In this episode, we welcome back Ferris Taylor, Executive Director at Healthcare Executive Group to talk us through the issues that are at the top of the list for key healthcare executives in 2022.
Highlights of this episode include:
- Healthcare Executive Group
- What is labeled as core priorities
- Gaps and disparities in care
- Foundational priorities
Mike Passanante: Hi, this is Mike Passanante and welcome back to the award-winning Hospital Finance podcast. Each year, the Healthcare Executive Group gathers healthcare executives from payer, provider, and healthcare technology organizations to rank their top 10 challenges and opportunities going into the next year. To talk us through the issues that are at the top of the list for key healthcare executives in 2022, I’m joined by Ferris Taylor, Executive Director of the Healthcare Executive Group. Ferris, welcome back to the show.
Ferris Taylor: Mike, thank you. It’s a delight to be here and an exciting time to be talking about the issues and challenges and opportunities in healthcare, and especially how those things are changing given the dynamics of the industry that we all work in today.
Mike: Couldn’t agree with you more, Ferris. And you’ve been a great friend of the show over the years. But for those who may not be familiar with the Healthcare Executive Group, could you start out by telling us a little bit about your organization
Ferris: Absolutely. And we’re kind of a grassroots association of technology, innovation and technology executives across the country. Mike, we got started in the late 80s when Digital Equipment disbanded their health care users group. And it was really the group of technology leaders at that time that said, hey, wait a minute, we want to continue networking and sharing perspectives and talking about the priorities in healthcare. And some 10 or 15 years ago, one of our board members said, hey, why don’t we publish what we talk about during the year as the priorities for the next year? David Letterman was still popular, and so we labeled it the top 10. It’s hard to keep healthcare issues ahead of payers, providers, technology, pharmaceutical, manufacturers and like that limited to 10, but we do our best, Mike.
Mike: Yeah, you could easily make it 10 times 10, but that’s a topic for another day. In our conversations before today’s podcast, we’ve talked a little bit about how some of these priorities are sort of showing a pattern or a trend compared to two years past and so broke them up into three areas, if you will. And I’m going to ask you to discuss each of those in turn. So the first are what you labeled as their core priorities. And they’ve sort of been hovering at the top of the list for several years but still need additional attention and focus. Why don’t you tell us about those?
Ferris: Terrific. And we talked the last couple of years because the top three or four have been on that HCG top 10 list for those years and many prior to that. And your listeners can always go to ACD.org and look at the history of those top 10 and how they’ve been changing. And we’ll probably look back on 2020 as a watershed or a change agent in healthcare with the pandemic and everything that was taking place last year’s top 10 was a struggle because of COVID. But it’s distilled out this year where those top three, four, five things have all come back to the top of the list. Of course, at the top is cost and transparency, and there’s multiple components of that. I think the cost levels in healthcare are at what I would call a crisis level. It really has come to bear because the members, the patients, and in the middle of a pandemic, they are also constituents, and they’ve been calling their representatives of the state and the federal level. So we have mandates around cost and transparency. We have the no Surprises Act and so that’s part of that. But I will talk about cost and transparency when we get down to the next level, which is that in some ways, costs are not new in healthcare. I got involved in the late 80s with healthcare, and we were concerned about the overall cost, the overall percentage of healthcare expenditures as part of the GPD of the United States.
It’s done nothing but grow, and we need a different perspective to try to address it. The second one, and equally important, is this transition to a more consumer centric healthcare system. And that relates to number three, which is accessible points of care, primary care, telehealth, virtual care, and care transformation itself and how the whole delivery system functions. But in our lives, Michael, and all of us, especially your audience, is aware that if we try to change something in healthcare and it doesn’t fit into the physician’s workflow, it’s going to fail. And I think what’s happened over the last couple of years is we come to– or at least the consumers have come to the point that they’re saying it has to fit into my life flow as opposed to workflow. You’re diabetic. And that doesn’t mean that 24/7, you’re diabetic. You’re a parent, you have a job, you’re in a community, you have other things that you’re doing. And we need a health care system that prioritizes the things that are important for a consumer. We’ve gotten used to going online and ordering something, and Amazon blows us away when they deliver it today or tomorrow or within a couple of three days. That’s our expectation with healthcare. And we have a ways to go as an industry in meeting that both as insurers and as providers. If I called for an appointment, it’s several weeks out. That’s not my expectation as a consumer. So I’ll stop there because I think those core things are fundamental to the transformation of health care and the challenges ahead of us.
Mike: Great summary there, Ferris. And then as you alluded to, the pandemic changed some things, and we found some gaps and disparities in care that have been exposed. And that has led us to take a look at some newer priorities, sort of in the middle of the list. Why don’t you tell us about those?
Ferris: And I’m actually excited to talk about some of those. And there’s some of these that we’ve known about for years, but they haven’t been a priority. And of course, I think as an entire industry, we were kind of flat footed when COVID-19 erupted in early 2020 and we had forgotten about public health. And we weren’t prepared for the issues of personal protection equipment and supply chain constraints that would come up. And so these center priorities are relatively new. One of them is kind of social determinants of health, but I hate that term because they’re not determined. We can change them. It’s really removing the barriers to more health and wellbeing across the population. I think for once, at least in my career in healthcare, it became obvious to everybody that the consumer had to think differently about health and wellbeing. It used to be I could be a couch potato. I could eat what I wanted to eat. I didn’t have to exercise. If I got sick, it was a doctor’s job to make me better. Suddenly COVID hit, and the doctors could not do it alone. It required everybody, the entire population, to think about and to contribute to the overall health of the population. And we’re still struggling with that, Mike. That problem hasn’t gone away, but it’s there. The one core thing that I think has come onto this list that is of value for a lot more discussion, and we ended up labeling it leadership. But I think healthcare is in this big transition from kind of what I would call the industrial age.
Relates back to that cost topic that we just talked about, where in the industrial age it was Adam Smith. It was division of labor. It was efficiency, cost reduction. And that’s kind of the focus that healthcare has had on that. And our organizations, whether it’s hospital leadership, insurers, the leadership model is kind of that top down. I hate to call it Jack Welch leadership model where we organize things. We allocate resources and dedicate dollars to solving problems. Even at the doctor level, there’s kind of this underlying feeling that I’m the doctor, you’re the patient. I prescribe. You need to do what I ask you to do. And in the digital world that we’re moving into, that perspective, that leadership model needs to change. Now, it’s been exposed in a dramatic way with work from home. I suddenly have a very different management style that I need to deal with the work environment. We see it with the burnout, with our providers, with our nurses and medical assistants, where we’re not listening to them. Our research last year, the industry pulse research, even though it wasn’t statistically different. When we broke out the front-line perspectives on this top 10 set of challenges and contrasted it to the executive perspective, there were gaps that were starting to appear. Well, in the digital world, you close those gaps. You open up that chain of command, and you give the front line a lot more flexibility in dealing with the issues.
I’m actually excited about what happened with COVID in the sense that suddenly the front line of healthcare had the flexibility. It pivoted in a short period of time to virtual consults of some type, adopted innovation and technology to actually allow our healthcare practitioners to practice at the top of their skill set, as opposed to be pushed down to the bottom of their skill set. I think it’s still an open issue as to whether we will really as an industry, adopt a new leadership strategy to recognize that compensation isn’t necessarily geographic based. If somebody can live wherever and provide services to health care, we need to adjust to that. I’m actually reflecting back, Mike, on– and this is part of HCG. We sort of sense new priorities coming. And at the Health 2019 conference, HCG, in conjunction with a couple of other organizations, had a three-hour roundtable on leadership. Even though it wasn’t a top 10 priority, it was there sort of haunting us. And the outcome of that was that we need change. And your listeners can go to our website and look at the blog on that. We summarize that discussion. Lots of insights that can help us today with this center group of priorities, which are major change, more agility, a lot more acceleration. Healthcare isn’t known for changing rapidly. I think we’re in the world of healthcare today where rapid change is going to be rampant.
I recall at a session just before COVID where a hospital executive and a health plan executive were talking, and the comment was made by one of those CEOs saying, “Well, if I have an executive on my team that doesn’t agree with me, they should leave. They shouldn’t be on my team.” I cringe when I hear that now because, in fact, we need that disagreement. We need to understand this new world that we’re moving into of digital healthcare.
Mike: Well said, Ferris. And as we think about the last set of priorities that appeared on this year’s list, you know those as being more foundational in terms of priorities that straddle across topics such as payment reform, data analytics, interoperability, and health policy. So tell us what you saw there.
Ferris: So these have always been– not always, but when I look back over time, over the last 10, 12 years, data and analytics has been on that list for many years. We started calling it interoperability, hoping the systems would be interoperable. And I think it’s come back today to more what I would call data liquidity, the ability to share data. That data is a key solution in the digital world, real-time data sharing and like that. But the reason I called these foundational things– these priorities including how we pay for healthcare. The payment reform component, cut across all of the other priorities. They’re kind of what I would call table stakes. If we don’t address those, we’re not going to be able to make the progress on the other priorities that are there. And Michael, I will say it’s interesting because we cut this off at 10. I’ll talk about number 11. Not that it’s changed in priority, but I think because leadership and population health or public health had to come up on this list because of the pandemic, number 11 was very close in terms of privacy and security. You and I and all of your listeners would agree it isn’t that privacy and security is less important. It has become core foundational. If we’re doing anything in health care and not looking at how we move the data around, how we protect the privacy and security of that data, how we compensate for the healthcare system, how health policy is going to impact us.
And by the way, Michael, I really enjoyed your interview with Paul Keckley and his sort of perspectives on what was going on with health care. And it is unfortunate that our health policy system in the US swings healthcare back and forth one way or another. We need to reach stability in healthcare because our consumers, our providers, our insurers, our technology vendors, the pharmaceutical industry needs some consistency in order to address this third group of priorities that are so important. They’re foundational to everything else that we hope to accomplish in healthcare. It’s not going to be easy. We have a lot of external factors coming into play, not just healthcare, but sort of non-traditional players. It seems like every day there’s a new player, either a new application or a new product that Amazon is launching or Facebook’s getting into healthcare. Google has put a big emphasis. Microsoft. The technology players are becoming more and more important. And that technology is not to replace the leadership and the talent strategy that we have in healthcare. It’s really there to augment and to leverage so that everybody contributing to healthcare can do so in a 21st century way digitally, but in an efficient way where we’re compensated for the skill sets that we’re bringing to the table in healthcare. It’s a complex industry. It needs the technology. And if we don’t have this third group of priorities being addressed, we won’t be able to succeed the way we need to with the other two groups of priorities that we talked about today.
Mike: Couldn’t agree more, Ferris. And if someone wanted to find out more about the Healthcare Executive Group or get a look at this list, where can they go?
Ferris: I and my team are always accessible on our website. My email address is there, but the core support effort is at hceg.org. It’s a website that’s always evolving. But we have our blog post. We have our history of top 10. You can look at the last 10 years of national research on industry pulse. You can see who the technology leaders are that sponsor HCG, and we couldn’t do this thought leadership that we’re doing and challenge how the industry is working together to address these issues if we didn’t have those core sponsors. They are nationally recognized technology companies, but we do appreciate how they support and– not just with dollars, but with their experience and their insight on the HCG top 10 issues and look forward to a very successful 2022 addressing these challenges that we’ve talked about today.
Mike: Ferris Taylor, thank you so much for joining us again today on the Hospital Finance podcast.
Ferris: Thank you, Mike.
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