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Health Care Disrupted, DU’s Voices of Experience, October 2016

Voices of Experience – Healthcare Disrupted, the second event in the Daniels College of Business’ 2016-2017 speaker series, offered an informative, hard-hitting discussion among several key influencers in healthcare. Each speaker brought a unique perspective from different parts of an enormous, complex sector to bear on pertinent issues. With his positioning, moderator Dr. Kent Bradley, founder and CEO of BTN Advisors, EMBA alumnus and Daniels adjunct professor, helped make the discussion so thought-provoking that audience members were locked in conversations long after the event had officially ended.

Scott McLagan, professor of management, provided an overview of one of the biggest challenges healthcare presents: spending. He offered grisly statistics, including that the trillions of dollars spent on healthcare accounts for 18 percent of the U.S. GDP, and is the result of decades of increasing costs that have far outpaced inflation. “If a gallon of milk’s cost had increased at the same rate as the healthcare sector, it would cost $50 today,” said McLagan.

Bradley asked Colorado Lt. Governor Donna Lynne, former executive vice president of Kaiser Foundation Health Plan Inc. and Kaiser Foundation Hospitals, to weigh in on healthcare delivery, how its value is measured and how innovation is fostered in the sector. In her response, Lynne mentioned the rise of consumerism and technology.

These themes emerged repeatedly throughout the night: what happens when we move from a system where the traditional role of a “consumer” is segmented into patients (who receive care), doctors (who order care), and payers (who pay for care), to a system that truly embraces shared-decision making in the doctor-patient relationship, high-deductible health plans and performance-based, bundled payment and episodic payment packages? Such solutions seem like a path forward, although the Q and A session at the end of panel made it clear that their implementation, and success is uncertain. Lynne also provided unique insights into MACRA (which alters how physicians are paid for their services), Colorado’s successful Medicaid expansion, and building interoperable technology infrastructures into our health systems. Speaking about governments as purchasers of healthcare goods and services she said, “much like anything else this is a tradeoff, if I spend more on healthcare I am going to have spend less on education, so we [governments] have become very smart purchasers of healthcare that want to pay for value, not volume”.

The next two segments, which focused heavily on innovation and disruption, featured Bradley engaging with both Jeffrey Nathanson, CEO of Prime Health, and Dr. Mark Prather, CEO of DispatchHealth. Nathanson elicited gasps from audience members when he said, “the average amount of time for a new technology to be adopted in the healthcare sector is 17 years, the slowest of any industrial sector… a technology that is produced today when my grandson is six months old would only be adopted when he is in high school.”

Prather, on the other hand, offered a more promising view based on his own boots-on-the-ground experience. Prather served as chief medical officer at iTriage—one of the most successful digital health startups to emerge out of the Colorado ecosystem—and stated that DispatchHealth has already seen widespread adoption throughout Colorado. DispatchHealth aims to reduce Emergency Room visits by providing care in other settings, such as assisted living facilities, nursing homes and private residences. He spoke eloquently about reducing costs, maintaining or improving quality measures (such as 30 day readmissions, a very important metric), and providing “right-sized” care. Prather also provoked a great deal of discussion after the event ended when he spoke about consumerism in healthcare, saying that “convenience is the new quality.”

Discussions about healthcare tend to lurch wildly between technical complexity and over simplification, and Voices of Experience – Healthcare Disrupted successfully bridged these two extremes.

Voices of Experience is made possible by our generous sponsors including U.S. Bank, the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce and Net Impact.

The next VOE will feature Mary Rhinehart, CEO of Johns Manville Corporation, on Monday, Jan. 9. Visit the VOE website for details.