The Evolving Healthcare Landscape & Trends Bubbling Beneath the Surface

This week,my colleagues and I have had the distinct pleasure of attending andparticipating in the U.S. News and World Report Hospitalof Tomorrow Conferenceheld in Washington, D.C. Attending the event afforded us the opportunity toconnect with many leading hospital executives and health care visionaries toexplore how we can all help address the range of challenges facing the healthsystems of today and those in the future, especially as we see the industrychanging right before our eyes. 

Yesterday,I participated in the luncheon keynote session with Peter Slavin, M.D., Presidentof Massachusetts General Hospital, and Shalom Jacobovitz, Chief ExecutiveOfficer of the American College of Cardiology. Our panel, which was moderatedby Len Nichols, Ph.D, Director and Professor at George Mason University’sCenter for Health Policy Research and Ethics, discussed the dynamics of how thehealth industry is changing in interesting ways in response to an array ofpressures, beyond just the forced changes of health reform. We noted thebenefits of community-based programs and looked at the ways we can harness thepower of technology and innovation to enhance access, reduce costs, and improvehealth outcomes and patient care.

As I lookback on the panel and the additional conversations I had throughout the event,I see several key themes emerging.

Prioritizing Collaboration and ConsumerEngagement

Itmay or may not be fair to say that collaboration hasn’t always been the shiningcharacteristic of the industry. However, with the advent of health reform,collaboration is becoming more commonplace. For example, hospitals are forminginsurance companies, partnering with pharmacy chains, institutingcommunity-based prevention programs, and experimenting with bundled payments. Ibelieve, though, that this is a paradigm shift that is being driven by far morethan health reform, as important as that is. 

Specifically,there is a convergence of three factors driving this shift, including 1)disruption in the health market (i.e. budget pressures, new payment models,etc.); 2) the emergence of an engaged consumer; and 3) technology innovationsin the areas of mobility, cloud, social and data. These factors are spawningnew business models that are designed to deliver more cost effective carethrough collaboration, care coordination and patient engagement. Inaddition, there is an increasingly evident overlap in interest amongcommunities, drug manufacturers, community health providers, insurers andhospitals to meet these needs.

Onthe first and second points, we’re seeing a renewed focus on payment for valueand improved outcomes. In particular, as employees pay out of pocket for theirhealth care and consumers become more active participants in monitoring theirown care and choosing their health plans (through insurance exchanges), theindustry is beginning to place an increased premium on consumer engagement andimproved service. As a result, we’re seeing new business entrants and modifiedbusiness models, including those at WalMart and CVS Minute Clinics, focus onbeing accessible to consumers. In addition, life science companies andproviders are collaborating to leverage big data to improve drug research andexpand access to clinical trials. 

Relatedly, in each of these instances, technology is playingan increasing role by helping support critical collaboration, care and consumerengagement. For example, personal health platforms like Health Vault are being usedby hospitals and integrated care networks, such as New York PresbyterianHospital and the Veterans Administration, in order to activate and engage consumersin monitoring their health. Additionally, many health systems aredeploying devices across their systems to work more seamlessly with patientsand to connect consumers and care givers to improve ease and satisfaction. For instance, earlier this year, New York Presbyterian Hospital set out to enhance both itsin-patient experience and engagement by providing a Windows 8 tablet at thepatient’s bedside. The Windows 8 tablets, which come with two custom builtWindows 8 apps, allow the hospital’s patients to seamlessly communicate withtheir care team and quickly access their health information on the facility’shealth portal.

Enabling Mobility and ClinicianProductivity  

As healthworkers truly move in a mobile environment, transitioning between seeingpatients and facilities, it’s becoming increasingly valuable for their healthsystem network to realize the benefits that can come from mobility. Of course,that means the technologies they use need to provide the same productivityexperience regardless of the device they’re using. Where we see the greatestopportunity for dramatic improvements in clinician productivity, teamperformance and patient safety is in the technology innovations that healthsystems have underinvested in relative to other industries, namely real timecommunication and collaboration platforms running in the cloud with privacy andsecurity protections greater than what most health systems have in their owndatacenters.  

We know,for example, that poor communication and insufficient patient hand-offs betweenshifts are the most common causes of adverse events in hospitals. So as wethink about success for Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs), we need to gobeyond getting the right information at the right time to the point of care. Instead,success for ACOs is about mobile, multidisciplinary care teams getting 100percent of its collaborative processes right and orchestrating these systems sothat they improve the quality and safety of care at a lower cost point. 

ACOs needreal time communication and collaboration platforms to do this, but unfortunately,most care teams still rely on traditional methods of communication andcollaboration in order to work together. Microsoft’s suite of mobilecommunication and collaboration tools through Office 365, including Lync andSharepoint, can help ACOs and health care workers increase their productivityvirtually anywhere, allowing providers to focus on helping their patients.

Leveraging the Cloud

Finally,cloud technologies are leveraged by hospital systems to connect disparatepoints of care and to drive down infrastructure costs, both of which areespecially important in an era of merger and acquisition. Similarly, cloudsolutions span boundaries and enable collaboration with communities, educators,and other health players. As we’ve seen in our work with Johnsonand Johnson, cloud technologies allow us to leveragebig data to not only benefit specific groups, but to also show us clear industrytrends. In many instances, hospitals now see that with a rise incollaboration, new business models, and a focus on care coordination, cloudtechnologies can help them better store and understand data and analysis, whilealso allowing them to better leverage revenue streams and improve research andmost importantly, patient care.

Aswe move forward, I have no doubt that that the paradigm shift will continue toevolve. With new market entrants, the direction we need to take will involveconnecting disparate systems of care and prioritizing and improving consumerengagement. Technology will undoubtedly play an integral role - a role thatmust be based on a vision that spans the enterprise, from the consumer to thelargest health provider. That is the unique value proposition that Microsoft’svision and roadmap offers.

Michael Robinson
Vice President, U.S. Health and Life Sciences, Microsoft

About the Author

Michael Robinson | Vice President, U.S. Health and Life Sciences, Microsoft

Michael Robinson is the Vice President of Microsoft’s Health and Life Sciences in the U.S., driving their business initiatives into the commercial and public sectors. Read More