Dr Anushka Patchava, Deputy CMO at Vitality, on Why Real Transformation & Personalisation Hinges on Effective Use of Data

Dr Anushka Patchava from Vitality joined us this week on The CEO.digital Show to explore the transformation initiatives in the healthcare and wellbeing market. As both a medical and tech expert, she shows how data is the lifeblood of patient-focused personalisation and gives precise insight into how to leverage data in day-to-day operations. She has also co-authored an important whitepaper on blockchain with the UN. Tune in for more insight.

Dr Anushka Patchava buzzes with optimism and positive energy. At the height of the pandemic, she switched career from being a medical practitioner to deputy CMO at Vitality. Bringing her intimate bedside knowledge and first-hand understanding of patient pain points, she worked with Vitality to drive several modernisation and personalisation projects. All of which resulted in better experiences for patients.

In the episode, she answers the big questions that have always been challenging in healthcare. How do you reduce patient admissions? What are the ways to digitise and personalise content for patients based on the stage of their condition? How do you focus on the experience of the patient as much as the outcome of the treatment? How can diversity and social responsibility be addressed in treatments? Her answers come back to the same crucial element: data.

Data, rather than received wisdom or educated guess work, is the skeleton key which will open the doors to all these opportunities. Tune in to the episode for more insights into:

[04:08] – Trends within the healthcare sector
[10:44] – The “Fake Commute,” a brain hack to get into the office mindset when working from home
[15:03] – Why data needs to be accessible to the right people at the right time
[18:30] – Winning the Top 10 Women In tech award
[20:08] – Modernisation and transformation initiatives in healthcare
[25:09] – How personalisation and diversity intersect
[29:28] – Focus areas in healthcare that need to be paid more attention to
[32:07] – Tech disruptors to look out for in the future

Craig McCartney: Our guest is Dr. Anushka Patchava, Deputy Chief Medical Officer of Vitality, the health and life insurance and well-being company with the difference. Her background certainly spans the spectrum of the healthcare ecosystem, to say the least, as well as spanning a number of continents from working as a physician to consultant, technology developer and now, the innovative work she’s doing for the next generation of health and life insurance businesses.

Anushka is also a marathon runner, mountain climber, and weightlifter. Her multifaceted experience makes her an exciting guest on the show. I’ve been very excited about interviewing Anushka. She’s also one of the Top 10 Women in Tech for the year 2020. Welcome to the show, Anushka. It’s great to have you here.

Dr Anushka Patchava: It’s great to be here.

Craig McCartney: You’ve got a varied background. I touched on a portion of your work and a little bit about your history. While we got you here, it will be great to hear from yourself a little bit more detail about how you got to where you are now, and how you moved from being a qualified medical doctor to your role at Vitality?

Dr Anushka Patchava: That’s such a great question and not one that I have a direct answer for. I always get asked this question. The transitions I’ve had in my career and the experiences that it has brought me boil down to one key thing, and that’s curiosity. I always say and talk about my ABCs, which are the values that I live by. A being Authenticity, B being Brave, and C being Curious. When I was a physician in the NHS and out in the US, I always had a deeper interest in business, innovation, and trying to improve processes and pathways, but it was very limited. Without being too facetious, the role of a physician is generally to go in, make sure no one dies, and come out.

That meant that I had to change career paths to be involved in the areas that I was interested in. I went on a journey of learning about innovation, how businesses run, and strategy. I’m still learning about the finer aspects of the business whilst pursuing an executive MBA, including accounting and the financial statement pieces. Curiosity then led me onto the next thing and then the next thing.

Craig McCartney: In terms of the role at Vitality, can you tell us what time you get up there in terms of the day-to-day, what the strategy is, and what’s next for you?

Dr Anushka Patchava: I went from strategy consulting to a large international private medical insurer, an American medical insurer. Whilst I was there, I focused on digital health and population health and bringing analytics into health systems. From that role, I realized that I had a huge passion for not only improving the digital aspects of healthcare, which have been catalyzed since by the COVID-19 pandemic but also looking at quality, governance and building the new health ecosystems of the future. It’s a concept I call phydigital, which is physical and digital blended healthcare ecosystems. It’s not dissimilar to the relief because we need to digitalize right now, although we tend to use the word hybrid.

My role at Vitality is as Deputy Chief Medical Officer, I look after a variety of areas. The two key ones being our cancer care services. As we know, cancer care is evolving at such a pace right now. The key question is around keeping cancer care and the cost of cancer care sustainable, improving member journeys, and driving health outcomes particularly in line and in light of the pandemic affecting public health systems and the provision of care globally.

Also, ensuring that new and novel treatments are bought to patients in an effective way, and one that we can then drive not only medicines adherence because cancer treatment is often quite complex, particularly in the later stages, but also an understanding and awareness of a patient’s journey through using predictive analytics and such likes. Cancer care in its entirety is a fascinating area. I look after our cancer case management team at Vitality, which helps not only the member navigate once they’ve been diagnosed with cancer in the healthcare system, but also with the aspects of paying claims and utilization of management to some extent.

The other large area I look after is our primary care services. It’s a fascinating area to be in given the changes of the COVID-19 pandemic. One that is at a crossroads is accounting for the fact that there’s only a finite number of GPs in the UK, and the system and the demand for GPs are unbalanced right now. How do we better deliver primary care either through digital or through differentiated care models that aren’t fully and solely reliant on GPs whilst also thinking about the future? Do we leverage technologies, chatbots, better digital triage tools, and such likes? That is a big part of my day to day.

Craig McCartney: You started at Vitality right about when the pandemic arrived in the UK, around March 2020. What is it like? People’s livelihoods are so at stake and everyone was greatly affected. It must be quite challenging to start. Although it must feel like a long time ago now.

Dr Anushka Patchava: You’re not wrong, Craig, just the date is different from what I remember. I started at Vitality in January 2021. The pandemic had hit. I made a decision to move roles in the middle of the pandemic predominantly because a lot of people during the pandemic start questioning themselves. I remember waking up every morning and asking myself some deep existential questions about what my purpose was, where I wanted to be in my career, and what development I wanted to drive in lockdown in myself and also in my peers, my colleagues, and my friends.

That led me to the Vitality role. I started in the middle of the pandemic in the deepest, darkest winter of January 2021. In a large company where it was fully digital and fully remote, having met and worked with people that I had only interacted with very briefly on the phone or on-screen was a very learning experience for me. For those that have changed roles in the middle of the pandemic, you’ll empathize with the fact that building relationships through the screen, on Teams, on Zoom or whatever modality is incredibly difficult.

The pandemic has forced us to adopt where previously we wouldn't have necessarily adopted technology. Click To Tweet

Also, managing teams and understanding those dynamics that individuals hold within the business either at the leadership level or as part of the delivery teams is very difficult to do virtually. I find virtual and digital very transactional because you would only ever dial into a meeting or a call with someone if you had to ask them a question. Whereas day-to-day life is very different. It’s very conversational and a lot more fun. It was a very challenging time for me. I went into it as I often do with everything being bold, brave, and maybe a little bit cocky as well thinking this will be easy. I’m pretty sociable and soon learned that screen burnout and fatigue are real things.

Craig McCartney: You just seem to work a lot. You lose the personal connection and you’re working all the time.

Dr Anushka Patchava: You’re working a lot harder. There’s a TED Talk I watched about how being on screen is basically being in the theater or being on a film because you’re being watched the whole time. A lot of us don’t like to be watched the whole time.

Craig McCartney: I’ve turned off my view now so I also don’t see myself because it’s exhausting watching yourself the whole day. I recommend that to anyone.

It’s funny how we don’t like to look at ourselves and often find it very uncomfortable looking at ourselves.

Craig McCartney: Looking at Vitality, are you back in the offices now? Is it hybrid? What’s the day-to-day at the moment?

Dr Anushka Patchava: As of the recent changes by the UK government, we’re back to hybrid. I will be spending at least two days in the office. I do a four-day work week myself. Two days in the office and two days at home, which is a nice balance to organize in-person meetings where you can, and then have some quiet thinking time when you’re at home.

Craig McCartney: A four-day work week is a way forward. We’ve launched it ourselves and everyone seems to love it. Also going in now is so stressful and expensive. You got all these extra things you got to do to go into the offices. We used to live like that day-to-day or every day. Are you finding a similar pattern there?

Dr Anushka Patchava: I think so to some extent. I often find the most stressful thing is finding a mask in our household. We have masks in about twenty different locations but when you need one, you can never find the boxes that we’ve located at home. For me, it’s more getting used to being around people, being in crowded spaces, the public transport, which we’ve all not become accustomed to or not been doing for the past few years. Also, I think it’s the energy of getting dressed, putting on the right mindset and putting on your game face for the office again. It’s not something we’re all used to as a result of the pandemic.

That being said, when I was struggling during the pandemic with getting out of bed and particularly when it’s dark in the mornings, it’s quite tough, I introduced a fake commute into my day. I would get up. I would get completely dressed for the office. I would go walk around the block and pretend I was walking into the office and then come back into my house as this is now the office. At the end of the day, I would then get undressed. I would put my gym clothes on. I would go to the gym and then come back to my house after gym, now I’m returning from work. It’s funny how you can trick your mind into accepting that as normal. It resets your frame and thinking

Craig McCartney: I should have interviewed you earlier because we needed this advice a few months ago. If you’re all working from home, it’s such a nice thing to do. If you force yourself to get out there, go for a walk, go for a run, and not just be indoors all the time. Especially if I live in an open plan, I can always see my workstation. You feel like you never really leave. That’s a great idea. Let’s talk about the pandemic and technology. It has obviously accelerated technology. There are lots of new things that technology has brought to the party. How do you feel that the pandemic has accelerated the technology? What are you excited about and what do you see on the horizon? What’s next?

Dr Anushka Patchava: It depends on the day of the week that you asked me this question, my perspective changes. What I would say is the pandemic has forced us to adopt where previously we wouldn’t have necessarily adopted technology. For example, in healthcare, physicians, as well as patients, were quite adamant that in-person physical touch was necessary. We’ve seen a massive swing and almost because we were forced to, physicians, as well as patients, have adopted either video or telephone consultations.

What we’ve seen that do for the system is it creates efficiencies, but it also creates an opportunity whereby it could be that going forward only those that most need physical appointments will have physical appointments. Those that are medium or low risk could be offered phone conversations either through video or voice. That could then open up capacity within a system that is already burdened.

I think technology has evolved as a result of that push or as a result of that pandemic, but also the mindset and culture have evolved because it has been forced down that road. What we see in healthcare though, and it’s quite interesting, is during the pandemic, there was a phobia of being in physical clinical environments because you always felt if someone was coughing or sneezing, you would then put yourself at risk. Those crowded environments weren’t seen as amenable to good health.

Healthcare has become more consumer-centric. We now care not only about reported outcomes but also about the experience itself. Click To Tweet

We haven’t seen those phobias necessarily fully disappear. I do wonder whether people who have adopted digital will be okay with losing the convenience and the accessibility of digital to then revert back to physical clinics and almost shaking off that phobia. The pandemic has bought that digital adoption in areas that we previously wouldn’t have seen it.

For example, the hospitality sector did some very cool stuff around teaching people to cook at home because we forgot that a lot of people probably didn’t know how to cook breakfast and lunch, and maybe even dinner at home, myself included. I would get a protein shake on the way out the door and then I would normally have lunch in the office. I either go to a local joint or in-office catering. For me, being able to cook lunch in seven minutes in between the meetings is a skill. It’s one that I’ve had to learn through chef-shows likes Jamie Oliver’s 15-Minute Meals on YouTube videos.

Where I think the pandemic has also accelerated digital is the need not only for businesses in equipping and ensuring their infrastructure is tied up, but the need for us to think deeper around data and the value of data in our businesses. I see data and businesses as two streams. One is around data empowerment. It’s the data you have on your customers and your employees within your business in the right place. Is it being used in an effective insightful way? Do the right people in the business have access to that data?

It’s hard if all your data sat in a data warehouse. If a member of the management team needs to access that data, they are having to ask someone to write code to then get that data out of the warehouse. It’s hard to see how that is empowering an organization. As a result of the digital transformation that COVID has driven, organizations have been led down this path to think more about the value of data. There are some fantastic businesses like Deliveroo who have been showcasing how they use their data in the business on their customers on their Twitter sites, and driving that intuitive thinking around data within the business.

The second area is around data is a new revenue stream. Businesses did struggle in the pandemic. Some sectors did better than others. I can’t imagine any business that turns down the opportunity of a new revenue stream given the current economic climate. The pandemic with digital acceleration, the adoption of technology, and the growing interest in data had led us to think about even new revenue streams and data, and how we can then better serve not only our customers but also our business.

Craig McCartney: I don’t know if you can talk about it openly but maybe high level. Has Vitality been doing any interesting things with data? Obviously, a lot of the data that you captured is quite sensitive and it has to be very secure. Are you guys doing anything cool with some of that data?

Dr Anushka Patchava: We are. Not dissimilar to other organizations, we’ve gone down the journey of digital transformation. We’ve looked at our internal systems and processes, and we’re optimizing how we do things within our business, how we draw upon robotic process automation, how we draw upon machine learning, and equally, the panacea that everyone talks about, artificial intelligence to drive better business efficiencies and better product placement or provision for our customers.

Some of the cool things we have been looking at are around the personalization of healthcare, which is a global agenda, and how we enable and ensure that patients or members receive health information that is not only relevant to them but also appropriate to the stage of their disease or the condition they’re in. Also, how do we then use that to drive healthy behaviors for those that potentially aren’t sick and are more in that wellness space? The personalization of our rewards program and what we do within it is a big agenda item and one we’ve talked about in the market quite a bit.

Craig McCartney: I’ll move the conversation. We’re still talking about technology and I do want to touch on it. I know you won this outstanding award for the Top 10 Women in Technology thing in 2020. That’s hugely impressive. Can you tell us a little bit about the work that you did to receive such an honor?

Analytics Insights awarded me this. I actually still question myself as to how, but I suspect it’s the result of driving awareness and education of new technologies. For example, distributed ledger technology in a particular blockchain. Working with the UN, we produced a white paper on blockchain, which was very well-received, and the opportunity of blockchain across a variety of sectors. I worked with a large number of co-authors who have done a fantastic job putting together that piece. That was part of the reason that we challenged thinking, but also put together some new concepts and some new opportunities that we discussed within that paper.

Equally, I’ve been involved in the field of telemedicine and supported digital health companies to commercialize their assets in digital health. With healthcare being such a motive and growing field and one which was either the first or the second, and if it was the second, it was only second to the FinTech area, which received the largest amount of funding globally. The combination of those pieces contributed to that award.

Craig McCartney: It’s very inspiring and it sounds like you’re always giving something back. When I first met you, I got that impression straight away. Let’s talk a little bit about the health insurance industry. At Vitality, you’ve spoken about how it’s changing drastically and rapidly. How is the healthcare ecosystem modernizing and transforming at the moment? Can you give any examples?

Dr Anushka Patchava: There are so many ways it’s modernizing. If we look at healthcare provision and how we provide care, it’s changing significantly. We’ve mentioned in this episode phydigital and the blend of physical and digital services, but also healthcare has become more consumer-centric. We actually now care not only about what we previously called patient-reported outcomes, whereby a patient or a member who receives healthcare can feed back to physicians and the health system about how that experience was.

We care also about the experience itself. Previously, if you think about Apple retail stores as being the disruptor in the retail space, we in healthcare probably would have ignored that experience aspect. User experience now is being brought into healthcare. It is predominantly because we believe it can change outcomes and reduce unnecessary admissions. It can reduce potentially acute or unnecessary care events and reduce costs overall.

Customer experience is the cornerstone of every business. Click To Tweet

We have brought empathy not only into the way we design healthcare processes and pathways, led by digital-first, but also that user-centric design and that reassurance that what a patient experiences matters in how we do things going forward. I would say partly that healthcare has become less arrogant and more open to change in recent years. If we think about data as well within healthcare, we’ve always known and understood that data privacy in healthcare is probably the most important space, if not more important than banking.

There’s always a tussle about whether it’s more important to protect your banking data or your health data. I think health data is more important. I know some people would sit in defense of the banking, particularly given savings and all that. What we have learned to do in the last few years and we’re doing more and more is to understand the constraints of data in healthcare using de-anonymize data to build models and understand before we predict what is actually happening in the system right now, and then make decisions based on data rather than gut instinct.

That’s very important. Healthcare as a whole is generally evidence-based. Most of the drugs in this country have to go through a process where they prove efficacy, safety and quality. Equally, when we design new processes and new pathways or we implement changes to the healthcare system, we need to rely on data that we have to say that this is right for the population right now. If we remove services, we should have a justification. If we add in services, we should have justification. Commissioning around data population and data sets is very empowering.

The third area we’ve changed significantly is combining both of those two. Combining the first piece around caring about the journey and the experience. The second piece is around data and ascertaining the value of our interventions. Value-based healthcare is a concept that came out of Michael Porter at Harvard Business School and has done its rounds globally.

Within the UK, we now look at value-based contracts. I believe we’re starting to look more at value-based contracts and drive engagement, particularly in the digital health space, through value-based contracting of condition management programs and prevention programs. Those three concepts are very key. Starting to care about what our patients, our consumers or our customers experience and feel. Starting to think more about how we can break down the constraints of data privacy within healthcare.

For example, we use de-anonymize data to feed models, and then make commissioning as well as service decisions based on the data, and at a population level, as well as at an individual level in some areas. For example, using data to ascertain whether a treatment is going to be effective in a particular patient is so important to the personalization of healthcare. The third space is around getting value from our system, knowing that the system and publicly funded healthcare systems are generally unsustainable in their current form. How do we drive value-based contracting and ensure we get the right health outcomes and value from the interventions we put in place?

Craig McCartney: You touched on a few things there that I wanted to expand on. You talked about the personalization of healthcare and the patient’s experience. These topics fall under customer experience. Is that something that you think about at Vitality as a technology advocate?

Dr Anushka Patchava: Absolutely. Customer experience is the cornerstone of our business and every business. Ensuring that your experiences stand out from the competition is key, but also ensuring that you do what you say you will do for your customers. When they purchase your product, they have a certain expectation. Meeting that expectation is part of your corporate and your social responsibility, I would say. To me, what’s even more important in customer experience, particularly right now when we’re designing digital and technology journeys, is ensuring we abide by a huge corporate social responsibility we all have around inclusivity and accessibility.

That forms a lot of our thinking around how do you deliver exceptional customer experiences but how do you also ensure that you are inclusive and your experiences are accessible to all as part of that? That’s very key in terms of our social responsibility. Through delivering exceptional customer experiences, you then hope to achieve high customer loyalty and exceptional customer retention, which saves businesses the cost per customer acquisition that we’re all seeing right now across a variety of businesses.

Craig McCartney: At Vitality, would you say you guys are there in terms of providing that experience or do you still have some work to do?

Dr Anushka Patchava: I think it would be very bold and brave to say any business is there right now. I say that because the diversity of communities and the human population is at its greatest. At its last count, if we think about gender as a whole, I know that there are over 200 subcategories of gender. To say that any business is able to account for that in their model and their delivery is probably a lie.

It’s great because we need to celebrate the diversity of society, and it’s only going to get more and more diverse. What I would say we do at Vitality, and we’re very aligned to other businesses as well on this, is maintain nationally set digital standards, particularly around accessibility and inclusivity. Design with the broad customer in mind. The personas that we used in our design principles are very broad as with all businesses. We don’t just tunnel people into the traditional customers. We employ a diverse range of people. You can’t do diversity well unless you do it yourselves. That brings not only experience and expertise but also brings a change in the way we approach and think about things.

Craig McCartney: It’s such an interesting topic and I’m always learning. Now I feel like the question I asked, “Do you think you’re nearly there,” was a bit naive because you’re explaining 200 different gender options. These things are going to change and evolve as society does. It’s so interesting.

Dr Anushka Patchava: Craig, just on that as well. If we think about ethnicity, I always struggle. My parents are Indian by background. I’ve grown up in the UK and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for the early fourteen years of my life, but I struggled because I would identify as an Indian. On a form in the UK, I’m British-Asian. Ethnicity right now is so blended, particularly with global travel hopefully returning to what it used to be and mobility. I often question how important it is to know my ethnicity on some of the forms you fill in.

Craig McCartney: There is a lot to think about. It’s going to be a journey for companies to try and make it as inclusive as possible for everyone, but it’s a rolling project. In terms of your industry as a whole, do you think there’s anything that’s not getting enough attention or air time at the moment?

Dr Anushka Patchava: There are certain areas that have come to be more important, particularly within healthcare. Previously, we focused very wholly on those that were unwell and be very reactive in healthcare. Vitality as an insurer as well as the health system more holistically are looking at more dimensions of health. It is not just when you’re unwell, but how do we proactively help you stay well when you’re well to prevent you from going through the unwell.

How do we optimize those that are unwell and going through treatment? For example, prehab/rehab. We’ve launched a cancer support program whereby those that are undergoing cancer treatment are optimized to ensure that emotionally, physically and mentally, they have support while they go through that program, and not only tailored support around exercise and nutrition but also around how do you keep your concentration, how do you keep your mood, and how do you prevent feeling anxious?

The area of healthcare as a whole has started to shift from being very reactive to being proactive. Equally, the pandemic has taught us that even in the wellness space, it’s very complex. It’s not just mental or physical wellness. There are eight dimensions of wellness. We think about emotional and mental being the ones that we most commonly looked at in the pandemic, and physical as well as a result of our work from home and sedentary lifestyles, but there are other areas. Environmental health is becoming important. You see governments taking this as a huge agenda item on how do we prevent carbon emissions in cities and improve the quality of air, for example

Financial health and wellness are very important. We know that contributes to mental and physical health. Intellectual wellness, people are striving for purpose and we’ve all seen media headlines around the mass exodus of employees away from corporate and traditional workforces into startup and entrepreneurship because they’re looking for that intellectual stimulation and that purpose in their life.

Equally, occupational, social and spiritual are becoming more and more important when you think about health and wellness as a whole. For me, that’s how the industry is changing. We’re becoming more proactive and we are thinking more holistically about health and wellness, and how we can influence that in our patients or consumers.

Craig McCartney: In terms of that, we segue into technologies that are causing disruption and without mentioning competitors, but are there any companies or technologies that you would say are disrupting the industry?

Dr Anushka Patchava: There are several, but if we break them down, there’s disruption happening in terms of diagnostics. Accounting for the fact that people are now having digital consultations more and more, a lot of businesses or startups are looking to solve for how do we bring the hospital into the home? What diagnostics can we offer in the home that will then empower that physician who is talking to that patient through a digital platform to make an appropriate and accurate clinical decision?

There are businesses that are working with offering patients digitally-enabled healthcare devices like an auriscope or a thermometer that then connect to your phone that then transmits to a physician a million miles away or around the corner. I think that’s changing the landscape. If we think about diagnostics at home, blood testing has been around for a long time. It can potentially change quite considerably with what we do right now.

If you could have your GP appointment digitally, have your blood test at home, receive the results of that test, and then not need to go to another clinic, but go straight to your consultant if it’s necessary, then imagine how easy and convenient that is for the consumer. Does it reduce costs for the health system? More than likely if you do it correctly. Diagnostics is a very interesting area. Diagnostics paired with digital to facilitate digital delivery of care is an interesting area.

The other area that is very interesting is around augmented intelligence. I call it augmented and not artificial because I truly believe that in healthcare, there are very few processes that you can completely take the clinician out of. I think having clinical oversight is very key. For me, their business is looking at, particularly in the radiology space which was my profession before I stopped practicing as a physician, how can you help with volume by using artificial intelligence or image processing to look at the normal, identify the normal, and only allow physicians or permit physicians to practice at top of the license by them looking at the more complex cases.

Augmented intelligence helping with decision-making in that radiology or image processing space, equally in the laboratory and diagnostic space is a very exciting field. Does it truly augment clinical decision-making? That is a question we asked ourselves. It’s a question that evidence is looking to prove. Do you get true ROI or is it just adding complexity to a system?

Craig McCartney: There is s so much to take in and learn. It sounds exciting and interesting and has lots to look forward to. Let’s move on to the final section where we get to know a little bit about you. I’ve got a couple of fun questions. I’ve also got a quick personal question from my perspective because I did meet you a few years ago in the good old days when we could sit around a dinner table and clink glasses of wine, talk about business, and get to know people in that way. That was at the Chief Wine Officer dinner. You were telling me that you spent some time in South Africa as well. You helped to found a charity. I wanted to see if that was still going and if you could tell us very high level about that.

Dr Anushka Patchava: Yes, the charity still runs today. I have very little involvement in it, but I would say it’s where my heart beats the most. If I could be considered South African one day, given the quality of the rugby and cricket teams that that country puts out, I would be very proud and very happy. It’s a fantastic charity. It stemmed from the fact that back in the day, when we started it, HIV was stigmatized quite heavily in the country. Mothers who gave birth to children who are either HIV positive or mothers who are HIV positive themselves used to abandon their children on railway tracks in various unsightly locations, going back to my experience.

That is a sad and quite challenging experience for those people who not only find their children but also for the community as a whole. For us, it was about taking those children on board. The value of human life is so important and we’ve all learned that over the course of the year if nothing else. Also, giving those children the opportunity to develop regardless of their disease status. For me, as HIV has evolved in the last few years and knowing that there are some near-curative base treatments out there, it was definitely the right move to take. Those children flourished and several of them who were brought into the establishment very young, below the age of five, have now come out the other end of the establishment.

They are now working in local communities and have moved on with their life. They’ve had the opportunity to not only have care and love, but also education. Those three principles form part of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs but are also very close to my heart. When I talk about authenticity, I truly challenged myself to treat all humans as equal and the same. I know we all get frustrated at various points, but I’m most disappointed in myself when my behavior doesn’t reflect that.

Craig McCartney: You always come across as very authentic and the work that you do is incredible. What is the name of the charity?

Dr Anushka Patchava: The charity was initially called Baphumelele, but it’s since evolved to now Our Home in Khayelitsha.

Craig McCartney: It’s amazing work there. Me being South African, it’s close to home. I just wanted to ask about it and see how it was getting on. To lighten the mood as well, let’s talk about some sort of fun questions as we wrap up. I prepared a few. They’re not going to become too much of a surprise, but what is your guilty technology pleasure?

Dr Anushka Patchava: My black hole of space and time is Instagram Reels. I have a newfound addiction to panda videos. If you felt down and watched a Panda video, you automatically feel invigorated and jovial because pandas seem to have a lot of fun, I mean great giant pandas. If I sit on Instagram, I will be normally on the reels page and hours and hours of my time can pass.

Craig McCartney: In terms of what your family thinks you do versus what your friends think you do, do they have a good idea? Can they explain it?

Dr Anushka Patchava: I don’t think my parents even know I left medicine or maybe they do. Mom and my dad, now you find out. I think they only know through my LinkedIn to be honest. I’m pretty sure my parents still tell our wider family back in India that I’m a doctor and leave it at that. That tells me that they don’t really know what I do every day. Although my dad did say that he’d seen the Vitality advert on TV and therefore knew the brand, which I think is a good thing.

I think my friends think I work way too hard. That’s obviously not true. My friends think I am always working. My brother has long given up on either of us understanding what each of us does because we were both constantly evolving in what we do and how we change our careers. He’s involved with data science and things that are far too cerebral for my brain. Equally, he finds healthcare far too boring for his brain. We tend to keep our conversations around NFTs and new technology. We tend to ideate around new startups rather than talk about our day-to-day.

Craig McCartney: Do you own any NFTs?

Dr Anushka Patchava: I don’t, although I did see one of the people I follow on LinkedIn very closely, the global head of AI at Amazon, Allie Miller who announced an NFT sale herself. I don’t own any NFTs. If I did, it would probably be in a classic car because that comes with tax benefits and it’s another dark passion of mine.

Craig McCartney: You are an avid weightlifter as well. What’s your favorite weightlifting move?

Dr Anushka Patchava: I don’t think I’ve been asked that ever. I power lift, which means that I do competitions that involve three of the most boring moves, a chest press, a deadlift, and a squat with a back squat that is. I’ve tried front squatting and I think it’s probably the most unnatural position. One thing I really love is a squat thruster. You squat and then you push the bar over your head. If you do 50 of those a day, I think not only you will hit your calorie goals, but it’s great for your body. You work on your posterior chain as well as all your other mobility areas. For me, a squat thruster with some heavy-pumping EDM music is the way to go.

Craig McCartney: That’s also one of my favorite moves because, from the CrossFit days, that gets the heart pumping. Did you pick up any new hobbies or anything like that over lockdown? Where you one of those that went and explored new things to learn.

Dr Anushka Patchava: I picked up quite a few new hobbies. Probably some of them make me seem like more of a beach bum than anything else. I won’t even say it was a hobby, Craig. I think I was forced down to it because my mind was so cluttered, but it has truly impacted my productivity. It has been around meditation and mindfulness. I got myself a Muse headband. I taught myself to meditate. I don’t think I’m there yet. I naturally am a busy body in my head and physically, it’s very hard to concentrate. I have found that a sound bath or listening to a sound bath before bed is a very calming influence on my mind.

Craig McCartney: What is a sound bath?

Dr Anushka Patchava: A sound bath is when people play the gongs and/or metal objects that resonate at a specific frequency that then causes calming. It comes across a little bit Harry Potter Hogwarty but it’s fantastic. If you Google sound baths and YouTube, a lot of the meditation apps have sound baths. It’s such a great space to be in before bed.

Craig McCartney: A family friend of mine has their own sound therapy setup in the studio. I have gone in and done exactly that live with the gongs. They even put those bowls on all your sort of your chakras. It was pretty incredible. I didn’t know if it was called a sound bath, so that’s good to know, but I did benefit from that. That’s interesting. I think I’ve asked you as many questions as I could. I could probably carry on asking you questions. You do seem to have a lot of knowledge and insights. I would love to redo this and see where the world is the next time we speak. Thank you so much, Anushka, for your time. Thank you for joining us on the show.

Dr Anushka Patchava: I look forward to us doing it again. Probably when the world has evolved and the next iteration of the pandemic or whatever is thrown at us. Thank you, Craig, for the time. I can’t wait for our glass of wine together when we can meet in person.

Craig McCartney: Thank you, Anushka.


Is the data you have on your customers, on your employees, within your business, in the right place? Do the right people in the business have access to that data? It’s really hard [to transform] if all your data sat in a data warehouse, with someone having to write code to then get that data out.

Dr. Anushka Patchava, MD
Deputy Chief Medical Officer,

Dr. Anushka Patchava, MD
Deputy Chief Medical Officer,

Dr Anushka is an experienced healthcare leader and strategist with a history of working in product innovation and commercial strategy across the pharmaceutical, health and medical devices sector. Her expertise also includes Digital Strategy and Leadership, Value- Based Healthcare and Marketing Analytics. She is an Expert Advisor to the UN (CEFACT) for Artificial Intelligence and Blockchain in Healthcare.



Craig McCartney
Managing Director,
Chief Nation

Welcome to The CEO.digital Show, a new peer-to-peer podcast series where we’ll be talking to influential thought leaders about how tech is continuing to change the way the world does business.

The CEO.digital Show is brought to you by host Craig McCartney. Each week, we’ll be interviewing major thought and industry leaders to learn how they are embracing new technologies and strategies to create new value and success for their companies. Find us on all major podcast streaming platforms.