The Health System of Tomorrow – More Guts, Not More Information

I had the pleasure of attending the US News Hospital of Tomorrow conference last week in Washington, DC.  Right in the midst of the heated debate around the failures and successes of the Accountable Care Act and the less than stellar rollout of Healthcare.gov, leaders from many of the top health care provider systems across the US congregated to share their insights about how the health care delivery system will look in the future.  While there was passionate dialogue about how to best solve our current problems, the common consensus was clear amongst most of the top executives – the shift from volume to value based care will ultimately reduce costs, improve quality, and expand access.

There were certainly some interesting perspectives, and business models, that were discussed.  Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, widely recognized as a top children’s hospital, is collaborating with the Beijing Aiyuhua Hospital for Women and Children, developing a 300-bed facility that will offer regional pediatric health care for patients throughout the Beijing region.  Steven M. Altschuler, MD, CEO, of the hospital, stated in a panel discussion that they viewed an international growth strategy as a way to diversify revenue streams while ultimately increasing access to their model of care.  In addition, through their research arm, they are expanding a genomics research project in Beijing.

Novant Health, a growing not-for-profit system in the Southeast US, is taking a more US-centric approach to enhance growth.  It is embarking on a shared services business model – whereby the system will partner with other hospitals (usually mid-size to smaller) for supply chain, service line management, and clinical equipment management in order to help achieve cost benefits and improve operational efficiencies.  It already has a pipeline in excess of thirty hospitals for strategic partnerships, including discussions with University Health System in Augusta.  Jesse Cureton, chief consumer officer, and former long-time banking executive, is leading the charge at Novant.  In fact, he equates the paradigm shift in healthcare to that of the banking industry from several years ago.  Changes in risk stratification, thought leadership, infrastructure, and compensation will all help to shape the future model of health care delivery.

Dignity Health system (disclosure – client), one of the five largest health care systems in the US (West Coast based), also perceives partnerships as a way to meet the growing changes in health care delivery.  During a panel discussion at the conference, Lloyd Dean, CEO, made mention of his organization’s partnership with CalPERS (the largest pension system in the country), and how through a unique model, they were able to save CalPERS over $50million in health care costs.  He also noted that in order to improve access, lowers costs, and improve quality, partnerships must come from all areas of health care delivery – such as academic institutions, economic centers, suppliers, and device manufacturers.  In fact, he noted “the organization of the future will have tentacles in all of these.”  And, similar to a business outlook shared by Jesse Cureton of Novant, hospital centers will become major medical destination hubs, while the majority of patient care will be shifting toward local access centers.

As demonstrated by the diversity of growth strategies amongst the providers mentioned above, the result is clear – in order for change to happen, thinking about the future, while still trying to swim through the upstream current, is a necessity in order to survive and thrive.  And, as Lloyd Dean so eloquently put it, in order for change to happen, “We don’t need more information – we need more guts.”

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