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Healthcare’s Disruptors, Drivers and Trends Examined at 44th CHEF Annual Meeting

By Allison Scherer, Co-Chair, Communications Committee, CHEF

Two weeks prior to the WHO declaration of COVID-19 as a pandemic, more than 330 CHEF members gathered to network and celebrate career achievements, healthcare leadership and health studies student leadership at the 44th CHEF Annual Meeting on February 27, 2020. For the keynote presentation, A.J. Wilhelmi, President and CEO of the Illinois Health and Hospital Association, moderated an expert panel discussing the disruptors, drivers and trends affecting healthcare in 2020.

People with chronic diseases use the majority of healthcare services and account for most of the costs1. More than 133 million Americans suffer from at least one chronic health condition such as hypertension, heart disease and arthritis. Chronic conditions are responsible for more than 80 percent of hospitalizations. Complicating these statistics: ten thousand Americans are turning 65 each day and many Americans have high deductibles ($5,000) on their health insurance. Transforming healthcare delivery by moving to value-based care vs. fee-for-service will lead to better outcomes at lower costs. Rebecca Kaul, vice president and chief innovation officer of MD Anderson Cancer Center, and Dominica Tallarico, executive vice president of the Illinois region, Advocate Aurora Health, discussed how operations and innovation can partner to better connect providers and healthcare consumers while transforming healthcare delivery.

The expert panel agreed effective partnerships between operations and innovation leaders need to focus on retail-like accessibility and affordable consumerism. This will require change management, process changes and commitment from senior leadership. Leaders should be thinking about intelligent automation to enable its people to make data-driven decisions more rapidly and disseminate knowledge to elevate the standard of care.

Like retailers who look to take friction out of the last mile to deliver goods, healthcare leaders should manage barriers to accessing healthcare systems. Providers deliver a personal, consumer experience and are the human front door to health care. The panel advised not replacing humans with technology but using human-centered design to improve the consumer experience, increase self-service and incorporate virtual care for second opinions, low acuity visits and meeting people where they are (including homes). For example, sensor technology can be used to help patients recover at home where they are more comfortable and safer.

The experts shared their thoughts on several thought-provoking questions:

How is technology influencing healthcare consumerism?

Dominica Tallarico, executive vice president of the Illinois region, Advocate Aurora Health: Consumer-focused technology is driving the healthcare industry forward. The abundance of tools and technologies that exist are empowering patients even more to be involved in their own healthcare decisions slowly but forever changing the relationship between patient and care provider. Technology and Intelligent Automation is enabling new innovative solutions on where and how care is provided.

Rebecca Kaul, chief innovation officer, strategy and innovation, MD Anderson Cancer Center:  As the technology world has evolved into almost every part of our lives – at work, at home and in almost every interaction we have, it is critical as we explore our consumerism strategy. To think about consumerism without a digital strategy, would be ignoring a fundamental component of our culture and how we interact. Technology is an enabler – meaning we must first understand what experience consumers desire, and then imagine how technology can provide this experience. It is a cycle of technology influencing how we engage with consumers and consumer culture influencing how we evolve technology to meet their needs.

What role is your organization playing in addressing social determinants of health? Where are there opportunities? 

Dominica Tallarico: We focus on the Advocate Aurora Health (AAH) Vision: We will build health equity, ensure access and improve health outcomes in our communities through evidence-informed services and innovative partnerships by addressing medical needs and social determinants. The AAH Goal: In service of our purpose to help people live well, we’ve set a bold goal of increasing life expectancy by 5% in high need, low-income communities over the next 10 years. We will focus on six key areas:

  • Access to behavioral health services
  • Access to primary medical homes
  • Community safety
  • Food security
  • Affordable housing
  • Workforce development

AAH will leverage our organizational resources to drive targeted, community economic development through three key focus areas — diverse and local purchasing, diverse and local hiring, and local investment. We’ll build on our work in diverse and local purchasing and hiring and expand it to include a targeted local investment strategy to complement our current community benefit activity through a $50 million renewable investment pool. This will help drive meaningful local economic improvement initiatives such as affordable housing, small business development, federally qualified healthcare centers and food centers.

Advocate Aurora will be among the first health systems in the country to make a significant commitment to targeted community development investment. Addressing social determinants of health is one of our organization’s top priorities.  We have been looking at a variety of partnerships and tech solutions to connect our patients with the resources they need to address barriers impacting their ability to live well.

Rebecca Kaul: As a cancer center, we play an essential role in addressing social determinants of health ranging from leadership in programs to work with communities to understanding and adopting prevention-based lifestyle changes. In addition, we engage organizations and providers in underserved communities to elevate the standard of care and enable greater accessibility to needed services. Our biggest opportunity is decimating our knowledge through the use of technology. We could use technology to provide expertise in a patient’s life to help better guide their daily activities.

What does the future hold? What does healthcare look and feel like in 2030? 

Dominica Tallarico: AAH believes the future requires us to be agile and nimble in the transformation of care delivery. This will require scale as a multi-market consolidator and innovative partnerships and venturing into unchartered territories for traditional healthcare delivery systems. In the eyes of the consumer, healthcare must be:  Personalized. Consistent. Tech-enabled. Seamless.  All curated towards an individual definition of health.

Rebecca Kaul: As we think about the past, healthcare began as a personal door-to-door experience with a doctor having a deep relationship with a family and coming to one’s home. This evolved to the other extreme, where healthcare became less personal and more manufactured where your doctor is in part a function of your payer and the patient travels to the doctor, largely driven by an episode rather than a continuous relationship. The future is a swing back to a personalized experience whereby virtual care, monitoring technology and data science enables a more engaging experience without having to leave home. This also creates the opportunity to move away from the notion of a “patient” and engage individuals in staying healthy thus moving back to caring for the whole person rather than reacting to a specific event.

What trends are impacting the way you and your organization think about healthcare delivery?

Dominica Tallarico:

  • Rise in consumerism – Consumers demand world-class experiences on par with other service industries. AAH transformation strategy is built on a Consumer-First operating model
  • Competition – disruptive competitors capturing business in profitable health segments
  • Technology – tech-enabled solutions to redefining when and how patients receive care, leveraging artificial intelligence (AI) to create breakthroughs in productivity
  • Economics – declining reimbursement, increasing costs – the current model of care is not sustainable and we need to diversify our revenue sources
  • New care models – new care models that address broader determinants of health

How do you determine which start ups will make the best partners?

Rebecca Kaul: The first step to evaluating a startup has little to do with the company, and more to do with my own organization. Before evaluating the startup, I ensure the solution being presented actually solves a real, high priority problem within the organization and there is an appropriate stakeholder to champion it. Assuming all of that lines up, I evaluate a startup based on the value the solution can deliver, the quality of the solution and the maturity of the company and its management team. A good partner understands the complexities of a large organization and is willing to work through it collaboratively. They are financially stable, creative, receptive to feedback and understand the value of working with a large organization. The management team truly sees us as partners, not simply as a customer.

1 Partnership for Solutions (2004). Chronic Conditions: Making the Case for Ongoing Care. Baltimore, MD.

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