The 2021 JP Morgan Healthcare Conference was conducted virtually this year due to the pandemic. But it continued to attract high-level executives from the across the healthcare ecosystem. Health System and hospital leaders shared the lessons learned from their COVID experiences and the importance of “not letting a good crisis go to waste” as they plan for a more consumer-centered future.
About one year ago, before the COVID-19 crisis became the most disruptive, transformative event in the history of modern healthcare, we published analysis titled J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference 2020 – Innovation, Efficiency & the Consumer. In that analysis, we shared highlights of the year’s conference as documented by Dan Michelson, the CEO of Strata Decision Technology, for Becker’s Hospital Review. We added a Loyale point of view to Mr. Michelson’s perspectives, based on the experiences of the large healthcare system clients that have partnered with Loyale to improve their patients’ financial experiences.
This year’s summary is titled The No.1 lesson from the 2021 JP Morgan Healthcare Conference: Healthcare is ‘too vital to fail’. And, as you might expect, conference attendees - which include providers, payers, pharmaceutical companies, tech companies, medical device and supply companies, bankers, and venture capital and private equity firms – all brought the lessons they have learned over the last 12-months to a changed vision for the future of healthcare in America.
Noting that, “There has never been a more important time to listen to the lessons from healthcare providers,” Mr. Michelson distills the comments of executives from some of the most prestigious and most well-respected health systems in the world to list “10 Moves Healthcare Providers are Making to Stay Vital After-COVID.” These moves are: “1.) Take Care of Your Team and They’ll Take Care of You; 2.) Focus on Health Equity, Not Just Healthcare Care; 3.) Take the Lead in Public Health – the Message is the Medicine; 4.) Make the Home and Everywhere a Venue of Care; 5.) Bury Your Budget and Pivot to Planning; 6.) Get Your M&A Machine in Motion; 7.) Hey, You, Get into the Cloud; 8.) Make Price Transparency a Key Differentiator; 9.) Make Care More Affordable; and 10.) Scale = Survival.”
From our perspective three of the strategic imperatives outlined by healthcare executives fall directly in our area of expertise – "Getting into the Cloud, Make Price Transparency a Key Differentiator, and Make Care More Affordable". Two others - "Take Care of Your Team, and Make the Home and Everywhere a Venue of Care" – are indirectly affected by strategies to improve patients’ financial experiences across the healthcare enterprise.
Getting into the Cloud
In the broader context, Michelson notes the importance of being able to bring clinical, operational and financial data together to enable “advanced analytics.” Acknowledging that the “focus over the last decade has been on the clinical,” he goes on to point out that “it is now shifting to “digitizing operations” with a focus on finance and operations “to automate, gather insight, manage and predict." Concluding that “It is clear that the cloud has moved from a curiosity to a necessity for health systems, making this one of the biggest areas of investment for every health system over the next decade.”
But the advantages of cloud-based systems go beyond data analytics and AI applications. Loyale Healthcare’s suite of patient financial engagement solutions operates on a cloud-based Software as a Service (SaaS) platform. And, while our systems enable robust analytics and dashboards, they also aggregate and standardize data from multiple, disparate systems to power management and patient portals and communications. These digital resources make it possible for health systems to deliver their employees, patients and prospective patients the kind of seamless, intuitive experiences they have come to expect from a trusted provider in any industry.
As nearly anyone who has accessed healthcare knows, financial information can be hard to find and even harder to understand. That may be why, according to one late 2019 survey, “76% of healthcare consumers considered their billing experience when selecting a provider.” But tackling the complexities of a health system’s financial systems is no easy task. It requires the ability to integrate data from multiple different Electronic Medical Record (EMR) and practice management systems, payment sources, providers and billers to present information in a clear, concise way that people can understand and use.
One Loyale client, a health system in the Eastern part of the country, was determined to provide its patients with a One-Bed, One-Bill experience. That meant that every patient would have access to a single, standard statement that consolidated all of their bills regardless of where in the system the care was delivered or who was doing the billing (the hospital, physician, therapist, etc.). The end result was a financial experience that provided patients with the information they needed to understand and act on their bills. Just as important, the platform continues to empower hospital staff with intelligent workflows and a provider portal with same-view patient support, giving employees the additional bandwidth they need for higher-value activities.
Make Price Transparency a Key Differentiator
We have published frequently on this topic, as recently as last summer in COVID-19 and the Growing Demand for Healthcare Transparency. In it, we noted that “The coronavirus has not dampened the call for radically improved transparency. Consumers, regulators and the administration are all demanding more and better information about the cost and quality of care.”
The new price transparency rules from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) which went into effect on Jan. 1, 2021 are only one small step in the right direction, as we pointed out late 2019 in analysis titled Medicare’s Price Transparency Rules Alone Don’t Deliver What Patients Need. A Patient-First Approach Does. Our position aligns with Mr. Michelson’s observations that “While many health systems are skeptical of the value of price transparency requirements, those that have a deep understanding of both their true cost of care and margins are using this as an opportunity to prove their value and accelerate their strategy to become consumer-centric.”
Pointing out that “no business has ever been unsuccessful because they made their product easier to understand and access,” price transparency is seen as a way for providers to build trust by being easy to do business with. Michelson acknowledges that “this may be tough sledding for some as this isn’t something health care providers are known for,” but concludes by pointing out the competitive disadvantages of not getting it done. We believe that’s especially true today, with new providers (Walmart, Walgreens, CVS) and new care delivery channels (Amazon) bringing their customer-first models to the primary care marketplace.
Make Care More Affordable
Here at Loyale, we’ve been beating this drum from the beginning, most recently in Healthcare Affordability is More than a Problem. It’s a Crisis. Michelson considers this “the biggest challenge for hospitals and health systems as they ultimately need to be on the right side of this issue or the trust that they have will disappear and they will remain very vulnerable to outside players.” He goes on to state that “The incoming Secretary of Health and Human Services has a strong belief regarding the accountability of health systems to be consumer centric.” He goes on to say, “The health systems that understand this are working to get ahead of this issue as it is likely one of their most significant threats (or opportunities) over the next decade.”
We know very well that patient-centered price transparency isn’t easy, but we also know the rewards. The health systems we work with to enable robust price transparency use it to earn the confidence of patients and their physicians. More often than not, when a patient has access to what their procedure or treatment is likely to cost, and is presented with ways to make that expense a part of their household budget, there is a much higher probability that they’ll get the care they need – and, importantly, pay for it.
For hospitals, health systems and other care providers, patients drive a large and growing percentage of provider top-line revenue. And patient choice is increasingly influencing payments from commercial and government payers. Combine consumer demand with regulatory support and expanding competitive pressures, and it becomes clear that providers who hope to compete in the post-COVID healthcare marketplace must be prepared to step up.
Healthcare’s New Normal
Michelson concludes his summary with some provider projections for a return to pre-COVID volumes and revenues. But he also shares a quote from Bert Zimmerli, CFO of Intermountain Healthcare, who said, “Normal wasn’t ever nearly good enough in healthcare.” We applaud Mr. Zimmerli’s commitment to using the lessons learned during the COVID crisis to accelerate healthcare’s transformation toward affordability and equity. We’re privileged to be a part of that effort.