Nov 10, 2022
Nashville, Tenn.—The U.S. healthcare system is ripe for disruption and that disruption may come from any direction.
This was one of the many threads that came up at the 2022 Emids Healthcare Summit, which brought together healthcare leaders from across the country to Nashville, Tenn., to tackle some of the contemporary challenges facing the industry today.
An Era of Disruption and Innovation in Healthcare
“All of us would agree the existing healthcare system is confusing, complex and that it’s at a stage where it needs to be disrupted”
CEO of Transcarent
In its current evolution, healthcare as an industry has the potential to deliver innovative solutions by learning from its mistakes and that’s something we’ve seen in other industries.
Aaron Martin, Vice President of Healthcare at Amazon, gave the example of Amazon’s Fire Phone, a product that failed to launch but led to an innovative tool Amazon uses today.
“What we did get out of it was Alexa. When you’re learning from your mistakes, you lower the costs of your failures,” Martin said.
“Amazon’s history is all about pivots; how are you using a certain technology that didn’t work the first time but worked the second time?” he said, adding that the failures seen in healthcare can become catalysts for innovation.
Addressing Medical Deserts and Underserved Populations
Improving healthcare involves making it more local, said Anita Allemand, Chief Transformation and Integration Officer at Walgreens Boots Alliance.
Allemand pointed out that when we think of healthcare, we don’t usually think of the word “joy”. But she’s working towards figuring out ways to make patients and consumers more joyful through better health.
“We’re thinking about how we can do that, and we really believe at the core of it, it’s about neighborhood healthcare that is equitable and accessible and is available when and where the consumer wants,” she said.
Allemand touched upon a key thread healthcare leaders brought up at Summit ‘22: the need to make healthcare conveniently available, especially for underserved populations and regions devoid of healthcare services.
Ramita Tandon, Chief Clinical Trials Officers at Walgreens, said many communities she visits haven’t heard of clinical research. But as a retailer, Walgreens has a large footprint that can be used to serve areas where healthcare systems don’t exist and to allow for successful clinical trials, Tandon said.
“It’s about how we start to tackle some of the systemic barriers that exist within our nation, particularly communities that are underserved, or communities of color that are not receiving healthcare or don’t get access to healthcare”
Chief Clinical Trials Officers at Walgreens
Tandon added that technology is often seen as a tool that allows patients and consumers to remain connected to the healthcare ecosystem and subsequently partake in clinical trials.
But that’s not always the case.
“When we’re going down to the Deep South…I had a woman come up to me and say, ‘I don’t get data on my [phone] plan until 6 p.m. onwards, so are you planning to keep your stores and pharmacies open during the evenings or weekend so I can do what you guys want me to do?’”
Tandon also describes the medical deserts in the Dakotas and Wyoming where vast areas of farmland are home to rural communities lacking sophisticated healthcare systems. In addressing the healthcare needs in these areas, Tandon said going mobile helps.
“They’re looking for ways to get healthcare delivered in a convenient fashion. So, during the COVID-19 pandemic, we had mobile units that would be running around in different areas so we could get people vaccinated.”
In addition to medical deserts, the country suffers from swaths of fitness deserts, said Dave Long, CEO of OrangeTheory Fitness.
“There are massive fitness deserts where people don’t have access to places to work out, so part of our plan is to try out low cost or no cost pilot solutions to fitness,” he said.
“And sometimes you need to figure out what’s happening with people’s lives that prevents them from staying active.”
Understanding the needs of your patients and healthcare customers
If there’s one message Dr. Toyin Ajayi wants the healthcare industry to hear, it’s that challenging your assumptions is a great way to move healthcare forward.
“We’re all consumers of healthcare. We all think we know what’s wrong and we all know what needs to be fixed and generally our assumptions are not wrong; using your own experience will get 80 percent of the way there”
Dr. Toyin Ajayi
Co-Founder & CEO of Cityblock Health
“But when we don’t get the outcomes we want, let’s go back and challenge our assumptions; that is the essence of what the unlock will be of organizations looking to move the needle.”
Glen Tullman, CEO of Transcarent, said the pandemic has allowed many patients and consumers to become digital, which is a trend that continues to grow in the realm of healthcare.
But with digital adoption, some are being left behind, as Allemand from Walgreens points out.
“It doesn’t work for everyone. When my 81-year-old parents had to sign up for their COVID-19 tests, they didn’t know how,” she said, adding that Walgreens had technicians with iPads go out and offer support to those who were facing technical challenges.
The Changing Nature of Healthcare Work
The last several years have also seen the nature of work shift across many industries, including healthcare. Whether it’s remote, hybrid or in-person, healthcare leaders agree that there’s no right way of running your healthcare business.
“I don’t think we can look past the power of working virtually, but there is something real about the power of human-to-human connection,” said Matt Hawkins, CEO of Waystar.
“One thing we are trying to figure out is how do you maximize the power of the human spirit and harness it well?”
Dr. Michael Schlosser, SVP of Care Transformation & Innovation at HCA Healthcare, echoed a similar sentiment.
“The pandemic redefined work and now that we’re back, we have options, but we got to figure out what people want out of their environment and we’re still searching for where we are going to land.”
Dr. Michael Schlosser
SVP of Care Transformation & Innovation at HCA Healthcare
A key message from Summit ’22 is that the evolution of healthcare is being marked by rumbles of disruption.
While the winds of change with these towering thunderclouds are still farther down the horizon, an array of industry players are already working on ways to pivot the industry for the better.
Walgreens is one example. “We know that healthcare is extremely fragmented today and as Walgreens moves into the [clinical trials] space, our goal is to create this disruption,” said Tandon from Walgreens.
And at the center of why healthcare leaders like Tandon do what they do? It’s all to improve the lives of healthcare consumers and patients.
“[It’s about making] it easy for patients to get the care they’re looking for that they haven’t in the past,” she said.