Aligning policy, technology, and business innovation – perspectives from the Connected Health Conference…

We’re just wrapping up our annual Connected Health Conference. I wanted to share some insights and observations from the past three days. We had 925 attendees representing 409 organizations -- attendance more than doubled from last year, which is pretty amazing given that conference attendance is down all over the US… At this year’s conference, our Amalga and HealthVault customers and partners all came together for the first time. The most frequent comment I heard from attendees was excitement about the breadth of work we are doing and the new opportunities they see as a result. The main issue that came up over and over again was the importance of driving and aligning innovation in health IT, health policy (e.g. reimbursement strategies), and business.

This topic first came up during our opening keynote panel on Thursday with Professor Uwe E. Reinhard, Dr. David Kibbe and former HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt. Secretary Leavitt introduced the notion that advancements in reimbursement reform are needed as much as stimulus for technology adoption. According to Leavitt, health IT will become ubiquitous when consumers demand it from their healthcare providers. While I agree with Levitt about informed, engaged consumers being key drivers of change, I also think that physicians, industry and other partners must demand a smarter approach to reimbursement from policymakers. One place to begin innovating and experimenting with a better reimbursement system is at the state level. During this morning’s keynote, Dr. Mark Smith of the California Health Care Foundation, made several insightful observations about factors affecting HIT adoption such as; better, simpler solutions for physicians, a stronger voice for government as purchaser in mandating effective standards and a reimbursement policy that rewards outcomes vs. volume. However, as David Harlow pointed out during a conversation today, our tough economic climate makes it difficult for states to take the lead.

Dr. Kibbe emphasized the need for web-based tools that could be assembled in a modular way to qualify for stimulus dollars. Both Kibbe and Smith made the strong point that physicians haven’t adopted existing technology solutions for a reason and that any stimulus/policy reform needs to be flexible enough to allow innovation in solutions vs. trying to “jam” solutions that don’t meet current needs or practical market requirements. In speaking with our Amalga partners, they too are interested in understanding how meaningful use and certification will be defined and applied. Our customers shared many examples with each other of liberating and unifying data which makes measuring quality and proving effectiveness easier and automatic. As much as health IT has the potential to help cut inefficiency and improve operational throughput, we still need the right policy solutions to bring greater transparency to what patients are purchasing from their providers and that quality of those services…as Leavitt demonstrated humorously with his story about colonoscopy pricing.

You can see some of the highlights of the panel discussion as well as Mark Smith's keynote below.

Our commitment to connecting technology, policy and business innovations is central to our vision of unifying a fragmented health ecosystem. In his remarks, Microsoft Chief Research & Strategy Officer Craig Mundie highlighted the major role health plays in economies around the world and the huge opportunity for software to improve peoples’ lives. Our Connected Health Conference this week brought together many different "perspectives" from across the fragmented health ecosystem -- what really struck me was everyone's energy and desire to let innovation reengineer the health system. I hope that the public and private sectors can work together to drive real change. We all know that that it's not going to be easy, but it will -- and must -- happen.