Now we are taking it to the next level by focusing on digital experiences that change the way transactions and services are delivered," said Tyson in a prepared statement. "Prat is the perfect choice to help lead and guide the future of our digital health and wellness ecosystem that will provide our members with meaningful experiences and empower them to live more healthy years.”

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