Change Management

What’s Next for Health: Transforming the Global Health Ecosystem

Patients are at the center of the global health ecosystem

As a changemaker, trusted advisor and champion of healthcare standards, at HIMSS we are using our scale, authority and expertise to cut through the noise and lead healthcare’s reformation. Our leadership approach is strategic, impartial, member-driven and based on best practices. Our members are diverse, committed healthcare leaders from all corners of the globe. Together, we are working to create a world where no matter where you live, who you are, better health is possible.

As we look toward a brighter future in healthcare, Hal Wolf, HIMSS President & CEO, was asked to answer three questions around how HIMSS is driving what’s next for health. Here’s what he had to say.

When we refer to unprecedented changes in health ecosystem, what specifically does that mean?

We are witnessing an exciting and transformative period in the health ecosystem, which is undergoing unprecedented change, fueled by disruptive innovation and a renewed focus on patient-centered care. With consumer expectations becoming more and more sophisticated, the industry is being tasked to evolve to meet the customers’ demands for healthcare when and where they want it. Healthcare has always been dynamic, but today, the pace of change is virtually continuous with clear signs of a revolution on the horizon. The stakes are high.

There are a number of factors currently at play that, when working together, allow for a foundation to launch true change within the health ecosystem. The aging population and advanced diagnostics, which are identifying disease burdens earlier in individuals, are focusing more and more resources on secondary prevention and co-morbidities, thus driving consumption, and with it, collective cost. Slower growth in national GDPs mixed with a higher percentage of the population becoming dependent on health systems means fewer working citizens to handle the economic demands of increased health expenditures. With that, the economics of the ecosystem are changing while demands are growing, driving a need for innovation at its highest level to keep pace.

Part of the response is an attempt to simply shift the risk of care from the payer to the providers. In response, the use of new technologies and availability of new information and data are coming at us at an unprecedented pace. The industry at large, whether it be hospital systems, technologists, policy makers, practitioners, providers and patients, are working more closely to utilize the new capabilities making their way into the market.

Coupled with that, we are seeing more savvy, sophisticated consumers, demanding care in a way that is more consistent with services being delivered in other sectors of the economy, meeting their needs on-demand when and where they live and work.

The traditional care industry is trying to respond, but the disrupters are coming fast and as governments, payers and employers try to deal with the economics noted above, the path for new care and health models are being rapidly invented by large and small entities.

So we see a perfect storm of economic demand for change, capabilities to support new models of care evolving and a significant shift toward consumerism creating opportunities to drive change in ways never before possible.

How is the landscape changing for providers and health systems, payers, vendors and technology solution providers, and importantly, patients?

The advancement in digital capabilities has demonstrated that payers, healthcare providers, vendors, technology solution providers and patients have become more closely linked than ever before.

We see payers providing health-related member coaching or diagnosis services (starting as a second opinion) and additional services complimenting managed care plans, which continue to grow. We see all stakeholders within the health ecosystem working more closely, importantly, with patients as essential partners.

The only way to truly transform care is to break down the physical and data silos that have been keeping us from reaching our full potential in our efforts to transform health. The health ecosystem is forcing us to look beyond the traditional methods of serving our patients in brick and mortar settings, and instead use innovation and technology to extend care outside the hospital in ways that better fit the needs of the consumer.

What steps does the industry need to take in order to transform care? What problems do we need to solve? What will happen if we don’t take these steps?

We have begun to see significant efforts to transform the health ecosystem, but there’s still much work to do. A few steps I feel are essential:

  1. Interconnect health data and information across the care continuum to reduce errors, improve efficiency and inform clinicians and individuals alike.
  2. Move to care models based on outcomes with consistent measurements that include total health, not just specific encounters. This drives an end-to-end look at each individual’s care and outcomes, and begins to include the social determinants which are critical to total health.
  3. Adopt a more complete system approach to health financing which supplements access to services based on need (there are many systems that do this today without doing away with the independent delivery providers or insurers).
  4. Recognize that the encounter paradigm we grew up with cannot go forward unchanged, so reimbursement models to support digital health engagement and care must be accelerated.
  5. Retrain our workforces to embrace the new paradigm of care and teach all the way through to the medical schools. We need to reform our health ecosystem.
  6. And again, we must think outside the traditional care setting in order to better meet consumer demands for care that comes to them in a way that is more convenient and efficient.
  7. Finally, embrace the disrupters. They are coming fast and will be filling in the gaps our traditional systems haven’t been able to respond to fast enough. The key will be to play off of their capabilities to drive greater efficiencies in the older models.

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