Author: James Miller, President, PharmaLeaders
The HIMSS conference again delivered a vast and sometimes overwhelming glimpse into the current and future state of the healthcare industry. Tech platforms, AI, machine learning, wearables, and more all continue to evolve alongside significant industry consolidation and transformation. To help put things in perspective, Premier CEO Susan DeVore offered a compelling keynote outlining five major challenges moving forward.
1) Tame Big Data
“For years the buzzword that described the future of healthcare was big data,” DeVore said. “Now that big data is here it’s overwhelming.”
2) Get Focused
DeVore likened the current state to wearing two different lenses at once, one looking at fee-for-service, the other at pop health, where quality, costs, and outcomes matter. “These are different goals so it’s no wonder why looking at both is blurry and can give you a headache,” DeVore said.
3) Support Informed Clinicians
Pointing to the major mergers of 2018 such as CVS-Aetna, Cigna-Express Scripts, and Albertsons-Rite Aid, DeVore believes that “the end result could be a sophisticated, risk-based entity, bypassing traditional third-party payers altogether.”
4) Unlock Value with Innovation and Apps.
DeVore recalled how former Google CEO Eric Schmidt said at HIMSS18 that healthcare lacks a killer app. “I disagree,” she said. “We have killer apps, they haven’t been effectively deployed.” She also explained that healthcare has to create better ways to use the apps already available. “Apps are key to unlocking ROI of the millions and millions we’ve all spent on EHRs.”
5) Turn Innovative Apps into Actionable Information
Calling this challenge “the herd of elephants in the room,” DeVore said that making data available at any time for predictive analytics and clinical decision support is not science fiction. “Data is the key that unlocks their transformative power,” she added. “This is the most urgent challenge to address in the world of health IT.”
Q&A With Salesforce
Beyond the keynote and against this broad backdrop of challenges, I had the opportunity to speak with Joshua Newman, MD MSHS, Chief Medical Officer at Salesforce, who offered some insights into how Salesforce is positioning itself to be a key player in the rapidly evolving healthcare space.
Newman cited three major differentiators that he believes help Salesforce stand apart from the competition:
1) Completeness of Salesforce’s unified platform
“The breadth of Salesforce’s solutions means that it can apply to every constituency, helping to drive B2B sales and also reach patients via our Health Cloud.”
2) Comprehensive Analytics
“Salesforce is no stranger to handling massive amounts of customer analytics – and that power is now being applied in healthcare. We believe that our AI-based predictions and machine learning are unparalleled. The beauty of our platform is that it allows people to use some or all of these advanced technologies, and seamlessly embed them within their existing services.”
3) Adaptability to Customer Needs
“Across healthcare organizations, there are enormously different infrastructure challenges. Some customers say ‘We need ecommerce” — others say ‘We need integration.” Fortunately our platform is built for flexibility and adaptability. We can help customers literally change their entire business model or just fine tune certain aspects.”
Q: How does Salesforce overcome the fragmentation of data?
Newman: It would be great if we can wait for a single integrated healthcare platform to emerge. But, in the meantime, we enable our customers to solve the problems they have today. If later on they have access to additional data bases, we can integrate them into our solutions.
Also, Salesforce does not try to do everything all by itself. We partner with a wide range of vendors, and we can avail ourselves of an entire ecosystem of partners and consultants. Many of our customers start doing things in a pilot, then grow with us organically. In our own business, we follow a similar path and tend grow organically based on customer needs.
Q: What is your biggest challenge?
Newman: One of the challenges is the complexity of our platform. It takes a while for the customers to understand the platform. But the fact of the matter is that our platform models the complexity of the outside world, so our solutions tend to be very robust and relevant. Because healthcare in general has not paid as much attention to the marketing and service side of things compared to other industries, they may not be as familiar with Salesforce solutions.
People who have grown up in the healthcare space may have a blind spot when it comes to the power that Salesforce offers. They may not know the importance of having a cohesive system. So, when someone joins healthcare from another industry, they say “Hey let’s bring in Salesforce – they can help solve this problem,” and then the lightbulb goes off.
The bottom line is that culture and understanding precedes technology. That may seem strange coming from a tech leader, but we really believe that it’s critical to understand the culture and needs of clients before serving up a tech-driven solution.