The health system of the future: 5 leaders share what it will look like and how to get there

Hospital and health system leaders are employing various strategies to maintain success in an increasingly complex healthcare environment.

Five healthcare leaders discussed what the health system of the future will look like five to 10 years down the road and shared how they are working to achieve this vision during a keynote panel at Becker's Hospital Review 7th Annual CEO + CFO Roundtable in Chicago.

Panelists were:

  • Nancy Howell Agee, CEO of Roanoke, Va.-based Carilion Clinic
  • Jon Giacomin, CEO of the medical segment at Dublin, Ohio-based Cardinal Health
  • Steven Goldstein, president and CEO of Rochester, N.Y.-based Strong Memorial Hospital and Highland Hospital, both part of University of Rochester Medical Center
  • Elliot Joseph, CEO of Hartford (Conn.) HealthCare
  • Kevin Vermeer, president and CEO of West Des Moines, Iowa-based UnityPoint Health

Mr. Vermeer said UnityPoint Health aims to be a premier health system in the Midwest that transforms the care experience to create a more convenient, affordable healthcare system.

"We know as a traditional, large nonprofit health system, we need to reduce our bureaucracy, we need to be much more nimble and much more able to take on opportunities that come to us," he said. To achieve this goal, Mr. Vermeer said he's worked to diversify UnityPoint Health's portfolio, so the system is very aggressive in innovation and business development.

Carilion Clinic is also working on diversifying its revenue and remains highly focused on financial resilience, according to Ms. Howell Agee. "I think the system of the future will look pretty diverse and variable just as it does now," she said. "However, I also think values of patient safety, quality, and focus on the patient and the community's needs are also important, so we're expanding more into the ambulatory space where care can be safely done."

Ambulatory care is one of five elements crucial for health systems' future success, according to Mr. Joseph. "Our vision is to be most trusted for personalized, coordinated care," he said. To achieve this goal, Mr. Joseph plans to focus on the following areas, which he listed using the acronym BITAR: brand, integration, technology, ambulatory care and risk.

Mr. Goldstein said his main focus at University of Rochester Medical Center is addressing the challenges that coincide with evolving as an academic medical system.

"We've shifted from being hospital-centric to population health-centric, and that is a real challenge in an academic research medical center where 90 percent of your 1,400 faculty are specialists," he said. "For us, it's been about dramatically expanding primary care, dramatically expanding the population that we serve and dramatically expanding our insurance footprint."

Like the health system leaders, Mr. Giacomin said Cardinal Health also seeks to help deliver value across the healthcare continuum by being a trusted partner for health systems. He added that health systems must zero in on a strong data strategy to help achieve future success. 

"I wouldn't underemphasize the use of data to identify areas of waste, but also to identify areas of variation," Mr. Giacomin said. "Working collaboratively … on approaches that ultimately minimize the variation, take out the waste and improve service will be critically important."

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