Humana CEO

Bruce_Broussard_MEDIres.jpg WIn a series of LinkedIn Influencer blog posts, Humana President and CEO Bruce Broussard shares insights and ideas about the future of health care and discusses the importance of working together to improve the health-care system as well as our own health and well-being. His latest — Does Health Care Need an Uberization? — is reprinted below. To see all of his blog posts, click here.

 

 

It’s always interesting to hear the strong opinions people have about Uber. Some like to say they have not taken a cab since they started using Uber while others enjoy how easy it is to rate your driver thanks to the mobile app service.

If you’ve had any kind of business trip in the last few years, chances are you’ve heard some variation of these comments from a colleague. And if you’re in an industry where everyone is looking to disrupt, you’ve heard of “Uberization.”

It’s fascinating to see how deciding whether to use Uber leads to a conversation about the power of disrupting an industry. We’ve all seen how the “Uberization” of transportation has begun to unfold. So it leads to a simple question: what industry is next for disruption?

Some say the finance industry is going to experience Uberization. In a very insightful column, “The Uberization of Money” by Zachary Karabell, which ran in The Wall Street Journal, Karabell examines how “the Uberization of finance” will lead to new banking models. In his column, Karabell explores how the process of buying a house could evolve:
•“Imagine instead a simple online interface that could generate a tailored credit score for you, taking into account your future earning potential based on your education and location. It would connect you to lenders ranging from banks and credit unions to pools of individuals who want to lend privately at a negotiated rate for whatever duration you agree on.”

Karabell’s commentary is about connecting people based on their interests. He goes on to state that Uber is a “high-tech middleman that is making the intermediaries of the past obsolete. The financial world is one of the most mediated industries on the planet, and that is precisely what is about to change. Uberization also means using vast amounts of data to make those connections feasible.”

So, Uber is about connecting people with a driver, leaving the dispatcher out of the picture. The financial industry is about connecting people seeking loans directly to the people who can loan them money.

Could this happen in health care? Here’s a hint: it already has.

It Starts with Connectivity

In the health care industry, we’ve all interconnected ourselves, but not directly to each other; that’s led to a fragmented system.

A specialist, or two, serves the same patient, but the patient probably knows that his or her primary care physicians, and these specialists, are not connected to each other. If you go to receive physical therapy, or get scripts from drug stores, there’s a good chance that your primary care physician is not directly connected with all of these different entities.

The challenge of interoperability has been facing the health care system for quite some time. While progress is being made – “In 2014, 38% of survey respondents indicated they had been offered access to their online medical records, but that was up from 28% the year before” – there is still work to be done.

Earlier this year, I wrote that interoperability is more of a cultural problem as opposed to a technical problem. What’s holding it back in health care is that the information is siloed, which means there is no infrastructure that can support the sharing of information among physicians.

Without a business incentive to do so, the connectivity necessary to bring patients and physicians closer together will not become reality.

Making it Happen

When I think about the financial system, I think about the system that’s built around the consumer. It’s about the ability to connect and create views that are agnostic to the process and the ability to fulfill the needs of the specific person. When it comes to health care, it’s more complicated because the person who is coordinating the care, the caregiver, is trying to basically manage someone else’s “portfolio.”

And there is no shortage of challenges: When is their next appointment? What are the results of a recent check-up or visit? What kind of maintenance or therapy are they in? What time of day do they need to take each of their 12 pills?

We need to create this connectivity for the physician, the caregiver, the specialist, and the patient. Rather than going to eight sources to get this perspective, connectivity will enable us to see the holistic aspect of the health care delivery system. Because it’s about the health care journey the person is on.

When you have this connectivity, you will enable the primary care physician to see where a person is on their health journey in a complete fashion. He or she will see when they buy drugs, when they go to a therapist or specialist, when they go to the hospital. The physician will see details about all this. It also allows people to see details to make decisions; the caregiver understands what’s going on, or the provider or specialist can make a decision.

When it comes to the disintermediation of health care, it’s not about companies. It’s about the ability to connect. And to achieve this interconnectivity in health care, you need to have the free flow of information, supported by consumer and clinical analytics.

Sharing Information through Connectivity

When you start to turn on the flow of information, you will drive connectivity and present physicians, and consumers, with data they can analyze to improve a person’s health. Physicians need the power of data analytics in order to take a holistic approach to care; and that’s necessary to achieve the best health. By progressing to value-based reimbursement — where physicians are rewarded for the health of their patients, not the number of services they provide — we can foster holistic care that is dependent on information.

In addition, by allowing information to flow freely through the system, physicians, caretakers, consumers and others will benefit because they can have access to information that enables them to make more informed decisions for the most effective care. In a value-based reimbursement model, it’s not just about the data; it’s about being able to analyze the data to act in a moment of influence.

Physicians, and the people they serve, need an easy-to-use interface that is relevant and delivers personalized information that enables consumers to take action or to motivate them to do so. It must have an easy-to-use interface, similar to an Android or iOS application. It must also display relevant, personalized information to all parties – caregivers, primary care physicians, specialists, etc. Enabling the connectivity among these key users will be the foundation for this experience.

So who controls the connectivity? You, the user, will control the connectivity. If you think about a physician, he or she can connect to a specialist without having to go through a hospital or a health plan. Physicians can create their own health care systems because there is not an institution serving the beds. So what’s the result? It’s a self-created health care system. Providers and patients will get closer and closer, wrapped around the health needs of the individual.

Connectivity will ultimately drive down health care costs, enable better decisions, reduce administrative costs and simplify the consumer health care experience. Connectivity among physicians and patients will also create further venture capital funding for connecting the information to create business models for analytics and devices for individuals to make informed decisions.

If someone is going to take responsibility for someone’s care, he or she needs connectivity to have a holistic view of the person they love. Access points, from telemedicine to local retail health clinics, will only increase. Today, the connectivity is now through economic and legal structures. The system of tomorrow will allow physicians and patients to do this on their own. And the value-based reimbursement model will create a business model to do this.

Results in Action

At Humana, we’ve seen the transformational power of the value-based reimbursement model lead to improvements in health, quality and cost when it comes to serving Humana Medicare Advantage members being treated by physicians in value-based models.

When you have providers in value-based models, they are responsible for the entire health of the patient, not just transactional services. In order to harness the power of the value-based reimbursement model, the health care industry needs to evolve from a fragmented system to an interconnected system that enables connectivity between the physician and the patient.

The move toward value-based care and population health will continue to spur investment in clinical analytics and consumer analytics, providing deeper insight for doctors and consumers about health and leading to better outcomes. Value-based care will also enable physicians and consumers, not institutions, to have real time transparent information for their health care decisions and build stronger relationships among physicians and consumers.

It’s About Relationships

Once we achieve the necessary connectivity, it will stimulate innovation and additional funding because there is a business model that supports the integration of the value-based reimbursement model. Second, it will reduce barriers to entry into the system. As in a fragmented system, size is what determines connectivity.

Uber revolutionized the taxi industry by cutting out the middleman – the dispatcher – and connecting the passenger and the driver who will get them to their destination. The financial industry has already started to move in this direction. Other industries are soon to follow.

So what’s in store for health care? It’s about to undergo its own version of Uberization. By facilitating a transaction between a person and the people who serve them (primary care physicians, specialists, caretakers), we can usher in a new era of disruption in health care. And the time has come to take it up a notch.

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Bruce_Broussard_MEDIres.jpg WIn a series of LinkedIn Influencer blog posts, Humana President and CEO Bruce Broussard shares insights and ideas about the future of health care and discusses the importance of working together to improve the health-care system as well as our own health and well-being. His topics range from the powerful potential of technology to the issue of loneliness. His latest, Challenging Conversations: End of Life, is reprinted below. To see all of his blog posts, click here.

Do we know how to handle death as we do life?

Most of us don’t think about the former; we’re so wrapped up in our busy lives that it doesn’t really enter our thoughts that often. We’re focused on getting the kids to school; meeting the next deadline at work; getting the family together for dinner.

Our culture is about doing everything we can to prolong life and live as long as we can, as it should be. Nothing reflects the American spirit more than the words “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” From family to sports to education to the arts, we live hard.

We have a proud history of never giving up. We root for David and fight to the end, regardless of our chances. This driving nature has helped deliver a quality of life to several generations that other nations have sought to imitate.

Seeing this Firsthand

Due to advances in health and medicine, people over 65 are able to live longer than in any previous generation. They’re wearing Fitbits; taking healthy eating classes; and believe they’ll outlive their ancestors. More power to them.

I’ve seen how some of our own Medicare members who participate in Humana At Home, which now serves 600,000 people nationwide, have been able to enhance their quality of life – and avoid unnecessary hospitalizations – despite the multiple chronic conditions they live with. For example, Humana At Home members who had the highest risk for disease progression had a 15.9 percent greater survival rate than those not participating in the program.

But the story goes well beyond any number. These care managers take the time to get to know these members. They learn their stories, learn what motivates them, encourage them, help them set – and reach – goals that bring a better quality of life, a greater sense of well-being. The care managers may connect members with social workers or other community resources to help with finance, transportation or loneliness. The care plan is based on individual need and looks at mental, physical and social issues. It goes well beyond the clinical and mental facets; it’s about caring for a person like they are part of your family.

Many of these members are able to live longer with a higher quality of life, despite the chronic conditions that have inevitably shortened their lifespan. Yet, as we all know, death is a part of life. While we want to enjoy our time on earth, are we prepared for the moment when it ends? How do we want our passing to go? Do we want to trade more time for quality of life?

My Own Experience

As a former oncology company executive, and now the leader of a health and well-being company, the questions I raised are ones most people are not prepared for when it comes to cancer. While many of the Medicare Advantage members I discussed above stay with us for an average of over seven years, and have active lifestyles, sadly enough, we see many of them pass on.

Many of you reading this blog have lost a loved one (family, close friend) to cancer. Despite the advances made in chemotherapy, it’s still a treatment that can knock you to the floor and drain any energy you have left to fight. When it comes to cancer, everyone wants to save their loved one.

The most common example I’ve seen – between my time in oncology and now at Humana – is the 73-year-old female patient (Lucy) who is diagnosed with a terminal disease, such as lung cancer. Lucy decides to fight, receives the chemo treatments and has a great response. Unfortunately, her cancer recurs. With her physician she promptly starts a second round of chemo or radiation.

After four months, Lucy’s health is much weaker than before. She’s been hospitalized three times; has lost her hair; has been nauseated a lot of the time; and lost weight as a result. At this point, Lucy and her family finally begin to have a real discussion about her real wishes in terms of treatment.

The sad truth of this common example is that Lucy was nervous and had not had a real conversation with her family or her doctor about her own options. On the family side, they were equally worried because they didn’t want to upset mom so they didn’t discuss it either. Not infrequently, Lucy now questions whether she made the right choice and regrets not speaking with her family.

We all believe in self-determination and the right to pursue different types of treatments that are available and appropriate. But it’s also important to start the discussion among the patient, his or her family, their doctor and their clergy so they have a real expectation of the situation.

I’ve had friends from various age groups who have faced cancer, like many others. When everyone is clear on where things stand, it’s not just individuals like Lucy battling cancer. It’s a team.

The Conversation Must Take Place

Discussing end-of-life with loved ones is not an easy conversation. Our natural instinct is to do everything we can to help our loved ones when they get sick; death is not an option. We don’t want to see them go and will always feel it’s too soon.

Our compassion is our greatest strength, yet it’s important to remember that the patient fighting the battle may sometimes have a different view. There is sometimes a disconnect between treatment and health. The patient may choose an extra month of life due to chemo treatments over quality of life, or vice versa. His or her family may want more time. Either way, we all know it will be tough but it’s important to discuss now, no matter how difficult it will be.

When a person with a serious illness passes on, there are countless loved ones left behind who have had to pick up the pieces. They’ve gone from serving as caretakers for several months, sometimes years, and the person they have been fighting for is now gone.

We don’t want life to end and – many times – we don’t do what we can to prepare for it. While other cultures throughout the world view death as a part of life and address it long before it happens, we tend to put this off. As a society, we must come together to have an open, honest and transparent conversation about preparing for end of life. We need to help those closest to passing on think about how they want to live.

This is not an easy conversation to have at any stage in life, but taking more time to address it will help us all. The more you talk about death while you’re alive and enjoying all that life has to offer, the more you’ll be prepared to face it.

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In a series of LinkedIn Influencer blog posts, Humana President and CEO Bruce Broussard shares insights and ideas about the future of health care and discusses the importance of working together to improve the health-care system as well as our own health and well-being. His topics range from the powerful potential of technology to the issue of loneliness. His latest, It’s Time to Act on Physician Disillusionment, is reprinted below. To see all of his blog posts, click here.

Bruce_Broussard_MEDIres.jpg WYou’re either part of the solution or you’re part of the problem.”

This overused, one-dimensional rallying cry has been thrown around for years. But it’s not that simple. We often find in life that in order to solve a problem, we cannot look at an issue in terms of black or white and ignore the many shades of gray. In most cases, aren’t we all part of the solution as well as being part of the problem?

Take health care. We have many serious challenges: primary care physician shortage, baby boomer retirement, childhood obesity, you name it. Solving these challenges requires a team effort. If you want to talk about what’s wrong with health care today, be prepared to address what you can do to make it better.

A Welcome Voice
It’s always refreshing when the people we entrust with our health and well-being – physicians – offer their perspectives on not only what we need to do to improve health care, but where they see needed changes within their own roles.

Dr. Sandeep Jauhar, the director of the Heart Failure Program at the Long Island Jewish Medical Center, does an exceptional job breaking down the challenges that physicians face in our country. His article was adapted from “Doctored: The Disillusionment of an American Physician,” a book he recently authored and one I’m looking forward to reading.

In this article, Dr. Jauhar, a cardiologist, provides a detailed, historical analysis of the evolution of the American physician and the low morale and burnout that face the profession today.

What Intrigued Me
Dr. Jauhar spends a great deal of time examining the challenges facing the physician community and his historical analysis also details the positive impact physicians have made on society. For starters, he describes the advances medicine has made in reducing the common diseases of the past. More specifically, he talks about the impact of vaccines and how “once-terminal diseases—cancer, AIDS, congestive heart failure— are turning into complex chronic conditions that must be managed over the long term.”

When you think about the significant progress physicians have made in this area, these advances have given millions of people affected by these deadly diseases new hope. We still have a long way to go when it comes to curing these diseases but unquestionably the expert care from physicians has changed the game.

But how is the new focus on dealing with these long-term chronic conditions changing the health care system, changing the physician’s role, changing society? The economic and emotional burden alone is overwhelming. Where do we go from here? We’re all part of the problem – and part of the solution.

The Primary Care Physician Role
For example, if you think about why some physicians are unhappy, some believe it has to do with the notion that they don’t feel like they’re in control, don’t feel deeply engaged or are actively participating in the entire decision process, and payers can certainly do more to help. Some also speculate that this reflects a high level of despair in the physician community.

Take the primary care physician community. In my conversations with one physician who was also intrigued by Dr. Jauhar’s article, he believes there is a – his words – “significant level of despair” among the primary care physician community. His opinion is that some primary care physicians feel that “my responsibilities are diminished since other people are making decisions for me.”

We need to ensure that these highly intelligent primary care physicians feel empowered to participate; have the accountability they so desire; and are responsible and accountable for their patients’ care and well-being. Participation, accountability and responsibility must be the foundation for ensuring that primary care physicians have the support they need from us to best serve their patients.

What I Need to Do
Dr. Jauhar’s article highlights how the fee-for-service reimbursement system needs to change because the current patient population needs a more holistic-care approach versus one that is transaction-driven. His article also led me to think about comments made by Dr. Henry S. Lodge and Chris Crowley in their book – “Younger Next Year.” In the book, Dr. Lodge also provided a valuable insight into the transaction-driven nature of fee-for-service and the importance of holistic health:

  • “I had done what doctors do well in this country, which is to treat people when they come in with a disease. My patients had had good medical care but not, I began to think, great health care. For most, their declines, their illnesses, were thirty-year problems of lifestyle, not disease…Modern medicine does not concern itself with lifestyle problems…Most modern medicine is what lawyers and bankers call transactional: a one-shot deal. You blow out your knee, you have a heart attack, and you see a specialist. A short, intensive period of repair or cure follows, and the parties go their separate ways, probably forever.”

After I read Dr. Jauhar’s article, I began to think about the role my industry plays in health care and my own discussions with the physicians who serve my company’s members. We’re focused on becoming a company that puts the primary care physician at the center of the patient’s care, through pay-for-value models, such as Accountable Care, that help support a holistic approach to better health.

With this approach, physicians are reimbursed for the overall health of their patients and incentivized for outcomes, not interventions. Our industry is making solid progress on moving toward these value-based agreements, but we still have a long way to go. We’ll continue to implement the pay-for-value models because they work.

For example, Medicare Advantage uses the principles of Accountable Care to help millions of seniors get on the path to better health through aligned incentives.

  • Accountable Care has demonstrated clear benefits with a reduction in emergency room visits and improvements in diabetes, cholesterol and blood pressure management.
  • Physicians moving from the transactional-driven system of fee-for-service to Accountable Care have an ally in this evolution that can provide an insight into an individual’s holistic health: the payer. From value-based payments models to an individual’s claims, payers have the clinical and technological means to help support the primary care physician with a 360-degree complete snapshot of the individual’s health through sharing information in a secure manner.
  • At the same time, we can also help primary care physicians transition into a value-based payment model by supporting their compliance efforts for meeting quality measure and clinical guidelines and other Population Health tools.

It Takes a Team
There are other areas my industry needs to prioritize:

The Importance of Empathy – One of the examples that grabbed my attention was how Dr. Jauhar described an encounter with a patient on dialysis who had been informed by another doctor, in an “insensitive” manner, that he had no chance of his kidneys returning to normal.

  • Some of us have been in a room with a loved one who has been told devastating news about his or her health. It’s not easy for the patients, their loved ones, or the physician. We must ask ourselves – at every point in the care process – what we can do to better support those fighting a battle for their life.

Let’s Help Physicians – In his article, Dr. Jauhar cites this ER physician’s comment posted on Sermo, an online community of physicians: “Working up patients in the ER these days involves shotguning multiple unnecessary tests (everybody gets a CT!) despite the fact that we know they don’t need them, and being aware of the wastefulness of it all really sucks the love out of what you do.”

  • I need to be very clear on this point. It’s not about taking a blanket approach. It’s about trusting the doctor about what tests that he or she feels are ·  necessary to do–or not do–to help improve the patient’s overall health. If the primary care physician is to serve as the central role player, he or she must be seen as the quarterback when it comes to patient responsibility. They are the ones coordinating the approach to the patient’s health; ensuring that the clinical decisions that are made are done in the best interest of the patient; and, most importantly, feel empowered to manage the care of the patient by doing what they believe is right.
  • Investments in information technology are also important because they help make it easier for the physician to have a true 360-degree view of the patient, a critical factor in advancing holistic care. When you look at holistic care, aligned incentives are also critical because physicians are being rewarded for improving their patients’ overall health.
  • As I stated earlier, payers like me can help primary care physicians in their quest to experience the benefits of Accountable Care. We can keep helping these primary care physicians move into these arrangements through this holistic-driven approach, combined with a detailed plan to transition to value-based reimbursement.

Reduce – and Simplify – Administrative Tasks – We live in an era of technology that has transformed entire industries. The health care industry needs to step up and let the transformative power of technology improve and simplify the back-office processes so physicians can spend more quality time with their patient and less time on administrative tasks.

  • Using electronic submissions for all claims and referrals will be a step in the right direction. For example, Dr. Jauhar talks about how most physicians “said they didn’t have enough time to spend with patients because of paperwork.” Given the importance of electronic health records (EHR), EHRs can potentially enable physicians to streamline the paperwork, thus enabling them to spend more time with their patients.
  • Lastly, as an industry, we need interoperability. We can start by linking all of the electronic health care systems to simplify the life of the physician. Too often physicians are burdened dealing with disparate systems. By linking these systems, it’s not only good for the physician, but it also helps the patient (the physician has more time to spend with the patient) and it benefits society because these systems can help reduce costs. Physicians who are engaged and serving as active participants in the process will not only be happier and less disillusioned but the burnout rate will diminish.

Keeping people at home instead of in a home also helps our physician community. For example, leveraging technologies like telemedicine can help people with chronic conditions, some of whom don’t have the resources to travel for care, engage with the physician from their own home. We can do more by creating new programs and expanding existing programs that help those with chronic conditions live safely and comfortably in their own homes.

We are finding that one such program is doing just that. Not only are members telling us that this program, which utilizes in-home visits and personal care managers, is enhancing their health and well-being, but we are also seeing fewer hospitalizations and readmissions among its participants.

We All Have a Role
Dr. Jauhar writes that “medicine is about taking care of people in their most vulnerable states and making yourself somewhat vulnerable in the process.” Regardless of whether or not we work directly in health care, each of us plays a role in improving the physician/patient relationship.

The next time you go to see your primary care physician, don’t just let him or her ask you about your health. Take the time to ask them what you can do to make it easier for them to get you on the path to better health. Listen to them and then take action: eat better, exercise more, reduce stress, spend more time with family and friends…do what is necessary to enhance your own health and well-being.

We must empower our primary care physicians – the quarterbacks – so they truly feel they’re fully accountable, responsible and have the freedom to act in the patient’s best interest. They are in full control of their destiny, plain and simple. If these primary care physicians feel that they’re part of the process, they’re going to help more people get on the path to better health. It’s much better for the patient, the physician, and true engagement from the primary care physician community as a whole.

We can all make it easier on these physicians by practicing what we preach when it comes to good health. By simply making better lifestyle choices, we can alleviate the burden of chronic diseases, many of which are preventable and account for roughly 75 percent of our annual health care spend in the U.S.

Despite all the challenges we face in health care, it’s important to remember that we have the best physicians in the world. They’ve changed the lives of hundreds of millions of Americans for the better. We never want the word “disillusioned” to be associated with the people who care for our families and friends.

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In a series of LinkedIn Influencer blog posts, Humana President and CEO Bruce Broussard shares insights and ideas about the future of health care and discusses the importance of working together to improve the health-care system as well as our own health and well-being. His topics range from the powerful potential of technology to the issue of loneliness. His latest, Disrupting Health Care Through Technology, is reprinted below. To see all of his blog posts, click here.

Bruce_Broussard_MEDIres.jpg W
Bruce Broussard

“How can the health care industry use innovative technologies to make a positive impact in health?”

This question – in one variation or another – is one I’m asked quite a bit when I meet with employers, customers, clinicians or government officials. Technology is seen as an innovative and disruptive force that can transform the way we deliver care.

My response has been to say that the industry is starting to make progress, but we’ve only begun to unlock the transformational and disruptive power that technology can have on health care. I point to how the emergence of wearable technologies, combined with the evolution of electronic health records, is reflective of our initial progress, but are still the first steps of the journey of a thousand miles.

If we want to be successful, connectivity, the exchange/sharing of information and the combination of big data and analytics must serve as the foundation for this transformation to occur.

The Data Factor
When you look at data, there are four key elements that serve as the foundation: data collection, data analysis, data insights and action based on the insight.

Data collection, which includes a range of data like electronic medical records (EMRs), lab tests, sugar levels for people with diabetes, heart monitors and other mobile devices, is essential for a productive data analysis. Through the use of algorithms and other means, the collected data is analyzed. Based on this data analysis, the providers are able to determine an insight from the data that can be used to address a gap-in-care. Since the provider has a more holistic view of the person, the provider can recommend a specific action – at a moment of influence – where this personalized data insight can make a difference in the health of the consumer.

It’s not just the impact that data will have on the provider. The way health care is financed is already being influenced by the importance of data. For example, take the evolution from the fee-for-service reimbursement payment model – paying providers on a service basis – to value-based payments, where providers are reimbursed for the overall health of the patients that they serve.

Given all that’s required to effectively manage a health population, data analytics is essential because it helps providers take a customized approach to each individual’s health supported by a more holistic understanding of the person’s health.

As we improve the timeliness and level, our ability to personalize the moment of influence will become robust. This is the true impact of increasing data, not just simply counting steps.

A New Age in Technology
Health care will be transformed – and ultimately disrupted – through the widespread adoption of data and other technologies. It’s starting to happen before our eyes. Google and Novartis have teamed up to bring smart contact lenses to consumers. IBM is using the power of the cloud to disrupt health care.

Apple’s HealthKit is designed to provide consumers with a way to view all their health data from their devices in one place. This enables Apple to learn more about the health of the consumer and create an app ecosystem that will provide real value. Apple’s app ecosystem may also provide the company with a view into the health of these consumers that providers don’t have. This view will require an expertise in analytics; Apple, Google and others are already starting to describe themselves as analytics companies in the health realm as opposed to focusing on products and services.

And many companies that most of us have not heard of today will also disrupt health care through technology.

So what does this mean? The short-term is about devices today that you’re wearing on your arm now like a Garmin; the long-term prospect is about devices that actually go inside your arm. It may sound like science fiction – and it’s a little unsettling in some ways – but we’re nearly there.

For example, Ada Poon, a professor from Stanford, created a fascinating technology that enables power to be transferred “deep inside the human body.” Professor Poon and his team built “an electronic device smaller than a grain of rice that acts as a pacemaker” that can be powered by a power source outside the body. While the article noted that this platform has not yet been tested in people, Poon believes these new devices could “create new ways to treat illness and alleviate pain.”

An insightful book, “The Second Machine Age,” by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, looks at Google’s self-driving car, which navigates the open road by processing reams of data instantaneously. If the 100-plus-year-old automobile can be revolutionized by technology, so can health care.

These technological advances will help foster an innovative climate across the entire spectrum of health. From the conventional yearly checkup to remote patient monitoring, technology will not only serve the consumer but make it easier for providers to serve their patients. For example, iRobot and InTouch Health are using the untapped power of robotics to help doctors remotely interact with their hospital patients through telemedicine robots.

Technology will also disrupt access points in health care. For many decades, you had the doctor’s office, the hospital or an urgent care facility as your main place to go when you got sick. Today, you can speak to a doctor at a telemedicine kiosk, through your tablet, iPhone or some other mobile device. These access points will only continue to expand as technology is applied into health care.

For example, look at the power of telemedicine. A consumer might go visit their provider, who is able to take a picture of a mole or rash they have a concern with and send it directly to the dermatologist without the consumer having to see the dermatologist.

Making it Work for Health Care
With any disruptive technology we apply to health care, we must make sure, first and foremost, that it directly or indirectly leads to healthier people. The personalization of the moments of influence combined with increasing resources and more convenient access will change the landscape of health care.

For example, being able to identify a person with diabetes sugar level is increasing due to a smart insulin pump, than proactively reaching out to them via a telemedicine visit to coach or assist them in moderating their sugar levels. After normalizing the sugar levels, and realizing the cause was from a certain food type, you are able to provide further education on nutrition through an online nutrition class with a group of virtual friends.

We all know that spending too much time on our social channels can lessen our productivity, but a diabetes forum where people share best practices on how to combat the disease is using technology to make people healthier.

And that’s the main point. Technology for the sake of technology is not enough. Technological disruption must make it easier for people to exercise, eat healthy, and support a proper work/life balance.

Leveraging technology will require the health care industry to face several challenges that will be instrumental to success:

  • The health workforce must become highly skilled in technology – Consumers are much more sophisticated due to their wide embrace of technology, from how they manage their financial portfolios to what they buy online, and health care needs to catch up. The health care workforce must not only expand its technical skill set to capitalize on disruptions caused by technology but also improve its understanding of the consumer, who is getting even smarter about their health through technology. As more advanced technology is integrated into care delivery models and the cloud becomes more commonly used, care professionals of all levels must receive the training they need to maximize new technologies that help them better serve their patients.
  •  Providers must expand skills sets beyond the clinical – Given how science is being digitized, factors like emotional intelligence and communication skills will become more crucial as technology alters the role of the provider. It’s not just using technology; it’s being able to find patterns in the data generated by technology. Identifying an action from the data analysis that can lead to a better health outcome is a must.
  •  Partnerships with providers will offer more robust use of technology – Technology and analytics requires significant expertise and resources, therefore, leading providers should seek vendors and partners that advance their clinical model. Traditionally, billing systems and EMR technology has been the common solution. The future partners will include examples like sophisticated consumer and clinical analytic models, interoperability connections, population health management, remote monitoring technology or consumer engaging mobile applications.
  •  Machines must evolve from transactions to relationship building – It’s time to expand beyond devices that count steps, calories and monitoring blood pressure. Brynjolfsson and McAfee astutely address the importance of evolving from transactions to relationship building with the consumer and taking the complexity to the back of the system so a simpler, more meaningful relationship will rise up, enabling the individual to better manage their health.
  • Integration is essential for better health – Take the hundreds of millions of health care claims that are processed each year, which yield a significant amount of individual health and lifestyle information. As these systems evolve and collect more and more health data, the integration of these systems will be critical in identifying a moment of influence where technology can make a true difference in the health of the consumer. It’s not just the way the systems collect the data; it’s the integration of these systems that must take place.

Where Do We Go From Here?
Evolutions in technology will continue to disrupt care models and help the care industry transform itself in a consumer-driven model.

Most importantly, disruptive and innovative technologies must support the health aspirations of the consumers who use it, for the 35-year-old-mother of two training for a marathon to the 75-year-old grandfather who wants to attend his granddaughter’s wedding.

Leveraging the power of technology to transform health care through data analytics and other means will go beyond the care industry. Businesses, consumers and others will have a unique opportunity to improve their health through a new wave of innovation and disruption that has transformed countless industries for the better.

For my industry, the challenges we face – and will solve – will enable us to deliver a new era in care.

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