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At UC Davis South, Ashish Atreja, CIO and chief digital health officer, has one overarching goal: to take the organization into the next stage of digital transformation, and eliminate what he calls the biggest gap in medicine — the delivery of care.

“The reason for that gap is because there are just not enough clinicians, nurses, physicians, health educators, and health coaches in the world to guide patients when they are at home,” Atreja says. “Digital channels now allow that extension of clinical teams by guiding the patients wherever they are.”

That means transforming the way that consumers interact with their health care providers and manage their own care with a digital front door, digital navigation, and digital monitoring.

With a digital front door, health care becomes self-service. Consumers can make appointments, check their records, and access express telehealth appointments and more. With digital navigation, an organization can create evidence-based protocols with bots, which can guide patients through their care journey. Digital monitoring brings together smart technologies, including devices and digital assistants like Alexa, to patients’ homes to virtualize patient care. With AI, these automated intelligent tools are continually learning about each patient’s unique needs to serve them better. The goal is to make every intervention meaningful and relevant to the patient.

But what happens when patients aren’t willing to go digital, or simply can’t?

Who’s adopting digital health care?

Atreja says they’ve reached early adopters who are embracing the conveniences of digital health care, with a steady stream of consumers in their wake. COVID, of course, increased consumer exposure to digital care and virtual appointments, nudging the adoption needle.

At the same time, there’s a digital divide: senior patients who don’t have the casual digital fluency of younger generations, and those who don’t have access to broadband or smartphones.

“One thing we need to do as clinicians, as researchers, as a community is to use this opportunity in a very scientific manner to convert the digital divide to a digital bridge,” he says.

Working towards digital health access

“If we don’t put our singular efforts behind closing that digital divide, we’ll keep increasing the divide by bringing more and more technology to fewer and fewer people,” Atreja says. “We need to bring technology to more patients. Ultimately our mission is to have no patient, no clinician, left behind in the digital transformation.”

To that end, UC Davis Health recently partnered with AWS to create the world’s first health care cloud innovation center, completely focused on digital health equity. The organization is part of the University of California system, one of the largest public university systems in the U.S. They’re positioned to do a great deal of advocacy around funding more extensive, more affordable broadband access and devices.

For the patients who need skills training, they’re developing workshop materials to do training on site for patients or family members, both at the hospital and virtually.

“Their skills get better [with this training], whether it’s text-based engagement or patient portal engagement or even just doing virtual visits with a physician,” Atreja says. “I’m also hoping these skills go beyond just health care engagement, and help them navigate an increasingly digital world. We look at it as a mission that goes beyond just our health care roles, health system roles, to empowering our community together with them.”

The organization is also focused on creating a global learning community on digital health via the cloud innovation center. They offer access to evidence-based digital medicine through UC Davis Health and Node Health, a non-profit association for digital medicine. They’re also working on developing frameworks, use case studies, and implementation guides for free to anyone as part of our learning networks.

Marketing’s critical role

Atreja has found that working closely with marketing has been key to their efforts, not just in sharing common tools for engagement, but also getting the word out into the world. Working with the marketing team, UC Davis built a Future in Health series. They offer a summit every quarter, as well as webinars and fireside chats every month, to share what they’re learning, and invite other researchers to come and share their own perspectives.

And this is critical to educating populations beyond UC Davis’s immediate ecosystems – for smaller health care organizations and their patient populations.

“Often, researchers haven’t had the time or resources to be able to share our work that can lead to large-scale transformation and adoption,” Atreja says. “One of the reasons I came to UC Davis was this potential to make large-scale transformation — scaling the work beyond just our organization.”

To learn more about how organizations can help shape the digital transformation narrative, and influence consumer attitudes around technology innovation, and more, don’t miss this VB Live event!

Register now for free.


  • Global consumer sentiment around AI and automation – how it varies by market and will impact different industries, especially education, manufacturing, health care, retail, and more
  • The belief systems growing around AI and automation, and why they matter
  • Where consumer trust lies in who develops AI and how it’s used
  • How brands working with AI can impact consumer perceptions of AI


  • Ashish Atreja, Chief Information and Digital Health Officer, UC Davis Health
  • Evan Williams, Chief Product Officer, Data Products, YouGov
  • Seth Colaner, Moderator, VentureBeat