Illustration credit: A.E. Kieren

Meg Columbia-Walsh, Global lead, digital healthcare, Cognizant

If you want to know where an industry is going, it helps to know where it has been. And when it comes to digital healthcare, there are few people on the planet with as much historical knowledge as Columbia-Walsh.

In 1998 she founded and served as CEO of what is thought to be the first digital advertising agency, HealthTech Digital Communications. She then went on to found and helm three other successful companies—the most recent of which, mobile ad agency Inverse Mobile, was snapped up by Ernst & Young.

“I was sort of an accidental entrepreneur,” she explains. “I think the one thing I had was a strength in anticipating trends related to technology and then being able to translate them from a business standpoint.”

In her new role at Cognizant, Columbia-Walsh will help build a digital works team intended to concentrate on strategic planning at the intersection of payers, providers and data analysis. “It won’t just be digital for the sake of digital,” she says. “It will be because it affects my clients’ business.”

In fact, Columbia-Walsh believes digital healthcare will eventually become so pervasive and widespread that it will cease being a separate category unto itself and simply be viewed as part of the everyday healthcare marketing and media mix. “The thinking can no longer be tactical.

It needs to be enterprise-wide, just total change,” she adds. “Companies need to increase the spend to match the usage. That is true transformation. That’s the kind of point I want to get through.”