Fuse, the innovation engine and product development center at Cardinal Health, is an open, collaborative and creative habitat where software engineers, clinical experts, data scientists and leaders in human-centered design focus on helping customers improve health outcomes at lower costs.
Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer Ray Bajaj leads the Fuse team. Bajaj joined Cardinal Health in 2019, bringing with him deep experience in driving innovation and digital transformation within large companies. He spent more than two decades in the financial services industry building digital businesses, most recently as head of The Garage, an innovation hub for Capital One. He also served as chief technologist for Global Commercial and Investment Banking at Bank of America.
We recently sat down with Bajaj to learn more about his vision for Fuse. Below are highlights of that conversation.
Q: You had a long career in the financial services industry before you joined Fuse. What attracted you to Cardinal Health?
That’s simple: I was drawn to Cardinal Health’s mission to advance healthcare and improve the lives of patients around the globe. Healthcare delivery is undergoing a technology-driven revolution – and I want to be a part of that. I am excited about the opportunities we have here to harness the energy of that transformation.
Q: How has Fuse evolved since you joined the team?
A: Soon after I came to Cardinal Health, we launched a “Fuse.next” strategy, to help us evolve into adjacent areas of healthcare – like the development of new digital health-related technology and innovations that support our existing technology-fueled businesses.
At the same time, we created a new mission for Fuse and its 350+ healthcare technology experts: to reimagine healthcare delivery by harnessing the power of cutting-edge technology, human-centered design and clinical expertise to create compelling customer experiences and improve patient outcomes.
We have adopted new ways of working within an innovative architecture. We hire talent with diverse backgrounds – PharmDs, PhDs, medical doctors and nurses – and pair them with health tech intrapreneurs to focus on pushing the boundaries of our organization. Most importantly, our Fuse teams are now deeply embedded in various Cardinal Health businesses, including OptiFreight® Logistics, Cardinal Health At-Home, OutcomesTM, Specialty Solutions and WaveMarkTM Supply Management & Workflow Solutions. This structure empowers cross-functional teams to work together to create customer-centric solutions and drive disruption in the healthcare industry.
We’ve also placed a lot of emphasis on our talent strategy. We look for individuals who have a deep passion for changing the order of things – people who can zero in on the right problems to solve.
Over the past two years, we’ve doubled the number of design-thinking experts at Fuse. We’re hiring software engineers, clinical experts and data scientists, who bring a good balance of analytical problem solving mixed with creativity and customer-backed thinking, to help unlock innovative products and services with speed and agility.
Q: How does Fuse support Cardinal Health’s vision to become a leader in healthcare technology?
A: Fuse is focused on empowering existing commercial technologies while sparking the creation of new healthcare delivery models across our differentiated portfolio at Cardinal Health. We’re leveraging the company’s tremendous scale and expertise: Cardinal Health serves nearly 90% of U.S. hospitals, more than 60,000 U.S. pharmacies and more than 10,000 specialty pharmacies, and 3.4 million patients with 46,000-plus home healthcare products.
Cardinal Health’s scale and visibility enable Fuse to identify opportunities across our healthcare ecosystem to create customer-focused solutions that improve patient outcomes and reimagine the continuum of care. Collaborating closely with our business partners, we leverage digital technologies to build clinical services and tools for our pharmacy customers, technology solutions to support value-based care and provide comprehensive logistics and freight management solutions for hospitals, labs and pharmacies.
Q: How does Fuse spur innovation within such a large organization?
A: We’ve been focused on driving a culture of innovation, experimentation and risk-taking throughout the enterprise. No matter what the size, when an organization is innovation-ready, its people can convert insights to actions with speed and agility.
To continually innovate, companies need to keep jumping from one S curve – where there is a slow start with early adopters then rapid growth, success and then, a plateau – to another S curve. Our innovation approach allows us to do just that. Our leadership team across Cardinal Health is eager to empower our employees to bring innovative ideas to the table. We created a stage-gate process for innovation, similar to what startups use, where there is a decision to move forward with an idea or move on to something else at various stages of development. This is supported by an internal venture fund that allows us to make quick decisions and allocate resources for growth ideas.
We are gathering customer and market insights and have chosen specific areas to focus our new business-building initiatives. Our innovation teams can execute better, faster and cheaper than ever before. We can take more shots at the goal – and more shots mean more successes, allowing us to unlock new healthcare delivery models.
Finally, we’re continually looking for potential strategic partnerships with other innovative companies that enable us to create and capture new value pools.
Q: Fuse takes a human-centric approach to innovation. Why is that important?
A: At Cardinal Health, we believe innovation is creativity that solves a customer's need. We put the customers’ needs at the center of our development process. The closer we are to the problems of our customers, the more innovation we can unlock.
For us, everything begins with the customers; we work to understand them on a deep, human level. We use a range of human-centered research tools, like ethnography and contextual inquiry, to understand our customers’ experiences and identify patterns that inform product or service designs.
By taking the time to truly empathize with our customers’ experiences through observation and interviews, we are better able to define the problems they’re facing and can design better solutions to solve those problems.
Q: Can you share some recent examples of technology initiatives from Fuse?
A: In close collaboration with our businesses and our corporate innovation team, we have launched several new offerings in the market. One example is Episode Analytics, a data-driven cost tracking tool created with experts within our Specialty Solutions business. This tool enables oncologists and administrators to accurately measure the cost of care at the start of and during the episode of care, allowing for more informed treatment decisions and clearer insights into value-based performance. This solution is part of our Cardinal Health™ Navista™ Tech Solutions (TS) platform, an advanced suite of artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled technology solutions for improved population health, precision trial matching and cost of care tracking.
Another solution, which we launched earlier this year, is MyScheduling, which enables pharmacists to manage the administration logistics for COVID-19 vaccinations, as well as other vaccinations and clinical services. MyScheduling allows patients to schedule and change their own appointments at their local pharmacies. This capability has significantly reduced administrative tasks for pharmacies, such as scheduling patients for both vaccine doses, creating patient waiting lists, gathering patient information, and reporting on daily appointments. To date, MyScheduling has enabled the scheduling of hundreds of thousands COVID-19 vaccine appointments with only a 2% no-show rate.
These are just a couple of examples; we’re working on a rich pipeline of initiatives that we expect to launch over the coming year.
Q: You’re obviously very passionate about your work. Can you tell us a little more about why it’s so meaningful to you?
A: I believe human beings are driven by and led by a higher purpose – the driving force behind everything we do. For me, that higher purpose is making a difference – in a field that makes a difference.
Today, as people around me are aging and needing more healthcare services, I think there’s no better field to be than in healthcare – and no better opportunity to do my best work. The healthcare system is very expensive, yet doesn’t achieve the kinds of outcomes we believe it could and should. More than 135 million people live with chronic conditions and face both extremely high healthcare costs and a lack of coordinated care. We can change that.
We are doing some exciting work – digitizing the healthcare supply chain, building solutions for biopharma companies so that they can bring innovative drug therapies to patients faster, enabling pharmacists with clinical tools so that they can practice at the top of their license, creating solutions for our payer customers to manage the right outcomes, bringing health products and services to people’s homes, and building tools to maximize patient and provider outcomes.
Healthcare powered by technology is truly making a difference in the lives of people all around the world. I feel fortunate to be a part of that.