New delivery models will solve the cost crisis

This week's question for the Washington Post Health Care Rx blog was:

Has Congress done enough to constrain long-term, health care spending growth? What cost containment strategies would you advocate pursuing?

My response, New delivery models will solve the cost crisis, below:

I was again reminded at last week's Partner's Connected Health Conference about how much potential there is for innovation in health - for industry transformation. The session titles speak for themselves:

  • Wireless Tech and Patient Self-Management: Opportunities, Applications, and Barriers
  • Get Your House Smart: Aging in Place, At Home, Aided by Technology
  • The Emerging Use of Videogames for Health: Innovations, Impacts, and Issues
  • Mobile Health: Leapfrog technology for the developing world?
  • And the list goes on...

What this showed me is that there are many innovations starting to happen with promising implications for tomorrow's health care system. To get there, we need less focus on the costs of today's system, and more on enabling a new delivery model for the future. We, as consumers, manage the rest of our lives from our phones or our PCs - our finances, our travel, our shopping. When we want to make any purchase or investment, we have all kinds of services we can leverage to get informed and act. Every industry that touches our lives has been transformed - complex, expensive products and services once only available to few are now accessible and affordable to the masses and provided by those (people or even software) with far less training.

In health, if we continue to 'do it' the way we always have, costs will continue to skyrocket. Not to mention that our current delivery model simply won't be able to keep up with the advances in medicine - think about a world of personalized medicine (we're on the cusp of some amazing things). Today's delivery model just isn't set up to handle the amount of personalized data, decisions and so on.

We can see pointers to the future -- virtual care from American Well, new delivery channels such as Minute Clinic, patient self-serve at Kaiser-Permanente, personal health management platforms like HealthVault and Google Health. We're seeing an influx of investment into health start-ups focused on making treatments or healthcare information more cost-effective and accessible to patients. But we haven't yet seen widespread change or adoption.

Why? Congress has carved into stone our current system, but this traditional 'fee-for-service' model just isn't flexible and won't enable the kind of innovation required.

We need Congress to create a new framework that drives value, rewards experimentation and enables innovation. This is what will transform health and ultimately drive costs down.