Better Integration Begets Better Healthcare at Lower Cost
Leidos Health president Jonathan Scholl recently sat down with POLITICO writer David Himmel to discuss the future of healthcare technology. In an interview published in POLITICO Focus, Scholl described why healthcare technology in the U.S. hasn't produced the improvements seen elsewhere in tech — and how to fix that.
Increased Integration Leads to Lower Costs
At Leidos Health, we work with all levels of the U.S. healthcare system, helping scientists, physicians and hospital systems to select, implement and optimize the information technology that best suits their specific needs. As head of Leidos Health, Scholl has a bird's eye view of all these moving parts throughout the healthcare system.
So what does he see?
A big problem with costs. The U.S. spends twice what other developed nations spend on their citizens' healthcare, laments Scholl, yet get a lower life expectancy in return. "This has to change," says Scholl, "and it can."
Better integration and improved transparency are key to driving down the cost, but showing progress is more challenging than in other industries. In manufacturing, for example, improvements to process can be seen in the form of increased output and higher quality products rolling off the assembly line. But returns aren't so visible in healthcare.
"It's hard to do the math ... inside a complex healthcare system that pays for activity, is fragmented, and where incentives to adopt and pay for change are not aligned. The time horizons for payback become unknowable or uncertain." It's difficult to connect the dots between improvements at points far upstream and outcomes for the end user.
Integration, though, will ultimately bring efficiency to the healthcare system, predicts Scholl. Leidos is "a tremendously capable systems integrator ... It is our job to connect the dots, from [research] bench to bedside, so our customers benefit."
An integrated healthcare system will make cost and quality improvements more transparent so that consumers have "an ever-increasing ability to spend their dollars rationally."
How to Make It Happen
First, "health systems and providers ... must continue to advance the cost and quality improvements" by "eliminating unnecessary variation in care, implementing innovative new care models like telemedicine and creating modern case management systems," Scholl recommends.
Next, says Scholl, "our country needs to address payment reform and legal reforms as aggressively as we have faced access reforms" to ensure the necessary level of transparency for the consumer. When providers' costs come down, those savings must be passed along to the consumer.
The final step is for consumers to "take more personal responsibility for their own health." When healthier living yields less costly healthcare, that's when consumers will see the true benefit of better healthcare technology.