Earlier this week, a cross-industry panel representing financial, health, technology and life science leaders discussed the implications of accelerating digital disruption in healthcare during a webcast hosted by Ernst and Young (EY), the New York City-based advisory services firm.
The panelists dissected the opportunities made possible by digital disruption, what these changes may mean to stakeholders across the health value chain and what organizations can do to seize the upside of technological disruption. In the last three months, non-traditional players, such as technology companies like Apple and Amazon, have made significant moves into the healthcare space, signaling a growing convergence of the American healthcare industry.
Jacques Mulder, who moderated the panel discussion, is the U.S. health sector leader for Ernst & Young, and, he is a 25-year healthcare industry veteran with a focus on working with pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies. In his consulting work, he helps U.S. healthcare clients navigate complex issues, bringing innovation to the healthcare delivery system.
In an interview with Healthcare Informatics Associate Editor Heather Landi after the webcast, Mulder shared his personal take on many of the topics explored during the panel discussion, including the connotations of U.S. healthcare industry convergence and what health system and hospital executive leaders should be doing to navigate the changes that are coming. And he discusses why healthcare organizations will have to fundamentally change how they deliver care and how they engage with patients in the face of aggressive competition from new players in the market. Below are excerpts from that interview, edited for length.
During the panel discussion, there was talk about the convergence of the U.S. healthcare industry. What exactly does that mean?
I’m been talking and writing about this topic for years now, and I’ve always held the position that changes are required to fix or better healthcare, and many of these changes are not going to come from the healthcare industry itself. We’ve been following these series of non-traditional entrants into the market, and many of those have been announced in deals that were made public over the last couple of weeks, such as announcements from Google and Amazon. It basically comes down to this—companies that are technology-based and information-based organizations have developed significantly faster in their ability to create platforms upon which not only transactions happen but also where they use their deep analytics skills and data management skills to a much better effect than the healthcare system does it.
Looking ahead, what will this mean for the healthcare industry, and specifically for healthcare provider organizations?
It really is a shift to keep consumers at the center of care, which rides on the back of this whole concept of consumerization or consumerism, where patients are becoming a lot more informed about their own healthcare and also taking the reins into their own hands a little more. They’re doing their own research, and, for that reason, we have to start treating patients as customers, the same way we do in [the] retail and consumer goods [industries]. The missing link has always been the technology to make these things real. The growth and acceleration of technology is making things possible today that weren’t possible just two or three year ago. That pace is incredible; those technologies almost double in their capabilities every year. I think that it’s suddenly hit a point where the healthcare industry is saying: technology is surpassing what I’m currently offering, my consumers are educated and they are demanding a lot more of me. For that reason, I need to find ways to provide a customer experience or a patient experience that far exceeds what I’m doing today and, oh, by the way, if I want to keep these covered lives, I’m going to have to be competitive in the market, as it pertains not only to their health but also their satisfaction in the engagement of the services.
Convergence is really about, how do you start using and integrating the mobile apps, the wearable devices, such as the Fitbit, Garmin watch or Apple watch, and how do you start integrating those pieces of information in the overall health and wellness of patients? At this point, as those organizations assume risk for outcomes, they’re not only treating sick people, they’re also having to take care of healthy people so that they don’t become sick, so the technology allows them to do that. The healthcare industry is playing catch up, and the convergence is happening because there are people and technologies out there that can do a better job of most aspects, outside of patient care, than the industry itself can do.
The panel discussion covered many topics as it relates to digital disruption, vertical integrations and mergers and acquisitions in healthcare. What were the big takeaways from that discussion?