The Cloud in Healthcare Post-Election
At the Dec. 10 Xconomy forum on Healthcare in Transition, I participated in a panel discussion on post-election themes in the business of healthcare from the perspective of a cloud-based healthcare IT company.
There was, naturally, difference of opinions among the group on government’s role in facilitating healthcare IT innovation, but there was also some great alignment of perspectives about important issues—need for greater transparency, access to health data—and how the cloud is helping transform these for providers and patients.
There were a couple of points about key trends that cloud is facilitating that I wanted to expand upon.
Greater fiscal responsibility for all—patients, providers, and payers:
Basically, the costs of healthcare come down to access, cost, and quality. With regard to information technology, access equals utilization, cost is per-click expense, and quality just costs more. Right now the challenge facing the healthcare industry is: how can we spend less money and provide higher quality care? It became abundantly clear during the development of Meaningful Use that the “promise” of healthcare IT was something both sides of the aisle could agree upon. That’s because it gave legislators the ability to appear as if they have the answer to costs and quality without asking Americans to make sacrifices. It’s clear now that we’re actually increasing access by insuring more people.
At the same time, a struggling economy, combined with the emergence of high deductible health plans, shows a decrease in elective utilization of healthcare services—and that’s where I think we need to focus. Healthcare as a right is aspirational. Compare healthcare to one’s legal rights—your right is to have a lawyer if you cannot afford one, but you probably want your own lawyer if you can afford it. We need everyone in the healthcare ecosystem to take on greater fiscal responsibility if we expect to achieve the same or better care at lower costs.
Establishment of healthcare shopping:
Healthcare is one of the few industries that lack the ability for its consumers to “shop.” What I mean by shopping is being able to compare prices and quality before making a purchase. Unfortunately, consumers do not have ready access to their healthcare information to make informed decisions. If you go to websites such as Leapfrog or Healthgrades, you can get some of that information, but cost data is much harder to find and still difficult to compare. Another problem the industry needs to address is that physicians control a large part of decision-making when it comes to total medical expenditures. As a doctor, I’m pretty biased that most medical decisions should be made by the doctor and patient together, but the industry needs to find a way for them to shop together to come to a cost-effective decision.