Industry action equals intelligence

Napoleon Hill, an American writer focusing on personal success, once said, “action is the real measure of intelligence.” I agree with this statement, and it is exciting to see that much of the healthcare industry does, too.

Even more exciting is the way payers, patients and providers have come together to use intelligence in meaningful ways. Here are three inspiring examples of how action has recently proven the healthcare industry’s intelligence.

Payers Aetna, Humana, Kaiser Permanente and United Health Group will supply information on more than five billion medical claims to a newly created nonprofit group called the Health Care Cost Institute, a first of its kind. Following other industry efforts for achieving greater transparency, like the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’ “Health Indicators Warehouse,” the goal of the Institute will be to expand awareness about what is driving healthcare costs. Twice a year, qualified researchers will develop summaries for the public that identify trends in healthcare prices and medical services. The intelligence mined from these data sources and researchers will help drive greater value from our nation’s spending on healthcare.

Advances continue to be made in mobile and telehealth, and in fact, patients can now use electrode patches to have their health monitored from virtually any location. Along with phone apps for patient education and disease management, electrode patches (part of epidermal electronic technology) support the industry’s growing focus on preventative care and could help reduce costs.

A 2008 study by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs tracked patients with serious conditions, such as congestive heart failure, for four years. Patients enrolled in a home telehealth program for monitoring showed a 25 percent drop in the number of bed days of care and a 19 percent drop in hospital admissions, compared with the time they were not in the program. These patients averaged a cost of $1,600 per year for care, compared to $13,121 per year for Veterans that did not go through the telehealth program.

As healthcare technology innovations move rapidly forward, investments in the human dimensions of care have also been made. Research shows that good rapport between providers and patients can contribute to favorable health outcomes; patients are more likely to follow health regimes and overcome illness.

Soon, the University of Chicago will open a special institute to improve medical students’ training in provider-patient relationships. The Bucksbaum Institute for Clinical Excellence will be built thanks to a $42 million gift from a patient, Carolyn Bucksbaum and her husband, both touched by feeling truly cared for by their provider.

Training from the Bucksbaum Institute for Clinical Excellence will give medical students intelligence not attainable through new data or technology. After all, the what, where, when and hows of healthcare are constantly changing, but the “who” is not.

The entire healthcare industry is working hard to align on the best ways to move care forward, but others, like these payers, patients and providers aren’t waiting to take action. Napoleon Hill would be proud.

Jim Bohnsack is vice president of TransUnion Healthcare.

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