George Halvorson, chairman and CEO of Kaiser Permanente and chairman of the work group, and his colleagues see three challenges before healthcare leaders: the soaring costs of care, which outstrip gross domestic product growth in the U.S. and other countries; the uneven quality of care provided; and the often limited access to care.
They likened these challenges to those faced and met by the agricultural sector, beginning a century ago when it began leveraging technology to cut workforce participation in agriculture from more than 30% of the population of developed nations to less than 2% today.
“The time has come for healthcare to accomplish a similar reinvention,” according to the report. “Governments and policymakers need to foster the transformation by creating the right conditions, encouraging innovation, empowering patients, reforming payment systems and removing inappropriate regulatory barriers conceived in a pre-digital era.”
The report includes six principles to promote “a more effective and comprehensive healthcare system.”
First, policymakers should come up with a vision “that signals to investors and innovators that digital innovation is a priority,” backed up with the promotion of best practices and “targeted investments” in underlying infrastructure.
Second, privacy and security issues must be addressed. Policymakers have a role in establishing “robust standards and protocols for aggregated health data” that clarify the rights to use that data. The authors take a firm stand in the opt-in vs. opt-out debate in favor of the alternative that has produced more participation by setting as public policy a default toward data use. “The starting assumption should be that every patient's data will be anonymously included, except where an individual patient specifically opts out.”
Third, patients should be empowered to access their information online and engage their providers through digital means.
Fourth, payment systems must align providers and payers by adopting a system of outcome-based payments.
Fifth, professional licensing requirements need to adapt to a digitally enabled, remote-care environment while the regulator processes for medical software and mobile apps “should be aligned with iterative software development cycles.”
Sixth, the industry needs to speed up the dissemination and use of best practices through standardization of care procedures “that have good, proven health outcomes.”
Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled George Halvorson's name.