The Future of the Healthcare Marketplace: Three Questions for Futurist Ian Morrison

The healthcare industry is undergoing sweeping changes, and stakeholders must adjust to the reformed system in order to succeed in 2014 and beyond. will be the focus of the headline keynote session at Imprivata HealthCon 2014 (May 4-6 in Boston), which will be delivered by well-known author, consultant and healthcare futurist Ian Morrison, PhD.

Dr. Morrison is a founding partner in Strategic Health Perspectives (SHP), a forecasting service for the healthcare industry that includes joint venture partners Harris Interactive and the Harvard School of Public Health’s Department of Health Policy and Management. Dr. Morrison is also president emeritus of the Institute for the Future (IFTF).

Dr. Morrison spoke with Imprivata to preview his keynote talk (titled “The Future of the Healthcare Marketplace: Playing the New Game”), which will identify the leadership challenges and opportunities that lie ahead and will provide strategic insights on how organizations and individuals can flourish in the future.

Q: In your opinion, what have been the most significant changes to the system that will impact stakeholders in 2014 and beyond?

The Affordable Care Act and the impact of coverage expansion for a broader population certainly is helping to reshape the industry, but in my opinion, the bigger story is the massive consolidation and transformations in the delivery system.

Large health systems are buying smaller hospitals and practice groups, taking on more risk. I believe this consolidation will continue, and we will end up with 100-200 large regional health systems that could account for as much as 80 percent of the revenue generated by healthcare delivery systems.

Q: What does this mean for IT leadership?

Technology adoption in healthcare continues to lag behind other industries, primarily because regulations often make it more difficult and cost-prohibitive to implement new systems.  But consolidation and transformation at this scale cannot be successful without contemporary IT systems. No other industry has gone through such sweeping changes without the right technology in place.

The goal is to establish connectivity between large integration delivery systems across the entire continuum of care, so I see much of the healthcare IT innovation over the next several years focusing on how to automate secure, efficient interactions throughout the entire care delivery process.

 Q: What advice do you have to healthcare IT leadership in prioritizing projects, especially with respect to programs and regulations like Meaningful Use, ICD-10 and HIPAA?

These are proving to be challenging because healthcare IT departments are maxed out. There are so many competing priorities, that is can be difficult to sort out what to do first. As I see it, there are three things that need to happen to effectively prioritize initiatives:

1. Make sure you have good project management and sequencing the deadlines appropriately. Some are inflexible, so those should be prioritized to avoid penalties.

2. IT leaders need to be strategic partners with clinical leadership by giving the CEO and CFO visibility into the various technology decisions and the goals to show why the investment is important. It is easy for a CEO to mandate that the IDN is connected, but what does that mean from a practical perspective?  What is required from a resource perspective and what is the realistic timeline? This level of strategic engagement with hospital leaderships can help IT better manage these and other mandates.

3. IT vendors need to be consultants who can help healthcare delivery organization solve critical challenges. Hospital IT staffs are stretched thin and don’t have access to the best resources, so they rely on IT vendors who can help them develop the solutions they need to be successful.