On the first full day of the ViVE conference, being held at the Music City Center convention center in downtown Nashville this week, speakers on Monday morning, March 27, referenced the current challenges facing not only the U.S. healthcare system but also the global healthcare system, including post-pandemic financial challenges and instability, clinician and other staffing shortages, and challenges around the need to integrate new technologies with existing ones in order to improve care delivery and patient outcomes.
After a brief welcome by Russ Branzell, president and CEO of CHIME (the Ann Arbor, Mich.-based College of Healthcare Information Management Executives), Rich Scarfo, president of HLTH and founder and organizer of ViVE, told attendees at the opening general session on Monday morning that the conference had counted over 7,500 attendees, with 56 percent of the audience being vice president level and above, and over half being c-suite executives. Scarfo also said the conference had tallied over 600 vendor companies and 650 startup companies. In addition, h announced, more than 330 buys are involved in this year’s hosted-buyer program, and are holding over 3,000 meetings this week. And, he said, the number of networking connections at the conference has doubled over last year.
Meanwhile, Scarfo noted that several affinity groups were gathering at this year’s ViVE, including an LGBTQ Pride group, a Latino at ViVE group, and a Black at ViVE group. And he spoke to the current political situation in Tennessee, noting that the state’s government imposed a near-total ban on abortion care last year, and a ban on gender-affirming care just this month. He urged healthcare leaders to “put the healthcare of patients above everything else,” and urged that though there is no official theme for ViVE this year, in his view, the theme should be “kindness and acceptance.”
Scarfo then welcomed Roy Jakobs, CEO of the Netherlands-based Philips, to the stage. Jakobs painted a portrait of a global healthcare system situated uneasily between crisis and opportunity, noting that “We have a big issue at hand: we don’t have enough people to take care of the patients; and that’s predicted to be a much bigger issue in the next ten years. We need to make sure we’re part of the solution, by creating better patient outcomes through the application of technology.”
Jakobs went on to note that, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the global healthcare delivery system was relatively in balance in terms of the adequate numbers of clinicians and patient care organizations to care for patients, reimbursement to support providers’ financial stability, and technology to support care delivery and operations. But, with a large number of clinicians and other healthcare workers leaving the industry, both in the U.S. and worldwide, the global healthcare system has been “fundamentally disrupted; and that requires us all to adapt to that new reality. If we don’t address it, we will have the patients paying the price. So it’s a big responsibility for all of us not to let that happen. We are moving to a model involving a scarcity of caregivers. So we have to put them at the center of what we do. There was an exodus of caregivers after COVID; they just were not willing to cope anymore with the huge patient demands. Not only that huge burden, but the overflow of technology. We hear them say, you’re overwhelming us.”
What is vital, Jakobs said, is that “We need to break the silos of technology. We all come from a world in which we designed for closed systems. We need to shift our thinking. We need to think in open systems, systems designed for collaboration. These systems need to be connected and the silos broken, working in a seamless manner. We have a lot of technology; we’re continuously bringing new technology to the floor; how do we make sure the technologies work together? And how do we make sure the technology is used? Year after year, we’re finding that only 10 percent of the technology is really used. We have to rethink; we need to think in an open system. And we have to think in terms of interoperability. So that the patient flow, from the moment the patient walks into a doctor’s office to admission to an inpatient hospital, is collected just once. The system is expanding rapidly and bringing care to the home. And it should be there.” But we need cloud technology, among other technologies, to make it all work for clinicians at the patient bedside, he emphasized.
What’s more, Jakobs said, “Then there is the data tsunami. We’re overwhelming all the caregivers with massive amounts of care. There is a lot of value in the data, including untapped value. But users will refuse the data—they need to focus on how they care for their patients.”
Further, Jakobs told the audience, “We need to be the best in supporting care. And that’s the call to action I put forward to this group. There are many entrepreneurs and innovators here. I’m one of them. I love to innovate. I love to develop new technology. But we have to do it with the patient in mind. That’s a beautiful challenge to solve”—integrating all the data and platforms—"and that’s the challenge for this group,” he said. “And for that, we need to change our DNA—not to be excited most about what technology can do, but what it can do for the people we serve. We need to redesign what we make, into an open-systems framework; that we think responsibly about data. We need to channel the data, manage it. We need to design for a world in which we collaborate better together in healthcare. Only together as one ecosystem can we met the challenges to improve the lives of so many people we serve every day.”
Jakobs was followed onstage by Sandeep Dadlani, executive vice president and chief digital and technology officer at UnitedHealth Group, the Minnetonka, Minn.-based health company that owns health insurer UnitedHealthcare (which covers more than 46 million Americans) and health service company Optum. Dadlani noted that scientific and medical advances are accelerating dramatically now. “In 2003,” he noted, “the first human genome was sequenced; that took 13 years. Last year, Stanford announced that they could sequence individuals’ genomes in seven hours and 13 minutes.” And “It took one year to develop a COVID-19 vaccine and two years to distribute it globally.”
That said, Dadlani said, “The healthcare industry is fantastic. But there’s another side. Each one of us has had fractured, vulnerable, frustrating experiences; that’s the other side.” And he referenced Gordon Moore, the cofounder of Intel who died last week (March 24) at the age of 94, and who is particularly known for what is called “Moore’s law,” a theory of technology development, and said, “What if we adopted Gordon Moore’s idea and embraced the idea of exponential progress in healthcare?” In that regard, he asked, “How do we make innovative progress at scale?”—leveraging new technologies to improve healthcare delivery and care management.
“At UnitedHealth Group,” Dadlani went on to say, “Our mission is to help people lead healthier lives. We have no hope of doing this without all of us as an industry moving forward at 100X.” He referenced five strategic-growth pillars that are helping to guide the leaders of UnitedHealth Group: value-based care (“This year, we’re hoping to see four million lives covered through risk-based, value-based care”); a health benefits strategy focused on affordable, equitable care; health technology focused on innovation; healthcare financial services focused on simplifying payments; and pharmacy services. “And technology connects all five pillars,” he stressed.
Then, referencing other industries, Dadlani noted that, years ago, “Netflix disrupted Blockbuster at scale. What happened? They listened. People hated going to the store to get videos, and hated late fees. Netflix listened and responded fast. And Walmart did the same in the retail area,” focusing on cutting prices and creating improved convenience.
“We need to do the same in the healthcare industry,” Dadlani said. “The first pillar will be to go zero distance. Tech has been developed for years in conference rooms, in dark dungeons with computers. What if tech was developed side by side with clinicians?” He provided two examples involving his own organization. First, he showed a brief video of primary car physician Casey Jimenez, M.D., who enthusiastically uses clinical decision support tools provided by United. “Clinicians who us CDS tools are 96-percent more likely to follow best practices.” And then he told an extended anecdote about Carol, a call-center professional at United who handles the most challenging member relations calls. Executives have been in listening sessions with Carol and her teammates, and have implemented changes to prior authorization processes based on what they’ve heard. Ultimately, he told the audience, it will require constant engagement in such processes in order to leverage technology to actually effect change in healthcare—at scale.
The conference runs through Wednesday afternoon.