It’s that time of year again – where members of the health data community, industry pundits and some of the nation’s top healthcare IT influencers unite in Washington, D.C. to let their geek flags fly. This week’s conference marks the Health Data Consortium’s fifth annual Health Datapalooza, and per usual, it did not disappoint.
Didn’t have time to attend? No problem. We’ve compiled some notables to wet your health data whistle.
Dr. Elliott Fisher, director of the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy & Clinical Practice, kicked off the keynote presentations on Monday morning, noting that we “still do not have a safe healthcare system.” Fisher also highlighted the importance of the patient perspective in system redesign, noting that “we need their voices” to provide “safe, reliable and effective healthcare.”
“We must design the system to meet patients’ goals — provide the best possible care at the lowest possible cost,” said Fisher, pinpointing measurement, public reporting and transparency as key vehicles for change.
The importance of the AllTrials initiative was also mentioned, a project which advocates that clinical research adopt principles of open data.
America’s Health Insurance Plans’ president and CEO, Karen Ignagni, spoke about how health plans are restructuring the market, and that the industry needs “to talk about what we can do together” to make improvements across the board.
“There is a challenge with matching efficiency with effectiveness, but payers are overhauling the benefits structure,” Ignagni said, noting that plans are in a unique position to make an industry impact as they are working on both the supply and demand side. “Health plans are the only entities in the healthcare delivery system who have a line of sight into where a patient goes and when they go there, and they are the only entities who can link this data and provide care in context, not care in a vacuum.”
Ignagni also stated that “through predictive modeling, technical support and helping clinicians reach out to patients to track their progress, we can look at patterns of care. We can address readmissions and give that data back to providers, and by creating that feedback loop through the data, we create virtual groups. We’re seeing this in medical homes. Care coordination, disease management and predictive modeling are all interconnected.”
Coming out on stage to the Lego Movie’s “Everything is Awesome” theme, U.S. chief technology officer for the Office of Science and Technology Policy, Todd Park, took the stage. And as he says each year, with increasing enthusiasm, “now is a great time to be an innovator in healthcare!”
In addition to citing the positive trend in ACO growth over the past few years – with new research estimating that there are a total of 522 total accountable care organizations serving 15 to 17 percent of the U.S. population, and 368 Medicare ACOs – Park also mentioned the “BlueButton phenomenon,” pointing out that 150 million Americans can access their own digital health records and share them with whom they trust (imagine that!).
“Secure patient access to your own health data is fundamental to patients taking control of health and improving healthcare overall,” Park said, helped by the growing amount of general data and resources becoming available in machine-readable forms.
Park was also pleased to announce the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s launch of openFDA. This data-driven initiative is in alignment with the recent Presidential Executive Order on Open Data and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Health Data Initiative. Designed to make it easier for developers, researchers, technology specialists, data architects and the public to access large, public health datasets in a structured, computer-readable format, it currently includes millions of drug adverse events data. Through the summer, product recalls and product labels datasets will be added as well.
Veteran Datapalooza speaker, the Right Honourable Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State for the United Kingdom, spoke about the importance of culture change and the power of data. Calling on the airline industry as an example, Hunt highlighted lessons learned from improving operations and safety measures, and the impact on mortality rates, which have massively gone down over past 30 years. “This was from a culture change,” Hunt said.
Transparency was another issue about which Hunt spoke, saying that “transparency reverses the relationship of doctors and patients. We can put patients in the driving seat of their care.”
Hunt also spoke to the importance of empowering patients to take control of their own healthcare, as well as technology being a tool to help facilitate that empowerment. However, Hunt also poignantly stated that “technology is not an end in itself, it’s only a means. And what better end than to prevent 200,000 avoidable deaths?”.
To that end, Hunt helped put things in to perspective when he mentioned that the number of “avoidable deaths” in western world hospitals is equal to a jumbo jet falling out of the sky every fortnight. Enter data, which, as Hunt stated, has the power to save 1500 lives annually ‘just in heart surgery.’
In his uniquely enthusiastic and always high-spirited way, athenahealth President and CEO, Jonathan Bush, was also back at Health Datapalooza this year, and, without fail, captivated the data-loving audience.
Using a YouTube clip from a recent Phish concert — featuring a brave dancer strutting his stuff solo, followed by hundreds more joining in as time went on – as a parallel, Bush used the “First Follower: Leadership Lessons from Dancing Guy” video to demonstrate the state of health entrepreneurs. “Curation of care is painful and lonely, but it leads to disruption,” said Bush.
Bush also spoke about the upper right quadrant syndrome (URQS) from which healthcare – among other industries – suffers. This refers to the upper right quadrant of a market competition chart. “Companies with URQS have so much market share, yet regulation constrains what they can sell, and how to sell it. As such, they tend only to grow through incremental efficiency by extracting wealth from existing clients and existing production.”
In his presentation, Bush also included a slide with a picture of a knot which showed four rope ends sticking out, each one representing different stakeholder groups. To this end, Bush stated that “we’re not going anywhere if we pull on this Gordian knot. We need to untangle it together.”
Another speaking faculty alum, Atul Gawande, has presented at three of the past five Health Datapalooza conferences, and spoke to the tremendous growth of the event year over year.
Gawande shared with the audience a few emerging lessons about American healthcare in 2014. “Believe it or not, the debate about coverage is over. The argument about whether we’re going to repeal coverage without having an alternative is gone,” he said. “Now it’s a battle of how we’re going to do it, and incredible ideas and innovations come out of figuring out the “how”.
Despite how far we’ve come, though, and the proliferation of new, data-centered tools, solutions and applications, Gawande pointed out that “we’re still in a world where the delivery system is broken. There is a huge debate about our lives being saved when people get coverage. And now we have the opportunity, with all of these people in the system, to make sure they’re getting the right care at the right time. We need to turn the delivery system into something more reliable. Crucial to that is getting costs under control, and getting it to, simply, work,” stated Gawande.
Another tidbit Gawande shared is that he still has a fax machine and receives over 1100 faxes a month, which illustrates that, while we’re moving in the right direction, we are not there yet.
Stay tuned for tomorrow’s wrap up post!