From Burnout to Blast Off: Healthcare Predictions from 2018 Thought Leaders

Bots taking over physician jobs. The diminishing hospital. The resurgence of PPMs.

Over the past six months, we’ve picked up a lot of buzz from the road. January’s J.P. Morgan annual healthcare investment bonanza in San Francisco and the HLTH: Future of Healthcare event in Las Vegas in May were mighty bookends to great conferences across America and elsewhere.

The Jarrard team has spent the first half of 2018 soaking up (and delivering) healthcare insight from the best and brightest at conferences near and far. We even ventured to Dubai to learn how AI is impacting healthcare jobs.

The intel we’ve gleaned is worth sharing. So please enjoy these takes from our road warriors on how prominent thought leaders expect healthcare to change in the coming years.

Kevin Phillips, Jarrard Inc. founding partner and COO, reporting on the IPREX Annual Meeting in Dubai, UAE

Think physicians are immune to bots? Not so, according to Cyrus Hodes, director and co-founder of The AI Initiative and Vice President of The Future Society (affiliated with Harvard and MIT). Hodes spoke on the impact of advances in artificial intelligence on jobs, stressing that mechanical minds will push more and more humans out of current jobs, including healthcare.  

Remember IBM’s bot named Watson?  Watson is striving to be the best doctor in the world.  It understands people and symptoms and it provides accurate diagnoses.  Watson is already giving guidance at Sloan Kettering on lung cancer treatments.  Just as self-driving autos need not be perfect, they just need to make fewer mistakes than humans, the same goes for doctor bots.  Doctors are limited in understanding a human’s complicated medical history or grasping the interactions of every pharmaceutical.  However, a bot can instantly test thousands of drug interactions at once.  Human doctors can only learn through their own experiences.  Doctor bots can learn from every other doctor bot, can read every word of all medical research, can keep track of patients worldwide and make correlations that would be impossible to find otherwise. Not all doctors will go away, but when humans are compared to bots and the bot is only as far away as your phone, there will be less need for a human doctor.

For more on this theory, watch the video, Humans Need Not Apply (CGP Grey, 2014).

David Jarrard, Jarrard Inc. CEO, reporting on HLTH: The Future of Healthcare Event in Las Vegas

A common theme emerged at the event in Las Vegas: In the future of healthcare, acute care providers are no longer the center of gravity. Instead, people will increasingly become informed about their health, primarily, through genetic sequencing and digital technology.

As Lloyd Minor, M.D. and dean of the Stanford School of Medicine said, “Traditionally, academic medicine has been focused on tertiary care. Increasingly, empowered by digital health, we can now be focused on prediction and prevention. This very much requires each of us to be engaged in our own health. That’s where it’s all going.”

Thought leaders also agreed on the importance of social determinants of health – community, lifestyle, etc. – and how they will play a much bigger role in the overall health of a population than access to care.

Going forward, healthcare will be a marriage of the radically new and the terribly old; leveraging the latest medical advancements, eating your vegetables and avoiding traditional “healthcare delivery” at every turn.

It’s up to the hospitals to find their place now that the center of gravity in healthcare has changed.

Molly Cate, Jarrard Inc. founding partner and chief innovation officer reporting on the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference, San Francisco

Healthcare investors aren’t overly concerned with issues facing traditional hospitals. They look at hospitals as an important piece of the system. But they also look at the things hospitals don’t do well: They generally don’t treat people like customers, provide concierge oncology or offer financial incentives for physicians. That’s where the opportunity comes for people in the venture capital world.

Venture capitalists are paying keen attention to the resurgence of physician practice management companies, or PPMs. This happened in the 90s too — back-office physicians rolled up into larger groups to acheive economies of scale. Hospitals spent a lot of money acquiring physician practices, but many of them haven’t panned out.

Now, hospitals are dismantling many of their partnerships with physicians, which opens up an opportunity for companies to create rollups around certain specialties.

Anne Hancock Toomey, Jarrard Inc. founding partner, reporting on Becker’s Hospital Review’s 9th Annual Meeting, Chicago

Leaders need to address physician burnout because it directly impacts patient care. At Becker’s Hospital Review’s meeting in Chicago, Mayo Clinic CEO John Noseworthy said his system had taken two impactful steps. The first was to reconnect physicians with their peers by – among other things – paying for them to go out to dinner or lunch in groups at least once per month. The second was to train supervising or leading physicians in the signs of burnout and how to address it with those they lead.

In our experience, physician burnout is pervasive in every health system across the country.  Removing the stigma and addressing it head on is an imperative. And, it’s not just physicians – nurses experience burnout at a similar rate.  The systems that are best positioned to solve the problem have a meaningful program, invest in leadership for it and bake it into the culture.

Lauren McConville, Jarrard Inc. vice president, reporting on The Association of American Medical Colleges Group on Institutional Advancement conference (AAMC GIA) in Seattle

The most impressive academic medical centers recognize that internal communication and engagement is required for success in today’s competitive and tumultuous environment.  At the AAMC event, a communications leader at one of the hospitals said one of their system goals was to create a “movement led from the inside out”—to have their internal ethos be so strong that every employee is an ambassador.  In their minds, this would take care of other major operational and strategic goals—it would impact patient experience, strengthen the employee and provider experience and drive new volume.

As a strategic healthcare communications consulting firm, we must remember that we have the power and the ears of leadership teams to work with our clients to create movements.  We have to connect the tactical to the strategic every time.

Susan Alcorn, Jarrard of-counsel, reporting on The Association of American Medical Colleges Group on Institutional Advancement conference (AAMC GIA) in Seattle

A variety of speakers agreed that a wave of mergers and acquisition is sweeping the country. And, as is the norm, these new partnerships are being developed and executed by organizational leaders who are experts in operations, finance and legal issues. One more facet must be added to the transition team, though: Communications.

Communicators are well positioned to collaborate with a system’s leadership team to ensure a seamless transition to a new model, celebrate each partner’s legacy, build a new and robust culture and engage and educate employees, physicians, the community and other stakeholders.

“True culture change takes at least five years,” according to Lynn Miller, Geisinger Health System’s Executive Vice President of Operations. “A successful merger demands passion, consistency and solid, strategic communications.”

Jarrard Inc.