Home Health Care Health systems best positioned to ‘eat’ medical inflation, Fairview CEO says

Health systems best positioned to ‘eat’ medical inflation, Fairview CEO says


Fairview Health Services CEO James Hereford gives opening keynote at INVEST Digital Health in Minneapolis, Sept. 17, 2019

Growing healthcare costs are creating a crisis of affordability, but they’re also creating higher and higher expectations among consumers. As all these dynamics come to a head, the industry has to be shaken up.

That was the theme of the opening keynote speech, “Disruption and Transformation – Healthcare at the Crossroads,” by Fairview Health Services CEO James Hereford, at the Medcity INVEST Digital Health conference, which took place Tuesday in Minneapolis.

“Healthcare expenses in our economy – in our culture – are pervasive and are having huge impacts,” Hereford said. “We have essentially balanced the books of medical inflation on the backs of consumers, through the form of deductibles and other cost shares.”

Consumers have little appetite for absorbing medical inflation, and the same goes for employers, while deficits leave little capacity for the government to step in and do it. Consequently, he said, the best candidate to do so is the health system itself.

“Who’s going to eat medical inflation going forward? I only see one logical conclusion: It’s going to be health systems,” he said. Other entities can step in as well, even companies outside the traditional healthcare space such as Walmart.

A consequence of that inflation is that consumers have come to demand the level of convenience one would expect from online shopping, the seamlessness of information exchange that exists between Apple devices, the speed of FedEx and the precision of the military. Where a physician showing up late was perhaps tolerable when patients needed only to pay $5 for a copay, in the age of $150 copays they want their doctors to show up on time, to not have to repeat their stories and to know how much things cost.

“Our patents expect that when they move form one care setting to the next, we actually know what the hell is going on – that we don’t treat them like a stranger when they get discharged from our hospitals and end up in our primary care setting and we don’t know what’s happened to them,” he said. “They want that sense of a closed ecosystem – that we’re able to stitch all those experiences together into a seamless whole just as what Apple does when I get up in the morning and my [Apple Watch] logs me into my computer.”

Behind that seamlessness – or the convenience of ordering online with the stroke of a key – lies a tremendous amount of complexity that is nevertheless hidden from the consumer. By contrast, Hereford said, healthcare makes the complexity visible. “We expose our consumers every day to a lot of complexity,” he said.

Photo: Stephanie Baum, MedCity News

Source link