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2018 – A year for transformation?

What is 2018 bringing to healthcare?  Changes in structure, as mega-mergers redefine roles and relationships in the market, public policy that promotes healthy lifestyle choices, promotion of personal responsibility for individual wellness through incentives, disincentives, education, environment and connection to outcomes/consequences?  Will “big data” finally deliver actionable insights and value?  Will growing, rural “medical deserts” be addressed with new business and care delivery practices that keep services local and sustainable?  Will medical care move from “practicing” to “predictable”?  Will recent investment in digital patient records result in treatment improvements for many or better personalized care for the individual? Can we add personal genetic profiles to medical records?  Can costs, consumption, access, quality outcomes, convenience and expectations all be addressed in ways that are both satisfying and sustainable?  Will AI, Machine Learning, robotics, and continuous personal health monitors enable effective, individualized care specific to individual physiology, lifestyle, and preferences?

All these challenges (or opportunities if you are an entrepreneur/investor) are actively in play this year.  Healthcare operators need more than tools from vendors, they require practical solutions, enabling them to focus on delivery of care.  Urban hospitals may reconsider rural hospital acquisition plans to build regional care delivery systems – instead, build integrated medical staff partnerships which keep local care local while focusing urban capacity on the most complex (and highest value) patients and conditions.

Let’s leverage AI and “big patient data” to discover treatment regimens increasingly specific to subsets of patients – making treatment both reliable and predictable.  Let Machine Learning support scheduling, workflow, and clinician collaboration, dramatically improving patient outcomes and delivery efficiency.  Exploit personal medical monitoring to improve home care and long-term care enhancing safety and effectiveness.  Payers – stop pushing providers to do your job – engage in population health improvement, condition prevention and fitness with a renewed focus on longer-term consequences, feedback, and costs reflective of choices.  Policymakers – enable meaningful medical underwriting practices – those who suffer inherited conditions or experience an accident should be included in the “healthy choices” health cost pool.  Others who choose to be less careful about personal health might be assigned to medical risk pools with others like themselves – sharing in higher costs that result from sustained poor choice.  This is grossly oversimplified, but reality needs to be confronted.  There is a reason why “healthy” people do not buy any or only catastrophic insurance.

Genetic sequencing and profiling have become commercially accessible with 23andMe, Ancestry.com, and others.  We even had our dogs genetically tested – the results were surprising and entertaining.  Much scientific progress is being made with genetic research unraveling relationships between medications and individual metabolism.  Let’s start working to bring these tools to practicing clinicians.  AI is key to keeping practicing physicians up to date with rapidly improving medical science and expanding treatment options or guidance.

Let us be careful about consolidation.  Scale for scale’s sake can make dangerously complicated, large operations, unmanageable and fragile.  Combinations of different enterprises may offer interesting opportunities for products, services, economies or consumer relationships, but these entities are complex, designed over time to deal with goals that may be inherently and dangerously conflicted when combined.  Sometimes mixing oil and water does not result in something better!

Let’s make 2018 The Year of Solutions in Healthcare.  Let’s collectively bend all the performance metrics up. BrightWork Advisory looks forward to working with players throughout healthcare to provide solutions to patients everywhere.  Happy New Year!

Are you engaged in strategic reviews?  Merger or acquisition? Working on sustainability?  Engage BrightWork Advisory as “outside counsel” to provide a sounding board for ideas that provides pragmatic, objective, experienced feedback to your team and adds credibility for your Board.

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