AVIA Network Summit reporter's notebook: digital health and lessons learned from pizza

Though digital tools are important, they alone won’t solve healthcare problems that disproportionately affect people Medicare and Medicaid, said Andy Slavitt, head of Town Hall Ventures, at the AVIA Network Summit in Chicago. Instead, he suggested, it will take nothing short of “transformation” to correct health disparities.

Slavitt and AVIA are teaming up on the Medicaid Transformation Project, an initiative they provided few details on, to “transform care over an extended period of time” for Medicaid beneficiaries, said AVIA president Linda Finkel. Along with anchors Geisinger Health System, Providence Health and Services and Dignity Health, they will work on “identifying, developing and scaling replicable, sustainable, health system-led innovations on behalf of these populations,” she said.

“We dramatically underinvest in innovation in this community,” Slavitt said. But that’s not necessarily all bad because it means the problem is fixable, he said.

Pizza party
Before Slavitt took the stage at the AVIA gathering of health system executives and vendors, AVIA co-founder and CEO Eric Langshur talked pizza.

When it comes to investing in digital tools, the healthcare industry might take some hints from Domino’s, Langshur said. Just one brave man raised his hand—and raised it enthusiastically—when Langshur asked who in the audience enjoyed Domino’s pizza, the healthcare industry should pay attention as it attempts to undergo a digital transformation, according to Langshur.

As part of its rebirth, the pizza chain launched a digital pizza tracker that shows customers their pizzas’ journeys from internet order all the way to at-home delivery.

“Digital is a new asset class, and we’ve got to take that message home, and we’ve got to budget for it,” Langshur said. “The culture of innovation really matters. This is about engaging everybody.”

Healthcare organizations don’t need to go it alone, he said. Instead, they should collaborate and share best practices and tools.

Virtual health
Telemedicine can be a way to bring in new patients, said Matthew Fenty, director of innovation and partnerships at St. Luke’s University Health Network in Pennsylvania. But it has to be easy to use. “If you don’t make the technology and user experience and workflow super, super easy for patients, it’s not going to work,” Fenty said.

Health system executives also need to make sure the system works well for clinicians. “We got all the senior physician leadership together and had them really buy off on this,” said Blix Rice, vice president of innovation and transformation at the Greenville Health System’s Care Coordination Institute, of his system’s asynchronous visits. “We found that oftentimes the stories about how it works spread faster than the facts about it,” he said.

Meanwhile, he and others at the system were transparent and diligent about getting the technology itself to work. “If we have a process that has an issue in it, then technology will help that issue happen faster,” Rice said.

It can burden already overburdened providers, according to Northwestern Medicine director of innovation Jodi Rosen. “You have to really think about if you’re going to take an already really busy, maxed-out provider you have to be able to compensate them correctly and protect their time,” she said.