Mark Milliron and Chris Hester on What Higher Ed Can Learn From Healthcare

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Higher education isn’t the only industry leaning into the power of predictive analytics to improve the customer experience. In the most recent installment of Catalytic Conversations, Mark Milliron chats with Chris Hester, Civitas Learning’s new CEO, to discuss the valuable experience Chris brings to Civitas Learning, his successful application of analytics within the healthcare sector, and how that success translates into education.

Chris Hester brings 20+ years of tech and analytics experience to Civitas Learning. He led Kinnser Health in developing an AI platform and workflow tools that are used by post-acute clinicians to integrate patient data into real-time healthcare practices. With these resources, healthcare providers could better understand, quantify, and improve patient outcomes, improving the delivery of care for almost 800,000 patients every year.

Throughout their conversation, Chris and Mark dive into the worlds of healthcare and education, exploring the significant parallels between the goals, challenges, and key components for success in both industries.

Fulfilling the Mission of Improving Outcomes

Although education and healthcare may seem worlds apart, they share a common mission – providing service and care for others to improve their outcomes. Tech companies in both sectors are delivering software and services to improve the lives of others. In his conversation with Mark, Chris reflects on his primary focus at Kinnser Health, the “timeless priorities of customer care”:

  • Reduce workflow inefficiencies, allowing clinicians to focus on patient care and less on bureaucratic logistics and compliance requirements
  • Build autonomy for frontline users to drive engagement, while also unifying the work of frontline users with top administrators
  • Reduce rehospitalization of patients at scale by identifying what at-risk patients look like, when they were most at risk, and setting up systems to take action

In the same vein, higher ed is striving to create a positive learning experience for students by reducing inefficiencies in institutional systems and processes (e.g., transitioning to online registration). Schools are also working to unify data and teams across the institution to shift focus to student success. Additionally, there is an important focus on improving student retention and completion rates by proactively identifying students who need help and then providing real-time, personalized care and resources.

Overcoming the Hurdles of Change Management

While the potential benefits of successful change management and technology implementation are clear, there are also substantial obstacles. Achieving success is more complex than leaders simply making decisions that get passed down to frontline professionals. Changes imposed top-down feel too closely related to accountability and compliance. Without proper buy-in from stakeholders when implementing new tools or processes, teams often face problems including poor workflow structure, reluctance to adopt a new tool, and resistance to new processes.

Mark asserts that the goal isn’t just improving workflow with tools or just providing actionable data insights – rather, it’s the power of the two combined with effective change management that enables better decision-making across an institution or company. The key to effective change management involves empowering people – administrators, users, even customers – through the democratization of data. 

For instance, Kinnser’s software solutions successfully helped healthcare providers identify and effectively address a weekend spike in incidents of rehospitalization. By the same token, institutions have utilized Civitas Learning to identify and target FTIC, first generation, and low SES students – groups at higher risk for not completing – for outreach and support before they leave the institution. Without delivering insights to professionals in a digestible way that they can easily act on, or gathering input from stakeholders during implementation, those outcomes may not have been possible.

Connecting the Dots

Does this conversation sound familiar? In 2016, we released a white paper by Mark Milliron, Making the Most of a Healthy Change in Education: The Emerging Student Success Platform, about the ways in which new uses of data were turning the healthcare industry on its head and the lessons education can glean from the experience. 

As we consider the striking similarities between healthcare and higher ed and the lessons each can learn from the other, we must reflect on the timeless priorities Chris mentioned. We must ask how are we supporting the timeless priorities of our customers and their clients?

His recommendation: Focus. Let’s focus on a few crucial things really well, and dramatically increase the probability of getting things across the finish line. As we continue to do that together, we will move the needle on our own work as well as theirs.

Hear more of the conversation, Chris’ experience with analytics, and his vision for Civitas Learning


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