Healthcare Transformation and the Fourth Turning

One of my top takeaways from the amazingly in-depth conversations that were had at our recent emids Healthcare Summit is that something very important… something subtle yet monumental… has changed in healthcare.

Each year for our Summit we have been fortunate enough to attract some of the best and most-forward thinkers from inside and outside the industry. What was different about the conversation this year, was that there was an overall sense that the technology that we’ve long talked about being able to transform the health and care experience is actually now enabling that change. Long-fought battles on the regulatory, payment and data standardization fronts are being won. Hearts and minds are being changed at the executive, board and legislative levels, and there’s a growing awareness that digital is an enterprise-wide business mindset and not just a series of siloed digital projects and pilots.

We are turning the corner, if you will, to a new era of healthcare transformation, with more companies embracing a digital strategy that truly places the patient, not the technology, at the center of care.

A sponsor and supporter of the Summit since its inception, Livongo, have put a name to their strategy that really struck me. It’s called the Myth of More, and CEO Glen Tullman, who led a panel discussion about the big picture of behavioral health and the role of technology, describes it this way:

“People are saying if we just had more devices and more doctors and more applications and more, more, more then everything would be good. But consumers are saying no. No more. They’re saying what we want is for you to make it simpler, not more complex. That’s what health care has to be. It has to be as easy as every other part of our lives… . People have all this data but very little information. We have to silence the noise. We have to make all that data coming in useful for people. It has to be actionable, it has to be personalized, and it has to be timely. If it’s not those three things, none of us have time for it.”

I’m thankful for all of our panelists and for the 150+ other big thinkers who come together at the Summit each year for deep dialogue about healthcare consumerism, challenges, trends and transformation. I’m even more thankful for the relationships the Summit helps foster and grow, something our repeat attendees and partners tell us is the real reason why they protect the time on the calendars each year to be here.

We covered a lot of ground, and I look forward to sharing more of the conversations that were had in the coming weeks and months. For now, here are a few of my other top takeaways:

Consumer-Centric Care is King
Healthcare must meet patients where they are, in their places of work, their homes or in their communities. New technology provides an omni-channel, tailored approach to healthcare and allows providers to build a relationship with formerly hard-to-reach patients. The impact of this can be seen throughout the behavioral health space as we are able to utilize technology to better predict and identify risk factors before patients make the decision to go into the healthcare system.

In addition to access, technology can help streamline how consumers choose and connect with their healthcare providers. This new era will see the “Amazonification” of healthcare as consumers push for transparency in pricing, the option to look at reviews and a better understanding of where their money is going.

As another panelist, Dennis Weaver of Oscar Health, commented, “We bank online, shop online and date online. Why wouldn’t we get our healthcare online too?”

Bottom line: companies that are “disrupting” healthcare put the consumer in the driver’s seat when it comes to access and understanding their health.

Data Liquidity is Imperative
It’s estimated that we will produce more healthcare data in the next five years than we did in the last 20. Data quality, source, integration and security are paramount as the data avalanche continues to build. Providers have more access to our personal data and habits than ever before, yet there are major barriers to utilizing data to make a personalized care profile for each patient.

Right now, health data sources are fragmented, and whether visiting a provider virtually or in-person, they need a full patient story to provide a diagnosis. From a health policy standpoint, integration and standardization of data from traditional (claims, EHRs) and non-traditional (wearables, genomic testing) sources will be essential to the future of care.

Digital Transformation is a Team Sport
Throughout the day, we heard many examples of strategic partnerships that drive patient access, engagement and action. Our panelists urged legacy healthcare industry players to come to the table with an open mind to new ways of reaching patients and be willing to work together toward success.

Lyft partnered with large health systems to solve a core problem facing patients: transportation to and from appointments. To gain buy-in from providers, they looked at the numbers: what is the cost of a missed appointment, or keeping a patient who is ready to be discharged because they don’t have a ride? By integrating directly with provider scheduling applications and provider access to transportation, Lyft has removed one of the barriers of social determinants of health and lowered operational costs.

As panelist Rich Berner from MDLive advised, “Focus on the problems you’re trying to solve, look for partners who have proven they can solve these problems, and keep the consumer at the center.”

Digital Must Be Part of Your Organizational DNA
In order to digitize the enterprise, a mentality shift is needed at all levels. There’s a growing awareness among healthcare organizations that digital is an enterprise-wide business mindset and not just a series of siloed digital projects and pilots. Leading enterprises have 30 percent higher CEO involvement in outlining and aligning their IT strategy with overall corporate strategy.  

Legacy organizations can face an uphill climb if they try to do too much, too soon when it comes to digital implementation. When updating processes and platforms, focus on reimagining care to create a better consumer experience at a lower cost. Really want to drive innovation? Consider setting up an independent group within your organization that follows a new set of processes and gradually shift your business to the new model. This approach can help you pressure test new ideas and avoid getting bogged down by lingering mindsets and red tape.

Throughout the Summit, I couldn’t help but think about this point in time in healthcare transformation in the context of the broader cultural and economic landscape, notably those espoused by Neil Howe and the late William Strauss in their “Fourth Turning” theory, which says every new era, or “turning,” begins every 20 years or so and that four turnings bring a complete cycle, matching the 80-90 year human lifespan.

As economist John F. Mauldin explains, each Fourth Turning is a crisis, meaning, “an existential Crisis, one in which society’s strongest institutions collapse (or are severely challenged and stressed) and national survival is in serious doubt. The Crisis can be economic, cultural, religious, military, or all the above… . By Neil Howe’s timeline, we are today about halfway through the Fourth Turning’s Crisis phase. We may have another decade to go. When it’s over, we will be able to look back and see that important changes occurred.”

Important changes, indeed, not the least of which, Mauldin notes, is “Technology to Scale.” And not just to scale, but to enable, to drive efficiencies, to drive growth and, most importantly, to make our lives (and healthcare) simpler, not more complex.

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