7 healthcare 'moonshots'

The Biden administration has taken on a worthy adversary with its "moonshot" goal of halving cancer deaths over the next 25 years and, in the process, saving 4 million lives. But what other "moonshot" projects would healthcare leaders take on?

Becker's asked chief innovation officers and other health system executives what major innovation they would implement or problem they would solve if resources weren't a concern.

Here are seven healthcare "moonshots," as told to Becker's:

1. Continuous healthcare. My healthcare moonshot envisions a transformative healthcare landscape driven by human-centric innovation. It goes beyond traditional health system boundaries, creating an entire ecosystem of health support seamlessly integrated into people's everyday lives.

This "Person 360" vision, as I like to call it, is a driving force behind our long-term strategy. It focuses on advancing whole-person human health that extends far beyond physical boundaries. Our goal is to shift from episodic, reactive care to continuous well-being support that's "always on," tailored to where and how people need it — whether in patient homes through virtual care, or within traditional healthcare facilities.

— Chris Waugh, chief innovation officer of Sacramento, Calif.-based Sutter Health.

2. Conquering cardiovascular disease. I would attack cardiovascular disease — the bulk of which is represented by ischemic heart disease and stroke — since this remains the leading cause of death globally.

A multipronged approach is needed, spanning research and discovery, to public health and governmental initiatives, addressing health disparities, and tackling the well-documented and -understood cardiovascular risk factors such as high blood pressure, poor diet, high LDL-cholesterol, air pollution, tobacco use, obesity, high fasting blood glucose, kidney dysfunction, lead exposure, exposure to "non-optimal" ambient temperatures, low physical activity, and high alcohol use.

I would accomplish this in part by leveraging technologies such as wearables and other healthcare Internet of Things, machine learning and generative AI, social media and influencers, and decentralized clinical trials.

— Charles Bruce, MD, chief innovation officer at Jacksonville-based Mayo Clinic in Florida.

3. Solving the healthcare workforce shortage. The largest existential threat to providing high-quality care in the future is the massive talent shortage healthcare is facing in the U.S., primarily driven by demographic shifts. The aging population is quickly increasing demand for care, as workforce growth declines. Healthcare currently has more jobs posted and the highest vacancy rates of any industry. This dynamic will get even more dire over the next decade, as the percentage of citizens aged 65 and older grows by 25% without the requisite increase in healthcare workers.

While we must continue our work to discover new sources of talent, accelerate development cycles and retool our employee value proposition to engage and inspire new generations of healthcare workers, these efforts will only solve a small portion of the gap.

We must transform how the work is performed. This will require us to deconstruct current models of care and challenge entrenched thinking about who performs what work and where the work is performed. It will require us to digitize administrative tasks to increase capacity and bring the joy of practice back. And, it will require us to diversify the workforce, increasing opportunities for family members, gig workers and those from other industries who may be called to the fulfilling and lifesaving work that is found within healthcare.

— Greg Till, chief people officer of Renton, Wash.-based Providence.

4. Predictive medicine. Houston Methodist recently launched a program that provides physicians and staff with predictive tools for identifying risks for patients, including likelihood to be readmitted, need for hospice care or medical complications. We're able to twin data and match it to 20 years of Medicare data to identify personalized risks.

If we can have providers look at this data in advance of a surgery or throughout an inpatient stay and use this tool to help inform better conversations and care plans, we can tailor follow-up schedules or match patients with skilled nursing facilities or home healthcare companies to better fit their needs.

While the use of AI and predictive tools like this is still in its infancy for healthcare systems, it's promising to see transformative results with our patients and how we can continue to strategically use existing data to make informed decisions to give patients the high-quality care and outcomes possible. This would be a worthwhile moonshot!

Roberta Schwartz, PhD, chief innovation officer of Houston Methodist.

5. Curbing obesity. If you look at the root cause of 80% of disease in this country, it's obesity. Eighty percent of cancers, most of heart disease, kidney failure, joint replacements, diabetes, high blood pressure — you name it, it's obesity.

We have new classes of drugs now which are inordinately expensive, which dovetails into a side moonshot that the Biden administration has started, which is trying to wrap its arms around pharmaceutical costs in the country to make drugs available and accessible to people at the same base cost that other countries seem to enjoy.

The ideal place to begin would be with the family and in childhood because that's where physiology is established and habits begin. Providing education to families about nutrition and, more importantly, making sure that healthy food options are available at an affordable price will be critical. We are surrounded by calorie-dense, nutritionally poor food choices, because they're cheap, they're inexpensive. So a childhood or a lifetime of eating those types of food options contributes tremendously to the obesity challenge in this country. That and the lack of green spaces for exercise.

— Nancy Gin, MD, chief quality officer of Oakland, Calif.-based Permanente Federation.

6. Expanding virtual nursing across healthcare. Our innovative care delivery model named TogetherTeam Virtual Connected Care has proven effective in enhancing care delivery, patient engagement and job satisfaction among nurses. Through its team-based approach and use of technology, we can accommodate caregivers at various stages of their career, retaining the expertise of experienced nurses and increasing the capacity of on-site nurses, many who are just starting their career.

The model provides a unique mentoring experience among the team, improves care outcomes and safety, and increases patient interaction and satisfaction. We are rapidly spreading this new care model across our national footprint. We are encouraged by initial data from the model and feedback from both nurses and patients.

— Mike Slubowski, president and CEO of Livonia, Mich.-based Trinity Health.

7. Personalizing care with big data and AI. There is so much data that we now have available in cancer. My moonshot would be taking all of the data we have on our patients — we have data on their demographics, where they're from, their socioeconomic status, their social determinants of health, their diets — then combining it with all the omics that we have on patients — the genomics of their tumor, their metabolomics, their microbiome, and their proteomics, which is the products of their genes — and then combining that with all the available evidence and putting that into a large language model to come up with a personalized treatment approach to each individual patient's tumor.

In addition to finding the genetic factors that drive cancers, you'd be able to find genetic predispositions and genetic precursors to other diseases, because you'd have not only the patient's cancer history but their entire medical history.

Understanding how and why these conditions occur based on the data that's available and analyzing all of these data points would be incredibly powerful.

— Theodoros Teknos, MD, chair of cancer innovation at Cleveland-based University Hospitals and president and scientific director of the UH Seidman Cancer Center.

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