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Commentary: Lessons from Davos on how to transform healthcare


My latest trip to Davos to participate in the World Economic Forum last month was a productive and exciting gaze into the future of healthcare delivery: a world of healthcare with no address, greater immersion in population health strategies and a global push to advance mental health treatment.

It’s a sizable agenda for four days and many of us emerged with a renewed commitment to partner to improve outcomes and reduce costs, to continue our investments in technology that’s radically changing care delivery, and to expand the march to value. Here are four takeaways from my conversations with global and national healthcare leaders:

First, we are moving at lightning speed in advancing technology, especially in the realm of telemedicine, developments that are truly transformational and deserve complete support. In a sense, smartphones are allowing us to live in a world where healthcare has no address and we can connect with our physicians from our bed if necessary. Kaiser Permanente has set the bar in America with half of its total patient-physician encounters annually conducted through telemedicine. Our network and many others are rapidly expanding this vital service.

Globally, technology is even more transformative. China’s largest online health platform, Ping An Good Doctor, just announced a pilot of “one-minute clinics’—1,000 units that look like a vending machine attached to a telephone booth that provide online consultations and carry 100 categories of common drugs cryogenically refrigerated to ensure quality. The Jetsons could not have dreamed up this advance.

Second, let’s move faster to integrate population health strategies into care delivery. In a world with 2 billion people over the age of 65 and 76 million baby boomers in the U.S. hitting their golden years, healthcare must adapt. This means more community-based care, more longitudinal care rather than episodic treatment and a renewed commitment to focus on prevention so we can slow the arc of spending for future generations.

Why? There’s an urgent need to address chronic illness. Diabetes alone costs $727 billion to treat worldwide – that’s 12% of total spending on adults. Meanwhile, depression is not only one of the costliest chronic illnesses, it’s also the major reason people are too disabled to work.

Third, Davos is the perfect incubator for potential partnerships and leveraging partnerships is a core business strategy for so many healthcare organizations in the U.S. and globally. Partnerships deliver value for patients, employers and payers, with innovative approaches that give consumers what they want, even as their needs evolve. Hackensack Meridian Health’s recent merger with Carrier Clinic, a highly respected behavioral health provider in New Jersey, is expanding access in every sphere of care: inpatient, outpatient and addiction treatment. We plan to open new drug treatment centers, including one this year, as well as New Jersey’s first behavioral health urgent-care center. This strategy will divert patients from the emergency department, get patients the expertise they need faster and more conveniently and lower costs.

Fourth, and it builds on the previous point, we must harness our collective will to radically improve the treatment of people suffering from mental illness and substance use disorder. I was so heartened to learn that Prince William and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern were the hot ticket in Davos. So many wanted to attend their discussion on mental health.

It takes a village to improve care at home and abroad to expand access so that all citizens can enjoy health and obtain treatment that’s more convenient and affordable. Here’s to bringing many success stories to Davos in 2020.