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What I Learned from Your CEO at The JP Morgan Conference

The JP Morgan Non-Profit track is one of my favorite events of the year. Each January, JP Morgan invites both high net worth investors and institutional investors to San Francisco to enjoy the rain and listen to Non-Profit health systems present their results and plans for the coming year. Health systems put their best foot forward in order to get their bonds positioned well and, I would imagine, to show their peers sitting in the audience how well they are doing.

The presenters were health systems that ranged from a small, 2-3 hospital systems to 100 plus hospital systems. You can check out the agenda here to get a list of the systems that presented.

Each presentation was headlined by the CEO of the health system. It was generally supported by the CFO and, in some cases, the COO. The financials give you a good picture of how the industry is performing. The CEOs will primarily discuss their existing strategy and achievements.

In prior years, the strategies were varied based on the market, current financial picture, and the type of health system. This year was different; the themes were very similar across the board. Here is what I learned:

“Scale, Baby, Scale”

This isn’t news to anyone. Mergers are the talk of the town and this event highlighted two of the larger ones with Dignity/CHI and Advocate/Aurora. This was only the tip of the iceberg, however.

Many systems have as their theme “growing to greatness.” This can be accomplished through creative partnerships (joint operating agreements), new access models (Telehealth, digital hospitals), geographic expansion (new physical hospitals), and even international expansion (new locations, and destination medicine).

The space for technologists to keep an eye on is obviously the growth of new access models. Intermountain highlighted their new digital hospital, where they are building 100 service offerings they hope to take locally, regionally, nationally, and beyond.  The official health system of the SpaceX Mars program? That would be an interesting, narrow network.

The “Healthcare Consumer” Has Our Attention

Every presentation – and I mean every presentation – highlighted some strategy or initiative that was geared on capturing the attention of the healthcare consumer.

This is distinct from previous years. The cool digital investments are now being linked to actually knowing the consumer, connecting with them, offering convenience, and guiding them in their care journey. Health systems have figured out that the future winners will be able to compete for patients.

Many CIOs have been a part of educating the organization on this shift. In the coming year, it will become even more important to fine tune these strategies with the help of marketing, strategy, and innovation partners.

Operational Excellence is No Longer a Strategy; It is an Imperative

Most IT organizations have been asked by the CFO to tighten their belt this year, while delivering on ever-increasing demands. I say this to tell you that it’s not just you… it’s being seen across the industry.

It’s also not just in IT. These initiatives are across all operational disciplines. Finally, I would tell you that these are not being portrayed as one-time, cost-cutting measures, but a new norm for operations that have multi-year objectives.

The takeaway here? Automation, in all its forms, is your friend. Robotic Process Automation (RPA) was highlighted by Ascension as a significant cost-reduction strategy for them, and something you may want to look into. Beyond that, Cloud, DevOps, and Virtualized Desktops are all things that deliver ongoing benefits.

Population Health 2.0: The New Standard for Health Systems

The leaders in the industry now see the health system as more than a place to go for care; rather, they see it as responsible for bringing care to the community. This is beyond exciting. Health Systems are highlighting strategies that can fundamentally change peoples lives.

Geisinger dedicated a significant portion of their presentation to Population Health. The availability of food and the quality of one’s diet is one of the primary drivers for health. Geisinger has non-licensed community health associates bringing free food to high-risk populations, pulling down readmissions and avoiding costly outcomes.

Intermountain has selected two high-risk zip codes and are fine tuning their ability to improve the overall health of these communities. They have partnered with the state and are assuming the risk for the Medicaid spending in these areas.

The technologists’ takeaway is that the need for analytics, machine learning, and AI will become even more important to support these initiatives and measure progress.

Short the Opioid Stocks

Healthcare is stepping up. It was fantastic to see leaders declare war on this epidemic that has spread across our country.

Some of the programs include Opioid-free ERs, medication disposal programs, and aggressive system-wide goals. I am looking forward to seeing the progress in the coming years.

Leaders are Mainstreaming Genomics

At least four health systems at the conference highlighted the expansion of genomic sequencing in addressing preventable conditions. The success stories are starting to mount, and at least one health system is making the request for whole exome sequencing to be standard practice.

Finally, a couple quick soundbites from my notes (and perhaps, future article topics):

  1. The winners in healthcare have established market essentiality.
  2. Partnering is a mandatory skill for a healthcare leader, inside and outside of the health system.
  3. Health systems recognize the value of their people and leaders. This is through leadership training programs and health initiatives designed for leaders. “The corporate athlete,” a great term from Ascension.
  4. There is plenty of powder left. Health systems have stockpiled money and have healthy balance sheets. They are ready to make the next move financially. (Operationally?)
  5. Health systems at scale have diversified revenue streams, which protect them somewhat from market shifts and government indecision.
  6. Good investment returns cover a multitude of sins. Enough said.

Oh yeah, and Bill Gates is wickedly smart and pragmatic. We also learned that his greatest indulgence is not flying commercial, and he readily admits that he wouldn’t be good at your job. I guess once you’ve experienced trying to solve world hunger, all other problems seem kind of small.

Hope this helps. Please follow me on Twitter @ThePatientsCIO, connect with me on LinkedIn, or reach out at [email protected] if you wish to discuss further. Thanks for reading.

Check out the Podcast where we cover the event.

This Week in Health IT

The Healthcare Consumer and Other Insights from JP Morgan 2018.
Episode 1