-Rasu B. Shrestha, MD, MBA, Chief Innovation Officer, UPMC (@RasuShrestha)
Navigating the complexity, urgency and pervasiveness of the challenges facing today’s healthcare industry requires visionary leadership to coalesce, empower, influence and inspire stakeholders, so that innovation and ingenuity flourish at all levels across a collaborative ecosystem that spans providers, payers, device manufacturers, pharmaceuticals, life sciences, academia, policy makers and the start-up community. Against the backdrop of this holistic view of the healthcare innovation ecosystem, healthcare providers are challenged more than ever to improve quality of care, access to care and patient outcomes while reducing cost of care delivery. There are numerous healthcare delivery systems led by passionate, influential C-suite executives and visionary leaders that are applying best practices in innovation to implement digital solutions for healthcare transformation that solve our most compelling problems: value-based care, patient engagement, population health, evidence-based medicine, consumerization, care coordination, clinical decision support, healthcare affordability, and quality improvement.
As industry stakeholders are re-evaluating all aspects of care delivery and the need for care delivery redesign, they understand that every interaction with patients, regardless of setting or media, must be executed with compassion, empathy, humility and mindfulness. As patients gravitate toward consuming healthcare remotely and in new settings via telehealth, mHealth and retail clinics, the landscape of traditional in-patient and acute care infrastructure will be repurposed and re-imaged to exceed future standards of care, patient experience and provider expectations. Such disintermediation in healthcare has lagged other industries, i.e. financial, retail, media, etc. While it is now occurring, albeit in a rather disproportionate and inconsistent manner, healthcare executives are taking measures to balance competing forces and oppose the status quo to be change agents so that the patient emerges as the ultimate beneficiary.
At the core of digital transformation are (1) user-centered design to enhance user experience and adoption; (2) standard APIs that provide seamless data access and semantic interoperability for powering digital health solutions and applications; and (3) information security provisions to protect patient privacy, including user authentication, identity management and secure transactions. As the trend for digital tools is moving toward mobile platforms and cloud-based services, innovators and designers must also consider how to enhance and enrich features and capabilities, so that the tools remain adaptive, flexible, simple and convenient. Through IT modernization, next-generation database solutions and analytic platforms enhance our ability to extract actionable clinical intelligence from ever-increasing volumes of health data and moving toward systems for cognitive computing, machine learning, and artificial intelligence. These capabilities are particularly important given the complexity, volume and variety of patient-generated and genomics data, necessary to develop effective care pathways and gene therapies to treat and cure cancer and other diseases through precision medicine.
The evolution of legacy health IT systems has created a labyrinth of fragmented data environments characterized by data silos that create duplicative, conflicting records and operational inefficiencies. For digital solutions to truly transform healthcare in an era of care delivery redesign, it is essential to have secure access to patient records that present the 360-degree view of patients at any point-of-care. Utilizing a systems approach, combined with journey mapping and design-thinking, will accelerate the application of scientific insights to understand the elements that influence health outcomes, model the relationships among those elements, and develop feasible solutions to yield desired results.
Technology is not the obstacle to healthcare transformation. It takes dedicated, highly skilled, multi-disciplinary teams of clinicians, researchers, technologists, data scientists, IT architects, solution designer and developers to guide, build and deploy solutions that yield measurable, impactful results. It requires making investment decisions based on the business case and a well-defined, complete set of evaluation criteria that align with strategic goals and objectives. We can learn from the experiences of visionary leaders who have championed innovative solutions, made the tough decisions to execute, and persevered, often amidst adversity from conflicting stakeholder interests, with a sense of purpose, accountability and transparency.
To unbreak and humanize healthcare, today’s healthcare leaders are overcoming industry headwinds and obstacles that have been mounting over the past 30 years: beaurocratic forces, corporate inertia, entrenched vendors, antiquated program governance, special interests, and evolving policies that dictate who has access to care, and how, where and when care is delivered. They are taking action to resolve the inefficiencies, vast health disparities and underserved populations. They are taking action to improve quality, efficiency and performance. They are taking action to slow and reverse the rising cost of care, especially prescription drugs, and out-of-pocket expenses that keep patients from getting the care they need when they need it.
Let this moment represent a unifying resolution among all of us to solve these pressing problems together through authentic collaboration, so that patients are truly at the center of our healthcare ecosystem. Engaging and connecting patients through digital solutions can alleviate so many problems. To be successful, the following components are essential:
- Realization that the status quo will not be sufficient to exceed future standards of care, patient experience and provider expectations;
- Visionary leadership that empowers, inspires, and is not afraid to fail;
- Multidisciplinary teams of specialists who guide, build, deploy, and scale solutions;
- An imperative to share data with safeguards for privacy and security;
- Possess ingenuity, intellectual curiosity and willingness to “push the envelope”
- Utilize an agile delivery model and lean start-up approach for rapid deployment of solutions
- Leverage the cumulative effect of continuous improvement, incremental advances and adjacent technology
- Provide a forum for collaboration and encourage free exchange of ideas among all stakeholders