Industry Leaders Outlook on the Future of Healthcare

healthcare_futureBY: BRETT JOHNSON, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF

“Value-driven” vs. “volume-driven” was the theme of a discussion between top management of the country’s important healthcare institutions. Leaders of Mayo Clinic, United Healthcare, IBM and Medtronic addressed over 2,000 medical technology executives at the 10th Annual AdvaMed conference in Minneapolis, giving their outlook on the future of healthcare.

Panelists included Deborah DiSanzo, General Manager of IBM Watson Health, Omar Ishrak, Chairman & CEO of Medtronic, Richard Migliori, MD Chief Medical Officer of UnitedHealth Group and John Noseworthy MD, President & CEO Mayo Clinic.  The event was moderated by Susan Dentzer, CEO of the Network for Excellence in Health Innovation.

The discussion offered a generally encouraging view that the healthcare sector has been strengthened by the power of partnerships and collaboration, along with the value of big data. Specifically, they highlighted big data’s capacity to lower costs by avoiding adverse events and delivering better and more defined outcomes, ushering in a level of accountability to the healthcare system that was not previously possible. It was their consensus that this will drive forward business models that reward for outcomes versus activity.

Big Data of Big Importance in Healthcare

The arrival of big data is increasing the quality of patient care. For the first time, organizations can crunch data and analyze millions of records of healthcare treatments and outcomes. Panelists cited the collaboration of Mayo Clinic and Optum Labs (the health IT unit of UnitedHealth), to launch a collaborative research and development facility where over 100 million clinical and claims records dating back more than 15 years will be shared for the aim of improving patient care.

According to Mayo Clinic CEO John Noseworthy MD, “This will leverage what we believe to be the largest combined source of clinical and claims information, providing a more comprehensive picture of patient diagnoses, progression of diseases, comparative treatments and outcomes.”

Artificial Intelligence in Healthcare

This combination of data with the power of advanced computing power makes artificial intelligence possible, changing the future of health and medicine by using empirical data to prescribe the most effective treatment regime.

One such project, IBM Watson Health, symbolizes a new era of cognitive healthcare. The company is collaborating with the other major payors, providers and manufacturers to build systems that better understand issues in healthcare delivery.

Watson, which has already demonstrated its ability to beat the Grandmaster chess champion, is now on a path to use its extraordinary computing power to provide diagnoses for treatment as extraordinary as the most talented and experienced physician.

The notion that machines may replace physicians was also notes, perhaps to address the shortage of healthcare professionals that is predicted in future. However, their discussion mostly centered on the dramatic impact of this advance in computing power on the healthcare ecosystem through its ability to demonstrate and document results.

Marriage of Technology and Humanity is Just Beginning

According to IBM Watson GM Deborah DiSanzo we are at a similar juncture as the Internet in the 1990s. This is merely the beginning in terms of technology’s impact on healthcare. DiSanzo described it as a “marriage of technology and humanity”.

In summary, the panelists highlighted the great progress made over the past five years, and noted the need for the health sector to work together.  Silos need to break down. Success will require a new ecosystem and a culture of partnerships is critical for additional progress. According to Noseworthy, this is a conversation that was not possible 10 years ago.

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