How the US Healthcare System Will Deliver Better Care at Lower Costs

As America’s Health Insurance Plans’ Institute & Expo kicked off in Las Vegas on June 15, Susan Dentzer, president and CEO of The Network for Excellence in Health Innovation, moderated a panel discussion on the possibility of delivery better healthcare at a lower cost.

As America’s Health Insurance Plans’ Institute & Expo kicked off in Las Vegas on June 15, Susan Dentzer, president and CEO of The Network for Excellence in Health Innovation, moderated a panel discussion on the possibility of delivery better healthcare at a lower cost.

She began the general session by highlighting what she called “one of the unheralded stories of the last decade.” The slowdown in healthcare spending growth was initially thought to be a result of the recession, but the slowdown didn’t fade as the economy came back. Dentzer noted that the slowdown in the healthcare spending growth was really due, in part, to delivery system and payment reform.

“But we also know that we are far out of the woods as a country with regards to cost of healthcare,” she said.

David L. Bernd, CEO emeritus of Sentara Healthcare, identified 3 main challenges facing healthcare for 2017 and beyond: increasing quality and patient safety while stabilizing cost; eliminating fragmentation; and transforming the delivery of care to accommodate the aging baby boomer population.

Bernard J. Tyson, chairman and CEO of Kaiser Permanente, highlighted the work his health system has been doing in the digital space. In 2015, Kaiser had 23 million e-visits, and now it is working on a digital foundation to do more telehealth visits in 2017.

He also shared an anecdote that struck a chord of a patient who was unable to pay the $30 she owed the health system and asked to spread it out over 3 months. He used the story to drive home the point that right now is the perfect opportunity to reinvent healthcare.

“What is the best way to provide and meet the healthcare needs of millions of people in this country who can’t afford what we offer them?” he asked.

William Frist, MD, the former senator and Senate majority leader, drove home the point that healthcare delivery is failing because of a “massive misallocation of resources.” The example he used was end-of-life care with many Americans not dying the way they would prefer. He also spent time touting the benefits of telemedicine, which provides more timely and convenient care at a lower cost.

During the panel discussion, all 3 speakers highlighted the government moving the country away from fee-for-service to other payment models, like bundled payments for joint replacement.

“Go ahead and embrace [alternative payment models],” Frist said. “You can fight it … but it’s coming and it’s coming fast and the most effective thing to do would to work hand in hand with the government.”

On the topic of technology in healthcare, Frist and Tyson agreed that it should driven by the consumer perspective. According to Frist, technology should be used to empower consumers with greater access to information and data. Tyson added that while telehealth can increase interactions between patients and providers, it’s being used to deliver care and provide information in a way that consumers want them.

“I happen to believe that those quick visits and information-seeking opportunities could improve the long-term health of the individual, as opposed to having the person let something linger and linger and ending up in the emergency department,” Tyson said.