Five Thought-Provoking Statements from #AccessATLAS 2019

“If what you’re working on has no chance of failing, it’s not innovation”

This quote from Edmondo Robinson, Chief Transformation Officer at Christiana Care Health System, was one of five thought-provoking statements that stood out from the Annual Thought Leadership on Access Symposium (ATLAS) event hosted by Kyruus in Boston.

Billed as a healthcare thought-leadership event, ATLAS gathers experts, practitioners and organizational leaders that are involved or concerned about access to care. The event is organized by Kyruus, a Health IT company that offers provider search and scheduling solutions that use a data-driven approach to patient-provider matching. Together with their clients, Kyruus is on a mission to transform how patients access care. The ATLAS event is aligned with that mission.

It is important to know that despite being the event host and organizer, Kyruus products and personnel are not front-and-center. In fact, many attendees are not affiliated with the company at all – not partners, customers or employees. This diversity helped to make the event valuable.

Five thought-provoking statements from ATLAS stood out for me.

Innovation + Failure

During his panel discussion, Robinson put forward the notion that innovation must inherently include the risk of failure. Correspondingly, anything without that risk was not truly innovative.

Robinson went further to say that in order to transform healthcare, we need to have a higher tolerance for failure, specifically around the adoption of new technology. According to Robinson, the fear of failure is so acute and ingrained that organizational leaders seek the path of least risk which usually results in nothing more than incremental improvements.

Physicians Trained to Resist Change

Toby Cosgrove, Executive Advisor at Google Health Cloud Life Sciences (and formerly the CEO & President of Cleveland Clinic) had a possible explanation for healthcare’s resistance to adopting technology innovations.

In his fireside chat, Cosgrove ruminated on the way that physicians are trained:

  • 4 years of undergrad
  • 4 years of medical school
  • 3-5 years of residency (depending on specialty)

All along the way, physicians are taught to follow the rules and to conform to the prescribed way of doing things. It’s the tried and true method for everything. Experimentation is for researchers not practicing physicians.

“Is it any wonder why there is resistance in healthcare to new innovation?” mused Cosgrove. “When we constantly hammer medical students and residents for taking risks.”

Honestly, I had never considered medical education as a causal factor in the slow adoption of technology innovations. Of course, it would be ridiculous to attribute the challenge solely to physicians. They are just one of many healthcare stakeholders and there are plenty of examples of physicians who are creative and innovative.

Cosgrove’s statement does, however, raise interesting questions – like why innovation, managing change or assessing organizational risk are not part of the education process – skills other professions have acknowledged as critical to student success.

Moving Forward Means Sticking Your Neck Out

David A Shore, former Associate Dean of Harvard University, also spoke about risk-taking. Using a hilarious (and apt) example of a turtle.

Shore spoke about how a turtle must stick its neck out in order to move forward. “No matter how hard a turtle might try to stay inside its shell, there’s no way for it to move ahead without first poking its head out, which carries the risk of being attacked by a predator.”

I wonder how many healthcare organizations Shore would consider to be safely tucked into their shells, hoping that the wave of technological and regulatory changes will pass them by?

Hidden Places of Patient Access Budget

The most practical pieces of advice from ATLAS was shared by Pamela DeSalvo Landis, Vice President of Digital Engagement at Hackensack Meridian Health.

She encouraged the audience to “look under every rock” for budget related to patient access. In her view, there are many patient touchpoints that do not appear at first blush to be related to patient access, but in fact are. Landis used the example of after-hours call-answering services – something that is rarely centralized across an entire health system. It is common for different departments and sites to use different vendors. There is potentially significant savings that can be realized by consolidating all after-hours services to a single vendor or moving it in-house.

“Just be sure that the captured savings gets added to your patient access budget so that you have more funds for initiatives without impacting the overall budget of your organization,” advised Landis, who sent the entire audience into mad typing/writing frenzy with her statement.

Where Does the Hospital End and the Community Begin?

The most thought provoking statement was delivered at ATLAS by Kate Walsh, President & Chief Executive Officer of Boston Medical Center (BMC) health system.

While on a panel discussing the social determinants of health (SDOH), Walsh tossed out this golden question: “When we think about poverty, clean water, access to fresh food as determinants of health – where is the line drawn between where the hospital ends and the community begins?”

Walsh was not lamenting the added responsibility that providers, like BMC, now have to bear as we move to a value-based system. Rather, she was highlighting how blurry the boundaries of providing healthcare will become in the years ahead. Will it be incumbent on health systems to solve the food deserts in urban centers if that will reduce instances of diabetes and obesity by double-digits? How would those costs be billed back to payers?

A great conference

Overall I came away from ATLAS swimming with new perspectives and a new set of tough questions to answer, which is exactly the goal of a thought-leadership event. I didn’t come to Boston expecting answers. I came to have my viewpoint challenged and my eyes opened. From that perspective, Kyruus’s ATLAS event delivered.

About the author

Colin Hung

Colin Hung

Colin Hung is the co-founder of the #hcldr (healthcare leadership) tweetchat one of the most popular and active healthcare social media communities on Twitter. Colin speaks, tweets and blogs regularly about healthcare, technology, marketing and leadership. He is currently an independent marketing consultant working with leading healthIT companies. Colin is a member of #TheWalkingGallery. His Twitter handle is: @Colin_Hung.