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Opportunities for Change Beyond the Buzzwords

July 15, 2014
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CEO of Thomas Jefferson University kicks off Converge summit with his vision of 2024

When your conference subtitle is “Where Healthcare Meets Innovation,” you run the risk of boarding the buzz phrase express to Cliché City. There’s always the possibility of too much talk of disruptive innovation, transformation and entrepreneurship without the details to back it up. Fortunately, the MedCity Converge Summit in Philadelphia this week features plenty of speakers who can tie some of the opportunities they’ve identified in healthcare to systemic changes already under way, including Stephen Klasko, M.D., president and CEO of Philadelphia-based Thomas Jefferson University and Thomas Jefferson University Health System, and Gary Fingerhut, executive director of Cleveland Clinic Innovations.

Dr. Klasko took the audience 10 years into the future, envisioning what the changes being put in place today at Jefferson will lead to. He pictures a medical school in which students are trained in patient-centered care competencies, including cultural and ethical aspects of care. By 2024, population health becomes the heart of the medical school, and the med school teaches leadership competencies, and art and music are components of the curriculum, not just things that are literal and rational.

On the care side, the health system is already moving to keep patients healthier at home, in clinics or on the job. He noted a recent partnership with Boston-based American Well, a company specializing in on-demand telemedicine services. (The service will link patients at home to Jefferson emergency department clinicians.)

By 2024, he said, all the academic medical centers in Philadelphia “got over themselves and created a clinical research supercenter that could be accessed from a single technology portal.”

And by then, organizations would stop rating medical schools on things that make no sense, such as how well applicants do on MCAT tests. Perhaps they could rate med schools on how the people they teach actually do in the work place, he said.

He said Jefferson is embracing a more entrepreneurial spirit and partnering with and learning from organizations outside their traditional field, and it hopes to attract physicians and nurses excited about working at an academic medical center willing to change.

On a panel on “How Healthcare Will Support Startups: In Dollars & Beyond,” Gary Fingerhut, executive director of Cleveland Clinic Innovations, noted that his organization has 67 spin-off companies, many of them in health IT. It has had success in forming partnerships both with government entities such as the State of Ohio as well as corporations interested in sharing resources. “We are not short of ideas or funding,” he said. Its Healthcare Innovation Alliance, formed in 2012, is designed to extend the commercialization success of CCI to partner organizations, including MedStar Health, North Shore Long Island Jewish, the University of Notre Dame, ProMedica, Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine, The Innovation Institute and Marshfield Clinic. “We have a relationship with IBM and its Watson technology,” Fingerhut said. “We are taking Watson to medical school and teaching it how to read an EMR. “We can bring domain expertise and they can bring the capabilities they have developed in other sectors.”

Another interesting perspective came from Matthew Anderson, vice president and general manager of patient monitoring for medical device company Covidien, during a panel on wearable technology. Anderson noted that his company is seeing building interest from hospitals in more monitoring technology in the hospital following procedures and at home following discharge. “The opportunity is to catch problems earlier, before they cascade, and to bridge hospital and home care and detect how patients are progressing in recovery,” he said. New systems are being developed to do this.”

Of course, more monitoring means more information and it can be overwhelming for clinicians and can lead to nuisance alarms or missing something crucial, he said. A key to success is how data is disseminated to enable the right clinical decision.