Futurist Forecasts More Rain Before Things Clear Up In Healthcare

Author, consultant and futurist Ian Morrison served up the opening keynote at the National Healthcare Innovation Summit on May 14 in Boston with a large dose of wit. But he delivered a somber message concerning the urgent need for innovation in healthcare.

“We have to innovate,” he told the audience. “We don’t have a choice. We have hit the wall.”

The two-day summit, organized by the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, is all about innovation – how to spur innovation and how to sustain it.

Some of what Morrison has observed about the U.S. healthcare system as he’s traveled around the country include:

  • A move toward both public and private health exchanges for the purchase of health insurance.
  • The country’s adaption to Medicare, which means reducing costs by 10 to 20 percent.
  • Massive consolidation of hospitals with the expectation that in the near future there will be 100 to 200 large regional systems around the country. The accepted view is “you have to be big, and you have to be integrated,” Morrison said, adding the question: “How do you get these behemoths to really innovate?”
  • Employers, who have been purchasers of health insurance for their employees, searching for alternatives or ways to forego it.

“There are powerful forces that will require us to innovate,” Morrison wrote on his website. “By 2025 a full 20 percent of the population will be over 65. And they will not be the passive stoics of Tom Brokaw’s Greatest Generation. They will be cranky, selfish, self-indulgent baby boomers like me. They will want everything and sacrifice nothing. Armed with information and attitude they will demand the best that technology can offer. And technology will oblige. The combination of progress in medical science and information technology holds the promise of dazzling new interventions that will be incredibly effective and expensive. We will want it all.”

Morrison told the innovation summit audience that in the short term, there would be lots of agitation and planning. He predicted the industry would not get serious about change until 2018.

There are two competing visions for the U.S. healthcare system, he proffered: The Berwickinian Nirvana (named for Donald Berwick, former CMS Administrator) of the large ACOs that encourage rationalization of the delivery system and the atomistic view of a consumer armed only with high deductible health plans that will impose market discipline on providers.”

“Those two visions need to be reconciled,” he said.

Yes, they do.

It’s also worth pointing out that we have a techy name for our Direct Care viewpoint — atomistic.

We can’t take credit for it, but it does help you to visualize the work we’re doing. And why we’re trying to change healthcare, starting with primary care, from the ground up.

The goal is to make doctors into businesses, and patients into customers.

We know this will bring prices down. We’ve seen it happen.

But where are the savings coming from?

The savings come from cutting the red tape.

See, insurance makes income from two directions: one, by raising revenue, primarily through premiums, and two, by lowering expenditures, primarily through reduced payouts.

The problem with high-priced healthcare, generally speaking, is that our nation has grown accustomed to paying for premiums, denying implicitly that their intention is to NOT NEED to use the services.

It’s a strange trick the middleman, perhaps innocently, has played on us. That coverage is their to PROTECT you.

But protect you from what? Cancer, heart disease, severe trauma?

Sure, but in the process he’s protected you from seeing a doctor in a convenient fashion.

There is so much work left to do that requires innovation, Morrison said.

“We have the anatomy of an accountable care organization but none of the physiology,” he commented.

“When you get in the Triple Aim work, you have to think in different kinds of innovations,” Morrison said. “You have to open your mind. You’ve got to get serious. I don’t think we’re going back to the 1970s. The purchasers have had it; they’re not going to take it anymore.”