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Sitting With Complexity: At the Chicago Health IT Summit, Panelists Cite Both Challenges and Opportunities Going Forward

June 10, 2014
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At the opening panel of the day at the Health IT Summit in Chicago, a broad consensus on where healthcare innovation (in delivery and payment models and in IT) is right now, and where it needs to go

It was a privilege and a pleasure for me to moderate the first panel of the morning at the Health IT Summit in Chicago, being held at the Allegro Hotel in downtown Chicago, and sponsored by our sister organization, the Institute for Health Technology Transformation (iHT2; since December 2013, iHT2 has been in partnership with Healthcare Informatics, through our parent company, the Vendome Group LLC).

On Wednesday morning, I led a group of true industry experts in a discussion of the challenges and opportunities involved in transforming the healthcare system from a volume-based system to a value-based one, with a particular focus on the Chicago healthcare market, which lags behind a number of major metropolitan markets in terms of its forward progress towards the new healthcare—the new world of accountable care organizations, bundled-payment contracting, population health management, capitation, patient-centered medical homes, and value-based purchasing.

What was clear in our discussion was the fact that vision, purposefulness, perseverance, and a huge emphasis on innovation, will be vital going forward, among providers, payers, and vendors, to move markets like the Chicago healthcare market forward towards the new healthcare.

One topic of particular interest that emerged in the panel discussion Wednesday morning was the issue of taking risk for healthcare IT innovation. As Lyle Berkowitz, M.D.,  associate chief medical officer of innovation at Northwestern Memorial Hospital (located just a stone’s throw from the conference site in downtown Chicago), emphasized, “We have to create an environment in which we honor failure as an inevitable phase on the way to success. We have to make sure that we create cultures in provider organizations in which people aren’t afraid to fail and fail early, in order to achieve eventual success; otherwise, we’ll have no health IT innovation.”

Michael Valitchka, a Kansas City-based healthcare practice senior director at Point B Consulting, affirmed that statement, adding that “We want people to fail early and often, and to fail regularly. There is simply no way around that,” when it comes to creating the new tools and systems that will automate and facilitate new healthcare delivery and payment systems in the U.S. In his consulting firm’s work with provider organizations across the Midwest and nationwide, he noted, only those organizations that have created cultures in which failure was accepted and even welcomed, has innovation truly flourished.

The discussion around health IT innovation and failure emerged out of a broader discussion of healthcare delivery and payment innovation, in which all the members of the panel found themselves in assent around some key points. All three panelists representing integrated health systems—Dr. Berkowitz, Luis Saldana, M.D., CMIO of the Arlington, Tex.-based Texas Health Resources; and Brent Estes, president and CEO of Rush Health and senior vice president of Rush University Medical Center, a Chicago integrated health system, agreed that their organizations are busy right now experimenting with a variety of delivery and payment vehicles, including bundled-payment contracting, patient-centered medical home development, and population health management work, though none are yet involved in the Medicare Shared Savings Program for ACOs.

All the panelists also agreed that new forms of collaboration, between and among health plans, provider organizations (especially integrated health systems), and vendors, must be nurtured in the Chicago healthcare market and nationwide. As Jon Hamdorf, director of global VNA solutions at Perceptive Software, noted, vendors are going to have to let go of their territoriality, too (just as plans and providers will), and move to work well with providers and plans to develop solutions together that really support the new healthcare.

In the end, the panel discussion—which was very lively and robust, and received appreciation from the panel’s audience—validated what many of us already knew—that the Chicago metro healthcare market remains behind numerous other U.S. metro healthcare markets in moving forward towards the new healthcare. Yet at the same time, the Chicago market’s fits and starts towards new payment and delivery models, the lessons being learned, even at this early stage, are worth keeping track of, as the very, very smart leaders at provider, health plan, and vendor organizations, push ahead towards the new healthcare, as difficult as the transition is and will be.