At the Seattle Summit, MultiCare Execs Parse Our Tech-Facilitated Future

Oct. 11, 2022
At the Seattle Healthcare Innovation Summit, Anna Taylor and Bradd Busick shared with their audience the strategies that they and their colleagues at MultiCare are pursuing to innovate in patient care

The Healthcare Innovation Pacific Northwest Summit kicked off at the Grand Hyatt in Seattle on Tuesday, October 11, with a spirited presentation by two senior leaders from the MultiCare Health System, the 11-hospital, Tacoma, Washington-based integrated health system.

Anna Taylor, assistant vice president, population health & value-based care, at MultiCare Connected Care, and Bradd Busick, senior vice president and CIO at MultiCare Health System, presented on the topic “Healthcare’s ‘Identity’ Crisis: Securing the Future of Health,” skillfully blending issues around patient-centric care delivery, value-based contracting, interoperability, and data security, and the interconnectedness of all of those issues.

As the two MultiCare Health System executives noted, MultiCare encompasses:

>   1,800+ MultiCare staff providers

>   11 acute care hospitals

> 1,860+ beds

>   23,000+ employees

>   $3.9 billion in revenues (2021)

> Largest Behavioral Health Footprint in the country

>   Largest not for profit, local owned health system in Washington

>   Risk-barring entity: MultiCare Connected Care – 350K lives

>   Medical research and education

>   Walk-in Urgent Care network

>   Telehealth provider

As Anna Taylor stated at the outset of the team’s presentation, “The lines between IT and the business are blurring, in a meaningful way. Some of you in this room would say, if asked what your organization is, ‘Well, we’re a healthcare provider’; and some would say, ‘Well, we’re a technology company that facilities healthcare.’ But the lines are blurring” between the two concepts, as patient care organizations become more and more enmeshed in technology, as technological advancement becomes essential to the future of U.S. Healthcare.

Indeed, Taylor said, “The lines have blurred around our physical environment” and technology. In the world that has been, patient care organizations had a base management platform, their electronic health record (EHR), the IoT (Internet of Things), and increasing, cognitive analysis and population health management. “Now,” she said, “we’re having to think more globally about how we secure data, and are having to think about whom we connect with. The future of health will be driven by digital transformation enabled by radically interoperable data and open, secure platforms. I’ve been in healthcare for 15 years,” she noted, “and we’ve been talking about centering the patient for a long time. But one of the challenges has been around interoperability. In order to create a full system around the patient, we’ll need true interoperability, based on identity as a service—IAAS.

When moving forward into the concept of identity as a service, “There are platforms and technologies that serve as building blocks,” Busick said. Importantly, he urged the audience, “When you have architecture by design, you end up with a better outcome; otherwise, you have sub-accounts, 14 different email addresses,” and a host of complexities. What’s important, he said, is to develop broad, overarching strategies for information systems and data analytics development, and to wrap a very strong data security strategy around the IS and data strategy. Indeed, in that, he said, “you need to design security into everything that you do.”

Busick noted that the leaders at MultiCare have been innovating in a number of technological areas, including implementing several task-based robots that are supporting nurses in their bedside care. As he explained it to the audience, “We now have two robots that give nurses more time at the bedside. And the robots are task-based. And there’s a lot of technology and planning offsite behind the robots,” including a great deal of security management, in order to support the interoperability of the robots in the organization.

Meanwhile, per technology on a broad level, Busick said he believes firmly that “We actually think that comfort is going to be a competitive advantage and differentiator for a hospital. And,” he said, “did you know that temperature control is the number-one consideration for patients?”—according to patient satisfaction surveys. “If your HVAC goes down, your maintenance provider will charge you a 40-percent markup,” he noted. “So where things are going is that providers will have to differentiate based on comfort and patient safety.”

The important point about all of this, Busick said, is that the senior leaders at patient care organizations nationwide no longer have the luxury of siloed thinking; they need to think strategically about what it is that patients and communities need and want, and what they, the patient care organizations, can and should deliver to them. It is in that context, he noted, that “MultiCare is super-excited to announce that we’re among the first health systems in the country to implement drone-based drug delivery.” There are a lot of moving parts to establishing a drone-based drug delivery program, he said, but creating that program is connected to MultiCare’s overall population health strategy. Per establishing programs like drone-based drug delivery, Busick said, “We want to break the glass; so we’re very excited to go do this.”

What’s more, Busick said, “We actually believe that the future of healthcare is in the home. We have a two-hour prescription delivery to the home. But prescription delivery requires a great deal of interoperability and connectivity. And we go to areas that are rural. Some areas lack broadband.” In other words, moving forward in all these areas requires developing enterprise-wide strategies that make sense.

All of these statements by both presenters connect to one of the slides they presented, headlined, “The future of health will be driven by digital transformation enabled by radically interoperable data and open, secure platforms.” That slide also stated this: “The catalyst for change: Radically interoperable data will empower hyper-engaged consumers to sustain well-being and receive care only in the instances where well-being fails.” And that same slide cites “wellbeing + care delivery,” “care enablement,” and “data + platforms,” as “three categories of business archetypes in the future environment.”

Going forward, the MultiCare executives said, strategic planning is now changing dramatically in patient care organizations, as the landscape continues forward through dramatic health system and technological change. “Every 90 days, our team is meeting, pivoting, and adjusting,” Busick said. “I’ll tell you, 90 days ago, there wasn’t a drone capability in our strategy; and 180 days ago, there wasn’t a robot capability in our strategy.”

And Taylor asked the audience to consider six major considerations in evolving one’s organization’s strategy forward:

Ø  Alignment

Ø  Consumable technology

Ø  Patient engagement

Ø  Federal rulings and compliance

Ø  Partnership

Ø  Shifting payment models and equity

Per alignment, Taylor said, “One of the pillars at MultiCare is population-based care. We drive a lot of technological changes in the organization because we have to derive value from technology. So, are your mission, vision, values, and strategy all aligned? And is your technology consumable? Can the nurse, the doctor, the patient, the CIO, understand what the new technology will bring to your business? You have to make sure that these technologies are consumable, or they’ll be trash in the garbage can like Blackberries are now.”

Per patient engagement, Taylor said, “We need to create health systems as the trusted partner in patients’ healthcare, by providing reliable data to them.” And, per federal rulings and compliance around healthcare information technology and around policy, Taylor asked the audience, “Are you watching for , [policy change], advocating for it? Are you coming to the table before the ink is dry? I sit on several panels, but they’re all dominated by payers. We providers need to be involved, especially around interoperability,” she insisted.

And, on a practical level, Taylor said, “We’re in a financial crisis” in the hospital world, with declining revenue margins and countless areas in which to innovate. “Can payers help us build this infrastructure?” Meanwhile, partnering around payment models is equally important. In that regard, she said, “We’re partnering with Regence [Blue Cross Blue Shield] on automated prior authorization in some areas.”

And, Busick underscored for the audience, data governance will be an essential element in success going forward, as the leaders of patient care organizations evolve forward to leverage technology to support innovation in patient care. “Healthcare hates data governance!” he declared, adding that “Data governance is really hard if you haven’t gotten used to it, but if you don’t have high-powered data governance, you can’t really unlock the promise of technology.”

Both speakers concluded their presentation by refocusing on the fact that technology must be thought of in new ways. “Healthcare data no longer resides inside four walls. And the public is becoming more and more savvy about data,” Taylor said. And, added Busick, “A strategy needs to be agile; you can no longer lock in a strategy for three years.” Instead, an agile, “breathing strategy” will be vital going into the future. “The future is here,” he concluded. “Let’s go for it.”

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