July 13, 2017

It’s Time to Think Differently About Healthcare: It’s Time to Evolve.

By Accolade Marketing

Rising healthcare costs, not taxes, are the “ tapeworm of American economic competitiveness, ” says Warren Buffett. Indeed, although U.S. healthcare spending (along with family premiums) has been growing at a slower rate in the past decade - from 11.9% in 2007 down to 6.5% today - it's still growing a lot faster than GDP. We could soon see healthcare spending usurp up to 20% of U.S. GDP, which puts the U.S. at a huge disadvantage in the global market.

Think about the lost investment in R&D, market expansion, customer service or any means of differentiation and growth - the opportunity cost of our healthcare spending is enormous.

And not sustainable.

Which is one reason why attempts to fix the situation - beginning in the 70s - continue to grow and accelerate. Unfortunately, while there's no shortage of effort and innovation, our country is not making headway fast enough. Consider a few of the efforts over the past decade:

The shift to value-based care is moving, but slowly

It could be years before we have in place what's needed to truly shift from fee-for-service to fee-for value, including alignment between payers and providers, the incentive and ability of providers to take on financial risk; and the data integration and sharing to enable care coordination and continuity, as well as the analytics to report on quality, cost and outcomes.

Personal health information is digitized but the data isn't being shared

While nearly 100% of acute-care hospitals have adopted electronic health records (EHRs) to store personal health data, these systems are largely “closed:” Only about 26% of hospitals exchange electronic patient data with sources outside of their system.1 What's more, the data is limited to “structured” clinical data, and the vast world of personal health information is, you guessed it, unstructured.

Digital health innovation is exploding, but tools are not widely used

According to Rock Health, even in a time of great uncertainty as the administration works to unwind the Affordable Care Act, funding for digital health solutions continues to explode. In Q1 2017, Rock Health counted 71 digital health deals totaling over $1B.2 The problem? Nearly half of employees don't use the digital solutions you've deployed - largely because they're disconnected, hard to find, and hard to access.

Patient engagement is hard

Microsoft's efforts to empower people with control over their personal health data have struggled to make an impact, and Google abandoned their similar initiative. According to a survey by CDW Healthcare, 65% of patients say they face challenges when they try to engage with providers.3

So where do we go from here?

The good news is we have unprecedented opportunity in front of us. We have all of the ingredients to make a major, positive impact on the cost, quality and outcomes of care today:

  • A group that has tremendous power to effect change: Employers provide health insurance benefits to 178 million Americans, nearly half of the country's population.
    That's a lot of power.
    The launch of the Health Transformation Alliance is just one example of employers coming together to demand change.
  • A group that has huge incentive to effect change: Employers want to do better by their employees - whose health and happiness is the lifeline of their business. And in a strong economy, when talent is harder to attract and retain, that incentive is even stronger.
  • Emerging technologies that enable interoperability, data sharing, efficiency and personalization: With cloud computing, web services, artificial intelligence and natural language processing, we have the ability to usher in an era of personalized healthcare in the framework of population health.
  • Constant innovation: Health and wellness companies are harnessing the latest technologies to deliver a new era of connected digital health solutions that put the consumer at the center of care. Progressive payers and providers, too, are looking to evolve in the name of better quality, cost and outcomes for all.
  • Compassionate people everywhere: Nurses, doctors, behavioral health specialists, licensed social workers, pharmacists, data scientists, analysts, and really anyone at all has the power to bring change, because it starts with active listening and seeking to understand the unique needs of others.

📷It's time to come together, to harness all that we have to work with, and to develop new solutions to our healthcare crisis. That's the idea behind Evolve, a Healthcare Innovation Event Series hosted by Accolade. Evolve,

Register now to attend Evolve 2017 in September.

1 Interoperability among U.S. Non-federal Acute Care Hospitals in 2015, ONC Data Brief 36 | May, 2016

2 Rock Health: Q1 2017 Business as Usual for Digital Health

3 CDW Healthcare's Patient Engagement Perspectives, February 2016