Top 10 themes from the 2017 J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference

This week, record rains did not prevent over 30,000 people from descending on San Francisco for the 35th annual J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference. The 35th rendition brought together diverse backgrounds from healthcare providers, life sciences, manufacturing, biotech, start-ups and health tech businesses. J.P. Morgan leads an increasingly popular not-for-profit healthcare track, which attracted a standing room audience.

When reviewing the list of 25 delivery systems, you quickly understand the importance of the discussions taking place. It is a who's who of healthcare providers including Kaiser Permanente, Northwell Health, Northwestern Medicine, Dignity Health, CHRISTUS Health, Intermountain Healthcare, Cleveland Clinic, Advocate, Ascension, Marshfield Clinic and Geisinger.

Many speakers referenced the Affordable Care Act and the political environment, but explained that they were not being distracted and will run their play of increasing quality, driving down cost and managing populations regardless of the outcome. Most providers agreed that the ACA platform is a wonderful foundation to build on. A number of themes emerged to set the tone for 2017. The "True North" is the continued evolution from Fee for Service to Value Based Care as well as a focus on health rather than healthcare.

Here are the top 10 themes for 2017...

1. Patient Education and Engagement –Kaiser's dynamic CEO, Bernard Tyson, commented that 40 % of an individual's health is driven by personal behaviors outside of the healthcare environment. When providers are responsible for overall outcomes, this fact cannot be ignored. A need exists for platforms and methods to educate and engage patients in their health decisions to achieve desired outcomes.

2. The Right Growth – Over the last decade, healthcare delivery systems have continued to scale through acquisition to lower cost, have leverage in payor contracts and create networks of physicians. While this consolidation has been healthy for the industry, some organizations have paid the price of rapid consolidation (culture, financial, etc.). Delivery systems are now re-focusing on the right areas to grow such as ambulatory care.

3. Innovation – Delivery systems are focusing on disruptive innovations; both clinical and non-clinical. The continuously innovating, Northwell Health, had a particularly fascinating technology introduced by Dr. Kevin Tracey, President and CEO of The Feinstein Institute. He and his team are focused on Bio-electronic therapies for treating conditions such as Rheumatoid Arthritis. Gesinger has also deployed "Fresh Food Pharmacies" to drive healthy eating.

4. Diversification of Revenue Streams – With net patient revenue either flat or on a decline, providers are evaluating alternative sources of revenue to drive margin expansion. Many are looking to the start-up world for technologies and therapies they can allocate funds to with the intent of achieving an ROI. For example, Intermountain Healthcare plans to launch 1-2 new companies a year and Northwell has invested in over 70 businesses.

5. Affordability – Healthcare outcomes are not only about health, but also the financial outcome for the patient and their family. The conversation has shifted from the cost of care delivery to affordability of care for patients. This nuance is important as it transitions to the patient point of view (affordability) rather than the provider's perspective (cost).

6. Care Accessibility and Virtual Health – Providers are experimenting with a portfolio of different approaches for creating better access to care. Methods include tele-health, mobile engagement and reduced wait times. Dignity Health's CEO, Lloyd Dean, has struck a partnership with Uber and Dr. Brian Donnelly at Cleveland Clinic commented on an increase in "non-traditional" appointments, including "web appointments" and "chat appointments".

7. Mental Health – Mental health care has been stigmatized and underinvested in for years. Without both a healthy mind and body, the appropriate outcomes will never be achieved. Many organizations are making significant investments in mental health physicians and clinics as a result.

8. Care Pathways and Standards – Many sicknesses and disease states have different treatment protocol options in addition to difficult decisions at the end of life. Health systems are focusing on the right option for each individual patient. IU Health's CEO, Dennis Murphy outlined the organization's new brand, which includes a bold statement: "The Best Care, Designed for You".

9. Quality, Safety and Outcomes – The conversation around quality has broadened to include both safety and outcomes. There is also the realization that outcomes are different for different patients. A good outcome for one individual may a great outcome for someone else.

10. Consumer Experience – The continued shift toward consumerism and patient experience was prevalent (Where do you want it? When do you want it?). In particular, there was a continued focus on embedding technologies in the patient's experience with the health system like in other industries.

Vince Panozzo is the Head of Enterprise Health Solutions at ContextMedia: Health. Context Media: Health's technologies embed actionable intelligence into healthcare decision-making.

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