Skip to content Skip to navigation

Susan Dentzer on the Challenges and Opportunities in Healthcare

May 7, 2015
by Gabriel Perna
| Reprints
Because of what lies ahead, Susan Dentzer, senior policy advisor for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), a Princeton, N.J. nonprofit, sees this as an exciting time for healthcare in America, and beyond. 
From a policy standpoint: 
"We have ongoing health reform, not just the final phase of the implementation of Affordable Care Act (ACA) but all of the payment and delivery system reforms that we can see across the landscape and we know we’re going to see more of in future years. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has committed to pushing even more of the payment work under the Medicare program towards value-based payment. We know payers on the private side want to go in that direction as well. " 
From an innovation standpoint: 
"We have an amazing capacity for gathering data and to use data, in analytics, to turn it into insight. We have amazing technology on many levels - the smartphone, which enables not just the gathering of, but the dissemination of data in a way we've barely scrapped the surface." 
From a health IT adoption standpoint: 
"We've got the prospect of widespread use of electronic health records (EHRs) and other health IT. We're moving towards a regimen...of far broader access to usability of data. We've got the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT's (ONC) roadmap for getting us to a true state of data liquidity. We know all of that can be used, in particular, to engage patients much more directly in their healthcare and in a much more impactful way than ever before." 
All good, right? Well, not quite. 
As Dentzer points out, there are still numerous challenges to be overcome, citing specifically that transparency in health information isn't where it needs to be, interoperability between clinical systems is a ways away, and genomic and other intelligent data sources aren't integrated into the healthcare system. As she says, there is a long road ahead before the potential of a reinvented, learning health system is recognized. 
Dentzer will be a keynote speaker at the Institute for Health Technology Transformation's (iHT2) Washington D.C. Health IT Summit on June 16-17, 2015, where she will discuss these opportunities and challenges at length.
(iHT2 is a sister company to Healthcare Informatics, under their parent company, the Vendome Group)
Dentzer, who is an on-air analyst for health issues at PBS' NewsHour and previously served as Editor-in-Chief of Health Affairs, says that the aforementioned challenges can, and should be, solved on a collaborative level. She says this shouldn't just happen across the country, but the world. 
"The challenge I’d lay down to all of us is, if we want to [achieve] some of the objectives that we really treasure, such as longer life expectancy, a more sustainable health spending system...Why aren’t we doing more thinking across the nation on how we're going to achieve those and why are we not doing more to talk with our large, fellow industrialized country friends about what we might be able to do collectively?" Dentzer says. 
At iHT2's Health IT Summit in Washington D.C., Dentzer says she is excited to share her excitement over the possibilities that lay ahead. She notes that there are two groups of Americans: Those that are working towards the ultimate goals of a better health system and those that are on the sidelines. 
"There are people who have never thought much about this," Dentzer says. "There's a huge knowledge and information gap particularly about how much data exists, how much data will exist in the future, how much we need to take advantage of that data to support people's lives, and really how there should be much more patient demand for that data. If there were more demand, we'd have more of this data."