Trick or Treating for State Healthcare Innovation Treats


When I was a wee lad, I loved to go trick or treating each Halloween. Nothing was better then dressing up in a great costume and walking door-to-door to get my plastic orange pumpkin filled up with candy. My favorite was those little root beer barrel hard candies … YUMMY!

I think my best costume was the year I went out dressed as Elvis. Imagine a 12 year old dressed as Vegas Elvis, with the white jumpsuit, big lapels and the mutton chop sideburns. I got alot of root beer barrels that year. This year I went to the 27th Annual NASHP Conference in Atlanta dressed as a confused IBM Executive.

As part of my role in IBM Smarter Care, I have recently been focused on understanding the government healthcare transformation strategies of the US States in the wake of the Affordable Care Act.

What a better place to get the goodies then the NASHP Conference. The event attracts a “who’s who” of state healthcare policy people who also drive the content and focus of the conference. I may have gone confused but came back armed with answers (my treats).

My plastic pumpkin was filled with goodies by the end of the pre-conference on the first day. The best treat (for me) was the keynote delivered by Dr. Elizabeth H. Bradley from Yale University. Her keynote was based on her new book The American Health Care Paradox: Why Spending More is Getting Us Less. Her point of view asserts that when you combine social services spending with healthcare spending you can achieve more. Our archaic division of health and social services, and our allergy to government programs, is hurting us. The book offers a unique and fresh perspective on the problems the Affordable Care Act won’t solve.

There were other treats as well. The pre-conference on care coordination was led by NASHP Program Manager, Dr. Barbara Wirth. It featured an all-star line-up of state executives sharing how they were using CMS Innovation Funding to improve state healthcare outcomes on behavioral health, infant mortality, long-term care and supporting services using care models such as Patient Centered Medical Homes, Health Homes and more.

The one treat that I really wanted … I didn’t get (and it wasn’t root beer barrels).  It was an understanding of the technology being used to help achieve the outcomes being cited in the sessions. Software is essential to enabling care models where patients are crossing care settlings, caregivers, locations and even care programs. There is no way this can be done economically using the good old fashioned way of paper, folders, faxes and phone calls.

Realistically, it’s too early for many of these new programs to expect a lot of detail on this. On the other hand, the omission(s) makes me scared (get the pun) that this may not be on the radar screen of those making policy decisions … and those responsible for rolling out these innovative programs.

Healthcare reform is not just about innovative payment models, policy design and care delivery models. It must also include innovative technology to deliver on the promise of consistent quality, scalable delivery and affordable care. The use of big data (not just EMRs), analytics and care coordination software all help enable the benefits Dr. Bradley spoke about where social programs and healthcare come together to enable better outcomes at lower costs. Dynamically linking these technologies to health policy is where innovation can and will happen. Not linking them may cause your programs end-up like an old Haunted House where dust and cobwebs cover up ghoulish and ghastly looking programs (ok, really sorry for the pun).

Maybe next year I’ll pull out my Elvis costume when I go to NASHP in Dallas (October 19-21, 2015) even though I know it’s far too small for me.

In the mean time, I’ll urge NASHP to push this technology agenda, along with all of those implementing reform through government healthcare transformation. Start thinking and planning for the technology that will power your initiative now.

For me, Halloween comes twice this year. The IBM Health and Social Programs Summit is being held October 20-21st in Washington, DC. This event convenes a global network of thought leaders, industry experts and practitioners to discuss industry trends and directions, and compare best practices and leading technology innovations in the fields of Health and Social Programs. I will be speaking, as will Dr. Barbara Wirth from NASHP, along with The Honorable Patrick J. Kennedy, Dr. Paul Grundy, Dr. Stephen Morgan and many more. I hope to see you there … and bring some root beer barrels!  There will be plenty of treats for you too.

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