This week, my colleagues and I have had the distinct pleasure of attending and participating in the U.S. News and World Report Hospital of Tomorrow Conference held in Washington, D.C. Attending the event afforded us the opportunity to connect with many leading hospital executives and health care visionaries to explore how we can all help address the range of challenges facing the health systems of today and those in the future, especially as we see the industry changing right before our eyes.
Yesterday, I participated in the luncheon keynote session with Peter Slavin, M.D., President of Massachusetts General Hospital, and Shalom Jacobovitz, Chief Executive Officer of the American College of Cardiology. Our panel, which was moderated by Len Nichols, Ph.D, Director and Professor at George Mason University’s Center for Health Policy Research and Ethics, discussed the dynamics of how the health industry is changing in interesting ways in response to an array of pressures, beyond just the forced changes of health reform. We noted the benefits of community-based programs and looked at the ways we can harness the power of technology and innovation to enhance access, reduce costs, and improve health outcomes and patient care.
As I look back on the panel and the additional conversations I had throughout the event, I see several key themes emerging.
Prioritizing Collaboration and Consumer Engagement
It may or may not be fair to say that collaboration hasn’t always been the shining characteristic of the industry. However, with the advent of health reform, collaboration is becoming more commonplace. For example, hospitals are forming insurance companies, partnering with pharmacy chains, instituting community-based prevention programs, and experimenting with bundled payments. I believe, though, that this is a paradigm shift that is being driven by far more than health reform, as important as that is.
Specifically, there is a convergence of three factors driving this shift, including 1) disruption in the health market (i.e. budget pressures, new payment models, etc.); 2) the emergence of an engaged consumer; and 3) technology innovations in the areas of mobility, cloud, social and data. These factors are spawning new business models that are designed to deliver more cost effective care through collaboration, care coordination and patient engagement. In addition, there is an increasingly evident overlap in interest among communities, drug manufacturers, community health providers, insurers and hospitals to meet these needs.
On the first and second points, we’re seeing a renewed focus on payment for value and improved outcomes. In particular, as employees pay out of pocket for their health care and consumers become more active participants in monitoring their own care and choosing their health plans (through insurance exchanges), the industry is beginning to place an increased premium on consumer engagement and improved service. As a result, we’re seeing new business entrants and modified business models, including those at WalMart and CVS Minute Clinics, focus on being accessible to consumers. In addition, life science companies and providers are collaborating to leverage big data to improve drug research and expand access to clinical trials.
Relatedly, in each of these instances, technology is playing an increasing role by helping support critical collaboration, care and consumer engagement. For example, personal health platforms like Health Vault are being used by hospitals and integrated care networks, such as New York Presbyterian Hospital and the Veterans Administration, in order to activate and engage consumers in monitoring their health. Additionally, many health systems are deploying devices across their systems to work more seamlessly with patients and to connect consumers and care givers to improve ease and satisfaction. For instance, earlier this year, New York Presbyterian Hospital set out to enhance both its in-patient experience and engagement by providing a Windows 8 tablet at the patient’s bedside. The Windows 8 tablets, which come with two custom built Windows 8 apps, allow the hospital’s patients to seamlessly communicate with their care team and quickly access their health information on the facility’s health portal.
Enabling Mobility and Clinician Productivity
As health workers truly move in a mobile environment, transitioning between seeing patients and facilities, it’s becoming increasingly valuable for their health system network to realize the benefits that can come from mobility. Of course, that means the technologies they use need to provide the same productivity experience regardless of the device they’re using. Where we see the greatest opportunity for dramatic improvements in clinician productivity, team performance and patient safety is in the technology innovations that health systems have underinvested in relative to other industries, namely real time communication and collaboration platforms running in the cloud with privacy and security protections greater than what most health systems have in their own datacenters.
We know, for example, that poor communication and insufficient patient hand-offs between shifts are the most common causes of adverse events in hospitals. So as we think about success for Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs), we need to go beyond getting the right information at the right time to the point of care. Instead, success for ACOs is about mobile, multidisciplinary care teams getting 100 percent of its collaborative processes right and orchestrating these systems so that they improve the quality and safety of care at a lower cost point.
ACOs need real time communication and collaboration platforms to do this, but unfortunately, most care teams still rely on traditional methods of communication and collaboration in order to work together. Microsoft’s suite of mobile communication and collaboration tools through Office 365, including Lync and Sharepoint, can help ACOs and health care workers increase their productivity virtually anywhere, allowing providers to focus on helping their patients.
Leveraging the Cloud
Finally, cloud technologies are leveraged by hospital systems to connect disparate points of care and to drive down infrastructure costs, both of which are especially important in an era of merger and acquisition. Similarly, cloud solutions span boundaries and enable collaboration with communities, educators, and other health players. As we’ve seen in our work with Johnson and Johnson, cloud technologies allow us to leverage big data to not only benefit specific groups, but to also show us clear industry trends. In many instances, hospitals now see that with a rise in collaboration, new business models, and a focus on care coordination, cloud technologies can help them better store and understand data and analysis, while also allowing them to better leverage revenue streams and improve research and most importantly, patient care.
As we move forward, I have no doubt that that the paradigm shift will continue to evolve. With new market entrants, the direction we need to take will involve connecting disparate systems of care and prioritizing and improving consumer engagement. Technology will undoubtedly play an integral role – a role that must be based on a vision that spans the enterprise, from the consumer to the largest health provider. That is the unique value proposition that Microsoft’s vision and roadmap offers.