The event in Nashville, co-hosted by HLTH and CHIME, featured a heavy hitting line-up of health system executives and good discussions about workforce and operations priorities.
As ViVE 2023 packs up and the estimated 7,000 attendees depart Nashville, the biggest take-away from this event isn't any product rollout or partnership announcement. It's the guest list.
Craig Richardville, chief digital and information officer for Intermountain Health, said ViVE gave him an opportunity to rub elbows with a number of his peers, share insight into the challenges and opportunities that new technologies and strategies offer, and hear about what other health systems are doing.
"I might see something really interesting and tell (another healthcare executive) about it, or someone will tell me, 'You should check this company out,'" he said during a chat at the Intermountain Health booth in Music City Center's exhibit hall. "It's the chance to meet up and talk with people."
Richardson, later seen enjoying the Black Crowes concert at the Industry Night Reception at the Wild Horse Saloon, was among dozens of health system executives attending ViVE, the colorful second-year event co-hosted by HLTH and the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME). The presence of so many decision-makers in the exhibit hall and in sessions on stages situated around the hall lent significant value to the conversations.
Those conversations were about finding a way to stay ahead in challenging times.
Paul Uhrig, chief legal and digital health officer for New York's Bassett Healthcare Network, said many health systems are just focused on survival at this point. They're also focused on the workforce, where Bassett has a 20% vacancy rate in its provider ranks.
With razor-thin margins, staff shortages and competitors entering the space. Uhrig said health systems are looking for very specific solutions to very specific problems, not the newest technology or tools. And they want skin in the game from vendors.
"We own nothing by ourselves," added Tarun Kapoor, MD, Virtua Health's senior vice president and chief digital transformation officer, describing an innovation and technology landscape that has evolved significantly over the past few years, due to the effects of the pandemic and a struggling economy. The focus these days, he says, is on partnerships, either with the vendors or other organizations looking to improve the industry.
Unlike last fall's HLTH event in Las Vegas, where much of the conversation revolved around new ways to define and address health and wellness and value-based care, ViVE was more clinically focused. The booths in the exhibit hall were for the most part occupied by technology companies addressing key health system concerns in the workforce and operations.
Workforce issues, from staffing and provider shortages to burnout and stress reduction, as well as security, revenue cycle development, and business automation, were on everyone's agenda. Telehealth, remote patient monitoring, digital health tools, AI, and solutions specifically designed to help nurses were also top of mind.
And the people who make the decisions were in the room and ready to talk.
During a panel on digital transformation that featured executives from UPMC, LifeBridge Health, Health First and Mt. San Rafael Hospital, the talk was about developing a strategy to overcome roadblocks common to the industry. William Walders, CIO and senior vice president of IDN operations at Health First, noted he has to work with—and more often around—seven different electronic medical records in his bid to "keep up with Domino's Pizza," one of the most successful consumer-friendly companies in the nation.
"This industry is one of the most antiquated industries out there," added Michael Archuleta, chief information officer at Colorado's Mt. San Rafael Hospital. "We should be leading the pack when it comes to innovation."
Archuleta pointed out that technology is often thought of as a cost center in healthcare, when it should be considered a "true value maker," especially at a time when healthcare organizations are struggling with their bottom lines and need to better define value.
That's what other industries, such as retail, hospitality, and banking, have done.
"I can get a massage, a behavioral health appointment, [or] a girlfriend on my phone—why not a doctor?" Walders mused.
Karen Hanlon, executive vice president and chief operating officer at Highmark Health, said health systems need to improve their digital front door to keep up with the competition. And they need to highlight the fact that health systems know how to do healthcare, whereas other entries in the primary care space are in it for the money.
"The best chance of getting that engagement is when the provider is integrally involved," she said.
The theme of playing catch-up to the likes of Amazon, Domino's, American Airlines, and Hilton was common throughout ViVE, but catering to the consumer wasn't the top concern of healthcare leaders. Most were on hand to find solutions to workforce issues, with the idea that improving the workplace for doctors, nurses, IT staff and others would in turn improve clinical operations and outcomes.
"Workforce is the number one issue we're facing," noted Michael Hasselberg, NP, MS, PhD, chief digital health officer at UR (the University of Rochester) Medicine and director of the UR Health Lab, the health system's digital health incubator. "This has rapidly shifted [to the top of the list] over the past six months, and now we're focused on trying to give clinicians their time back."
For vendors, the innovation and technology marketplace has certainly changed. Health systems don't have the time or money to spend on new ideas or strategies that haven't been proven or take several months to establish. They're looking for technology that has already proven its value, integrates well with existing platforms and quickly shows an ROI.
Shez Partovi, chief information and strategy officer at Phillips, said health systems are laser-focused on solutions that help clinicians, especially nurses. They're also looking for technology that can predict and plan out workflows and identify crisis points in the health system, so that health systems can address issues before they become crises.
"They want to be more proactive" and less reactive, he said.
Intermountain's Richardville agreed. He said health systems need to use data and data analytics to better understand and design workflows. More data, and better tools to analyze that data, gives them better opportunities to manage and improve caregiving.
"We're into any and all things digital, and data is digital," he said.
As a result, health systems are looking for partnerships with vendors, rather than one-off deals for point solutions. They want to work together on problems with solutions that can evolve.
"The expectations have changed," said Roy Schoenberg, MD, MPH, president and co-CEO of telehealth giant Amwell, who sees more interest in health systems for agreements with shared risk and less interest in solutions that address only one small part of the system. "The people we sell to are very different from the people we sold to three years ago."
Schoenberg says investment in innovation and technology is more important now, as health systems understand the value of these platforms and tools in affecting value-based care and predicting future pain points. Where once those decisions were solely handled by CMOs, CMIOs and CIOs, now the COO, CFO, and even the CEO are entering the conversation.
And they aren't interested in small talk.
"If you walk in with a sales pitch, those meetings are very, very short," he said.
Indeed, at an innovation panel held at the Bobby Hotel, near the convention center, Julie Murchinson, a former CEO of Health Evolution who's now a partner with Transformation Capital, noted there are more people at the table to talk about healthcare innovation and technology, and they’re measuring value in different terms.
"Pay attention to the CFO," she said. "They're starting to put dollar signs in front of what we care about."
John Beadle, co-founder and managing partner of Aegis Ventures, cited the structural decline of the healthcare business as a particular challenge, and said health systems have to be involved in new business ventures and partnerships to solidify their standing.
Noting the many new entrants to the healthcare space, from Amazon to Walgreens, Beadle said health systems need to focus on getting back into the driver's set and doing what they do best.
That's what many healthcare executives at ViVE mentioned. With all of the challenges facing the industry and competitors looking to claim their piece of the action, healthcare executives need to remember that they know how to best do healthcare. And their decisions on innovation and technology should create a better environment for clinicians and staff, either by improving workflows or automating repetitive tasks.
Only then will they be able to connect with a patient population waiting for them to catch up to the times.
"We need to see our patients and our community as an IT-enabled participant in healthcare," said Tressa Springmann, senior vice president and chief information and digital officer at LifeBridge Health.
“This industry is one of the most antiquated industries out there. We should be leading the pack when it comes to innovation.”
— Michael Archuleta, chief information officer, Mt. San Rafael Hospital
Eric Wicklund is the Innovation and Technology Editor for HealthLeaders.
Some 7,000 people attended ViVE 2023 this past week in Nashville, including dozens of CIOs, CTOs, and other healthcare executives
Much of the conversation in panels and on the exhibit hall floor focused on challenges faced by these executives, including workforce shortages, operational challenges and maintaining healthy innovation and technology strategies.
Among the platforms gaining the most interest were virtual nursing programs, acute care and Hospital at Home, AI services for back-end operations and programs to address staff stress and burnout.