Get to know Lygeia Ricciardi

Written by: GLHC

Lygeia Ricciardi

GLHC is thrilled to welcome Lygeia Ricciardi as the morning Keynote presenter for the 2019 Metro Detroit Summit on September 27, 2019 at the MSU Management Education Center in Troy, MI. Lygeia is highly sought after as a presenter for her expertise in leveraging technology in healthcare transformation for patients, providers, payers, and policy makers.

Beyond her impressive professional background, Lygeia is a warm and engaging person. We posed a few questions to her to help provide a sense of the person behind the professional.


GLHC: What is your favorite food?

Lygeia: I love pasta. My background is Italian, so I guess that’s not surprising. But pasta is both delicious and so versatile. What do spaghetti with meatballs, mac and cheese, and linguini alle vongole have in common? Pasta, of course! And I haven’t even mentioned pesto yet. Yum.


GLHC: What travel destination/vacation spot is at the top of your bucket list?

Lygeia: One day, I’d like to visit the Galapagos Islands. When I was five years old, my mother took me to a demonstration of live snakes at Boston’s Museum of Science. At the end, the presenter asked if anyone wanted to come up and touch a python. I was one of the smaller kids there, but the only one who took her up on the offer. That snake was gorgeous—and so squishy! I’ve always loved animals, and would be excited to meet Galapagos Green Turtles, iguanas, and penguins in their native habitats, although I admit it might be hard for me not to want to pet them.


GLHC: What person, living or dead, would you most like to invite to dinner and why?

Lygeia: I’d invite Walt Disney to dine, preferably at the enchanted table in Belle’s Castle. What I admire about Walt is his immense creativity and positive impact at scale. Through parks, animation, and live action movies, Walt sparked the creation of multiple worlds that continue to entertain and inspire kids and adults alike. He pushed the boundaries on what was possible, incorporated the latest science and technology into rides and animation, and had an eye toward educating the public about nature, history, and different cultures—all with a sense of playfulness and wonder. Walt succeeded in developing stories and experiences that are accessible and appealing to a wide swath of people from different socio-economic and ethnic groups. If the legend that Walt Disney is cryogenically frozen has any truth behind it, with a little Disney magic maybe one day I’ll actually get to invite him to dinner!


GLHC: Is there a significant barrier that you have had to overcome in your personal or professional life. How did you approach it? Did you succeed? What did you learn?

Lygeia: The theme I’ve pushed hardest for in my professional career is engaging and empowering patients through technology. Though the concept is pretty well accepted today, (albeit not yet fully realized), that wasn’t the case when I started advocating for it. Objections came in many forms:

  • Patients can’t be trusted.
  • Patients don’t know what’s best for them, and don’t have the capacity to understand.
  • Patients will waste providers’ precious time.
  • The privacy risks of sharing digital information are too great.
  • The technical standards are really tough to get right.

Underlying these concerns were other, less socially acceptable ones. For instance, some healthcare providers worried they wouldn’t get paid for time spent engaging patients in a fee-for-service system, or felt threatened by a power shift that could undermine the traditional hierarchy, demoting them from the top. Some traditional healthcare businesses (including some EHR companies that opposed sharing data with patients or with tech companies) hid behind privacy-related objections when their real fear was losing market share. Even some patient advocates were negative about changing landscape—digital health could put patients at risk, or exacerbate the gap between the haves and the have nots, or—if it led to new kinds of partnerships with other advocacy organizations or for-profits—threaten their own positions as leaders in the advocacy space.

These fears sometimes manifested themselves as anger or derision or exclusion of people (including me) who were trying to change mainstream thinking. Though it took some practice, I learned not to take the negativity personally. I tried to understand the real concerns behind it, empathize, and search for win-win scenarios in which digital health and patient empowerment might help patients and also those initially opposed to empowering them both to meet their goals. And I didn’t try to take change on alone. Particularly in my role as Director of Consumer eHealth at ONC. I worked to nurture and convene communities both online and off that supported change for the benefit of patients. As these communities grew, so did the momentum for change.


GLHC: If you had a magic wand, what one barrier in healthcare today would you want to overcome?

Lygeia: If I actually had a wand, I’d use it to do something truly magical, like make sugar healthy. Poor diets contribute significantly to poor health, especially in the US, and the biggest problem ingredient in the modern diet is sugar. So if sugar were good for us, we could follow our taste buds’ natural inclinations and eat guilt-free doughnuts for breakfast!

Seriously, though—and I hope it won’t require a magic wand—I’d like to hasten the shift to healthcare payment models that focus on health outcomes, and put the patient (AKA “person”) squarely in the center of their care, with providers, friends and family, and communities supporting them in a healthy everyday lifestyle. Initiatives such as CMS’s Primary Care First payment models are taking us in this direction, and I’d like to amplify their impact.