4 ‘Calls to Action’ for health care technology leaders in 2020


Key themes emerge from CCM’s Top of Mind 2020 Summit for innovators to tackle in the coming year

Health systems are facing many challenges as they look to the future, from interoperability of data to implementing new digital health technologies.

At the Top of Mind 2020 Summit, organized by the Center for Connected Medicine (CCM), leaders from across the industry came together recently to discuss their top priorities and challenges, and learn how their colleagues are forging ahead.

Packed with speakers from top health systems across the country, the Top of Mind Summit agenda grows from the CCM’s Top of Mind research report, which examines health technology trends for the coming year.

For 2020, the report looked into three technology areas that are essential for managing the transition to value-based care — patient engagement, data aggregation and analytics, and precision medicine.

“Over the past three years this summit has become a special event where leaders in health care can come together and have frank discussions about the state of health care,” said Tal Heppenstall, Treasurer of UPMC and President of UPMC Enterprises. “Our goal is to talk about what’s working, where we’re running into roadblocks, and come away with energy and optimism to continue pushing the forward in the coming year.”

After three days of keynotes, panel discussions, and networking, four key calls to action emerged from the Top of Mind 2020 Summit.

Call to action 1: No more leading with technology

Tami Minnier MSN speaks during the CCM's Top of Mind 2020 Summit
Tami Minnier MSN, Chief Quality Officer, UPMC, at right

For too long health care has introduced new technologies without first understanding the needs of patients, clinicians, and users, and how technology affects them. Speaker after speaker at the Summit said this practice of “creating Band-Aids in search of cuts” must stop.

Health care has a track record of implementing technology without figuring out whether the solutions will benefit patients and clinicians, and how the solutions will factor into workflows. This has led to frustrated and disengaged patients, burned-out physicians, and intractable inefficiencies.

Many Summit speakers said there is a human element that’s needed to ensure technology is working effectively for users – whether clinicians or patients.

Tami Minnier, MSN, Chief Quality Officer at UPMC, said: “The best tech doesn’t exist yet. There are more and more technologies that just add another tool to the toolbelt… My toolbelt is already full.”

Call to action 2: Advocate for data standards and open data

Don Rucker, MD, delivers keynote speech at CCM Top of Mind 2020 Summit
Don Rucker, MD, National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC)

Data is essential for precision medicine, population health, personalization, care outcomes, lowering costs – you name it. Several sessions at the Summit were dedicated to data aggregation, integration, and interoperability, but the availability of quality data was a backbone of nearly every conversation.

Health systems can be active in driving data standardization progress by advocating for and supporting data standards, open sharing of data, and systems designed with end users in mind.

The government is pushing regulations that will drive change, but Summit speakers made it clear that health system leaders need to take a more active role in calling for data standards and open data.

Don Rucker, MD, the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) at HHS, provided an update on ONC’s work on data blocking rules and said application programming interfaces (APIs) are key to improving data sharing.

Call to action 3: Look for opportunities to reduce friction

Gerry Lewis of Ascension Health speaks at CCM Top of Mind 2020 Summit
Gerry Lewis, Chief Information Officer, Ascension Health

Summit attendees were often reminded to think about what consumers love about technology in other industries: transparency, control, simplicity. Phil McKoy, Chief Information Officer of UnitedHealthcare, dedicated his keynote speech to this topic.

McKoy, a former executive at retail giant Target.com, acknowledged that health care is much more complex than other industries, but that isn’t an excuse. Consumers are demanding changes in health care — if health systems don’t become proactive, they are likely to be disrupted in unanticipated ways.

Patients may love their clinicians and the direct interactions they have with caregivers, but the friction before and after the visit is threatening to drive patients away from traditional health systems. Summit attendees were challenged to keep reducing friction top of mind.

​Gerry Lewis, Chief Information Officer at Ascension and President and CEO of Ascension Technologies, said there’s too much friction in how patients access the health system. “We want to leverage the digital opportunities we have to create those relationships with patients so there’s value to come back… Opening the front door more effectively for all is hugely important.”

Call to action 4: Take a stand

The Top of Mind 2020 Summit is an invite-only event that brings together top leaders in health care for frank discussions on what’s working and what’s not. Executives on stage encouraged attendees to take the first step, however small.

Amber Samdahl, a former Disney Imagineering Strategist, talked about the importance of design in creating great experiences for patients. She said a key strategy for Disney in the use of technology was to have it lead to “meaningful engagement” with people. Small wins in engagement with consumers and patients can have a big impact.

Alexa B. Kimball, MD, President and CEO of Harvard Medical Faculty Physicians at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, described work to reduce physician burnout related to use electronic medical records. “There are all sorts of little things we can do,” she said.

Mike McSherry, Amber Samdahl, Mark Zhang at CCM Top of Mind 2020 Summit
Amber Samdahl, center, participates in a panel discussion at the Top of Mind 2020 Summit

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