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May 17 2012   8:42AM GMT

Health 2.0 panel: If you could change the health care system

Posted by: Jenny Laurello
Big data, Conference, Health 2.0, Patient at the center, Payer, Pharma, Provider

Yesterday marked the close of the Health 2.0 Spring Fling Matchpoint Boston conference, where I diverged from my standard, end-of-local-conference routine and stayed to catch the final panel. And I’m glad I did. Comprised of top decision-makers from a variety of key stakeholder groups in the market, the panel included Charles Saunders of Aetna, Thomas Vanderheyden of the UnitedHealth Group, Wendy Mayer of Pfizer and Sean Chai of Kaiser Permanente. These industry leaders shared their perspectives on “scaling, partnering, and commercializing Health 2.0” — their answers shining a bright light on the current lack of patient engagement and the need to become partners with patients to improve population health.

Moderator and Health 2.0 director Matthew Holt started by asking each panelist “if there were three things that you could change, fix, or like to see done better in the health care industry, what would they be?” Up to bat first was Mayer, who set the tone for what would be a common theme for the remainder of the discussion. Mayer noted that she would like the ability to “motivate and change behavior,” to find ways to move patients to care about their current health status and take active steps toward a healthier lifestyle. She also highlighted the need to continue investing in big data. “We sit on mounds of it, and we need to turn it into decisions. What data do we need and how can and should we be using it?” she asked.

Next up was Vanderheyden, who echoed Mayer’s sentiments in wishing that he could prompt patients  — and truly the population —  to  care. “How can we get you, the patient, to care about your health?” he asked. “We have close to 100 million years’ worth of patient data to call on. But the questions are: how do we get people to care, and how can we make it fit into their lifestyles? We also need to help patients navigate the health care system,” he added, solidifying the need for better tools and better ways to educate and engage patients.

Dr. Saunders cited the need to align incentives in order to move forward in achieving a healthier population that, well, actually cares. “We need to create a single, common understanding of a patient, systematically integrated,” he said, adding “And we need to make health care easy, like buying on Amazon. We need to make it easier to engage patients.”

Chai rounded out the batting order, emphasizing what many of his industry colleagues and fellow panel members had said. He believes the three things most needed for change are: motivation, ability, and a trigger, or what he referred to as the spark. “How can we leverage innovative solutions to spark behavior change? I wear a FitBit. That’s my spark.” In reference to having ability, Chai further agreed that the industry needs to learn to better utilize technology in order to spur patient change, shifting to a “cooperation model of health care” that breaks down the silos and places the patient at the center.

As the aptly named Matchpoint conference promised, it was a pleasure having the opportunity to connect with such a diverse group of industry innovators and forward-thinking health care colleagues. I not only learned a great deal, but came away with a whole new set of questions, what I consider one of the best perks of “conferencing” and getting to hear from attendees and presenters alike. And though this panel was a nice example of thought leaders coming together to discuss the forces at work and what is needed for change, the theme of the day was “we still have quite a ways to go,” and, simply put (in my best Maine accent), we can’t get there from here.

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