World Health Care Congress – Tuesday/Wednesday

CHICAGO – Got slammed last week(plus busy watching lacrosse and sailing this weekend…) so wasn’t able to summarize until now.  But, you didn’t miss much. Here’s my synopsis:

  • Perhaps the best summary of the WHCC presentations came from a payer Medical Director who opined that the bigger the title the more pedestrian and safe the comments. Consistent with that maxim, Kathleen Sebelius, HHS Secretary, painted a rosy picture of a better healthcare future.
  • The Google guy(Alfred Spector) wasn’t any better, and was surprisingly unremarkable. He touched on the complexity of data in health care(availability, security, usage rights, confidentiality) but offered none of the revelatory observations we’ve all come to expect from Google.
  • By encouraging comparison, the  Kaiser guy(George Halvorson) was better, In short:
    • He sees three stages of reform: 1) fixing coverage, 2) fixing care, and 3) fixing cost. We’ve done #1(more or less) and need to begin focusing on #2.
    • Kaiser’s philosophy is to 1) make all patient info available on all patients all the time, and then 2) make the right thing easy to do for those at the point of care. He used the example of setting as a goal the reduction of broken bones among their frail/elderly members. They figure out who is at risk,  then get the physicians/nurses engaged, and reduced breaks by 47%. (There are clear advantages to being an integrated system, and it will be interesting to see if more traditional health plans can morph into ‘virtual IDNs’, as HMSA is trying to accomplish.)
    • Halvorson also postulated that EMR adoption by hospitals will explode in the next 3-5 years (because, going forward,  physicians won’t want to work for hospitals that don’t have them…)
  • Regina Hertzlinger was clever and amusing and fun to listen to. And she has a book out.
  • Richard Snyder(CMO, Independence Blue Cross) was smart and thoughtful and is doing interesting work around Medical Home initiatives. Not sure how it will play out but it’s refreshing to see a payer be as innovative and forward-looking as IDX is. And kudos for the slide, which should be front of mind for anyone thinking about where health care is headed…
  • Dijuana Lewis(Wellpoint) did a nice job illustrating the pricing disparity of procedures that plans face…she spoke much faster than I could write, but one example was colonoscopy fees ranging from $482 to over $7,000.  This is a redux of a conversation I had with a CMO two months ago, and worth considering.

Clearly, health care reform is front and center and only marginally understood at this point, so helping payers understand the significance of the legislation (especially as it applies to your particular set of features and benefits) should be your priority.

I’m reminded of the Chinese curse May you live in interesting times.