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9 Strategic Insights Into Developing the Healthcare System of the Future

Analysis  |  By Mandy Roth  
   August 25, 2020

Innovation thought leaders formulate strategies related to payment, reimagining models of care, applying real-time data, and addressing social determinants of health as essential to the future; downloadable report provides comprehensive insights.

Editor's note: This article is based on a roundtable discussion sponsored by Optum. The full report of the roundtable discussion, Strategy: The Key Factor in the Future of Healthcare Innovation, is available as a free download.

Innovation is paving the way for hospitals and healthcare systems to move into the future and truly change healthcare delivery. While solutions featuring artificial intelligence, robotic process automation, and natural language processing are fueling advances, healthcare innovation is more than a technology play. Effective transformation requires formulating new strategies for payment, reimagining models of care, applying real-time data, and addressing social determinants of health.

This June, HealthLeaders convened a select group of health system executive thought leaders to discuss the topic, "Healthcare System of the Future." During the discussion, executives examined the strategic dynamics needed to accelerate change and drive innovation. Following are excerpts from each panelist's remarks.

In addition, in his keynote address, John Halamka, MD, MS, president of the Mayo Clinic Platform, discussed the technology stepping stones that will pave the road forward.

(Editor's note: A similar panel will convene in September to examine additional insights to develop the Healthcare System of the Future. Health system thought leaders interested in participating can contact Please put "Thought Leader Opportunity" in the subject line.)

1. Michelle Conger, chief strategy officer, OSF HealthCare, and CEO, OSF Saint Gabriel Digital Health, Peoria, Illinois

"We've built some of our capacity and care management through innovation and have implemented a couple of different care models to meet our patients’ needs. One of them has really been around digitizing community health workers. One of the things we've struggled with is the adoption of virtual care and the acceptance of that, particularly in more at-risk communities. During the pandemic, we created pandemic health workers, which are really community health workers. They're the liaison between the technology and our virtual care center, and their personal contact has built trust."

2. S. Nicholas Desai, DPM, MBA, enterprise chief medical information officer, Houston Methodist, Houston, Texas

"There are quite a few pilots and projects that have come from the Houston Methodist Center for Innovation. Some of the most notable have been around combining AI, RPA, chat bots, ambient clinical voice technology, touchless experience, and digital voice assistants. The key focus, regardless of the tools we leverage, keeps the patient at the center of all that we do. We also ensure that quality, experience, and innovation merge together to hyper-focus on patient experience along with consumer-clinician engagement to drive deliberate, positive outcomes. …

Taking this one step further, we are able to cohesively combine tools and new technologies to bring to patients or populations of health and marry them with social determinants of health to serve our entire community of patients."

3. Bill Gillis, MS, chief information officer & vice president, Beth Israel Lahey Health Performance Network, Boston, Massachusetts

"The foundation of how we do population health in our ACO is relying on as much real-time data as we possibly can. We've got about 18 different EMRs across our network. It makes it challenging, but the value is well worth the investment into making it work. Getting that real-time clinical data out of the EMR is probably the key component so you can do pre-visit planning and have breakout sessions with practices."

4. John Halamka, MD, MS president, Mayo Clinic Platform, Rochester, Minnesota

"We may need a new position in healthcare called a care traffic controller—somebody who, on your behalf, is actually doing some of this digital work and is your interpreter. … We absolutely must think about language and literacy, technological comfort, and ability to afford and engineer for all the different kind of delivery mechanisms we’ll need, including a human delivery mechanism."

5. Dan Liljenquist, JD, senior vice president and chief strategy officer, Intermountain Healthcare, Salt Lake City, Utah

"We essentially live with two different business models. One business model is providing very safe, high-quality, cost-effective acute care, which takes a huge amount of focus, especially if you're doing everything from general surgery to multiple organ transplant. It just takes so much energy to focus on that business that we're not focused on our risk-based business. The other business model focuses on how we keep people from needing our services. So we broke the organization into two different companies, essentially. One is focused on specialty-based care and their main metric is cost per case. Then our community-based care is per member per month cost management. We've set up the economics where all the risk-based business flows into our community-based care business, and that's where the most innovation around care delivery is actually happening."

6. Steve Miff, CEO & president, Parkland Center for Clinical Innovation, Dallas, Texas

"The parameters of some of the value-based care initiatives are being dictated to us. Why not take the uninsured population, take the uncompensated care that you do anyway—take, say, a hundred million dollars—and take 10% and put that at risk. Use that to find your community health needs assessments initiatives, creating at-risk value-based care with your own uninsured population. I think you'll get a two to three times return on that, build really great partnerships in the community, and you have a lot more control with the population that you tend to see anyway."

7. Mitch Morris, MD, president, Optum Advisory Services, Austin, Texas

"One thing to keep in mind as we go through the next year is a crushing federal deficit and the likelihood of a fairly prolonged recession. Entitlement programs are going to be under huge pressure, regardless of who wins in November. Our perspective is that there is an opportunity to push towards more Medicare Advantage (MA) flexibility, and more flexibility around managed Medicaid, where we can deploy some of the tools around virtual and telehealth, looking after populations in different ways."

8. Karen Murphy, PhD, RN, executive vice president and chief innovation officer, Geisinger, and founding director, Steele Institute of Health Innovation, Danville, Pennsylvania

"After having worked both in the private sector and for the federal and state government, I think we need to develop a better model to work together to accelerate payment reform. As an industry and as a country, we have to come together with policymakers to figure out how to advocate in a way that really gets where we all want to be. Advocacy efforts in the past have really been pushed by either addressing legislation or policy—after the fact. … It can't be just public payers that we're engaging, because if we're not all on the same methodology of value-based payment—it doesn't have to be exact—but if we have 56 value-based contracts that are all different, we are never going to achieve the transformation that we want."

9. Rob Steele, MD, MBA, executive vice president/chief strategy and innovation officer, Children’s Mercy Kansas City, Missouri

"One thing that we all deal with, to some degree, is reconciling the investment into a population with the financial rewards of that investment way down the line. This is particularly pertinent with entities that are really looking at the next fiscal year, such as government agencies, particularly Medicaid. That's a hard conversation to have because they want to know what you can do for them now, not three, five, and 10 years from now."

Click here for the complete report.

Editor's note: This story was updated at 1:30pm on August 25, 2020.

Mandy Roth is the innovations editor at HealthLeaders.

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