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Cerner associate using VR headset

Using virtual reality to inspire innovation in health care

Published on 11/13/2019

Estimated read time: 5 minutes

Associate Profiles is a blog series dedicated to highlighting the efforts of the people who are shaping the next generation of health care at Cerner. This month meet Taylor Floyd, a data strategist on the User Experience (UX) Innovations team.

Since May 2016, Taylor Floyd has been focused on the future. As a data strategist, he works to help Cerner clients and fellow associates see the nearly limitless possibilities that technology and innovation can bring to the next wave of health care.

Recently, Taylor’s team has been focusing on virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). While this technology has been around since the 1990s and has become popular in industries like gaming and entertainment, it hasn’t been widely adopted in health care.

In this Q&A, Taylor explains how his team is driving innovation and showcasing the ways AR and VR can be applied to transform the future of care.

Q: What does a typical day look like for you as a data strategist?

A: It depends on the week. We’re a very data-focused team. We could have some small projects, such as looking into a client experience or investigating how to get a higher adoption rate for a solution. We manage the media wall at the Innovations campus, figuring out how to use data to tell a story that helps visitors, clients and associates connect with Cerner’s mission. We’re also fortunate to have the opportunity to focus on pure research and development. Every other Friday, we have the entire day as a Labs Day. We use this time to come up with a unique idea that we’re passionate about or that we think could have an interesting application in health care. By the end of the business day, the goal is to have a deliverable, whether that’s a literature review, proof of concept or prototype.

Q: How do clients respond to proof of concept ideas?

A: When we present these concepts to clients, you can see their eyes light up. Maybe they aren’t interested in the exact application that we used for the proof of concept, but they can see the fundamental value of it. When they start to think about how they can mold our ideas into what they need to solve their specific challenges, it’s really refreshing and rewarding for us.

"We’re showing what we can do, and then we want to partner to decide what we should do. That’s the most exciting thing, that our work can be the launch point for further collaboration that could deliver the next breakthrough innovation." - Taylor Floyd

Q: What types of ideas and innovations are you most excited about?

A: I’m very excited about how we can revolutionize the way clinicians interact with our EHR and other solutions. We all understand that there’s a significant amount of ground to be gained in bettering those interactions. If you look at data around KLAS scores, client satisfaction, patient care and provider burnout – Cerner can touch on so many different areas. The good and bad part of pure research and development is that a lot of ideas die on the vine. That’s just part of the process; we can only push ideas so far, and some things never make it past that initial stage. But we know the things that do make it to that next stage are really worth pursuing. We’re already doing some work with VR, but AR is really the next thing. A big part of addressing clinician burnout is making the human-computer interaction fluid. AR tears down some of the barriers of VR because the AR environment can be anywhere.

Q: One of your team’s goals is to inspire innovation. How do you do that?

A: We take new ideas and vet them as much as we can, and then start “selling” the idea to clients and stakeholders. Our hope is that we can entice a client to partner with Cerner, and we can learn and mature the idea from that direct relationship. Developing a proof of concept demonstrates that we’re heavily invested in these technologies and tools, but we’re not saying that what we did is exactly what Cerner needs to go to market with. We’re showing what we can do, and then we want to partner to decide what we should do. That’s the most exciting thing, that our work can be the launch point for further collaboration that could deliver the next breakthrough innovation.

Q: How do you push the boundaries of what’s possible in the future while staying grounded in reality?

A: We get to define problems and the world in which we solve them. That forces me to go from a very practical, business problem-solving mindset into more of an abstract white space, where we explore existing problems and solve them in a unique way. We do a lot of research into the direction technology is going and potential future capabilities, and then we make an educated guess. We have to say, if we assume these things are true, this is how we would approach any problem.

So, using AR as an example, our problem is that we need to get relevant clinical information in front of clinicians without inundating them with non-useful information. Our assumption is that AR is now a part of health care. Doctors have AR goggles just like they have stethoscopes, and patients aren’t put-off by these goggles. That’s the world in which we would present our ideas. We’re also asking questions like, "If battery life continues to improve, what does that mean for wearables?" We have near real-time location systems on infusion pumps, beds and medical devices. What could that look like several years from now? A lot of engineering teams look ahead one or two years, but we look seven-plus years ahead and think about where Cerner, and the entire health care ecosystem, could be that we haven’t even thought of yet.

Cerner works at the intersection of health care and information technology to connect people and systems around the world. Learn more here.


Not all of the UX Innovations team's ideas become Cerner solutions, but some gain traction in other ways:

  • Visitors to Cerner's Innovations campus hear ambient music as they enter the lobby, but they might not realize they’re actually listening to data. Taylor’s team collected data from the Cerner Lights On Network® and fed it into a custom service that matches the inputs with musical tones. The result is a dynamically populated playlist that constantly generates new music based on data. A Cerner client liked the idea so much, they purchased it for their corporate headquarters. “It would take about 294 quintillion years to listen to the entire library, so the playlist will never get stale,” Taylor says. Listen to a clip of the data music.
  • Just below the media wall in the lobby at Innovations, there's an emoji button that allows associates and visitors to provide a real-time reaction to the content on the screen. “The media wall was designed to be interesting, engaging and motivating,” Taylor says. “We're always trying to find unique data sources or unique ways to tell Cerner’s story, so it’s important to know if the content is resonating.”


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