Health Care Summit Highlights New Innovation

(Above: U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Thomas J. Donohue makes introductory remarks at the 3rd Annual Health Care Summit, October 22, 2014.)

Imagine reading blood test results through an app on your iPhone.

Or maybe you’re connecting online with a doctor and getting a late-night diagnosis via teleconference.

The future of health care filled the conversations on October 22, during the 3rd Annual Health Care Summit hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation.

The all-day conference centered heavily on how technology and innovation promises to reshape the relationship between doctors, patients and insurance companies—with the business community playing a leading role.

In an opening keynote, Dr. Eric Topol, chief academic officer of Scripps Health, said the medical community is moving away from the traditional relationship between doctors and patients. He said patients would increasingly use online tools to communicate with doctors and perhaps even diagnose themselves. 

Topol compared this to the potential growth of driverless cars.

“That sense of autonomy is where we are headed in medicine.”

U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Thomas J. Donohue said that the Affordable Care Act remains part of the conversation around the midterm elections, but that the Chamber is also separately focused on private-sector solutions to reducing health care costs, improving care and expanding access.

“Regardless of the outcome of the elections, the business community must focus its efforts on the areas where we can drive the solutions,” he said. “We’ll be focused on the private-sector innovations that can help bring about the reform we really need.”

Donohue touted the role of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation in researching health care solutions. The Foundation’s Data-Driven Innovation project, for instance, has explored how the use of data can improve health care on several fronts. And the Foundation’s Corporate Citizenship Center recently published a report Building a Healthier World, highlighting 16 companies working to address health challenges. 

Donohue noted the Chamber’s establishment of the Health Care Solutions Council, which has brought together member companies from the health care sector. The council issued a series of recommendations, including the advancement of technology, greater access to information, and rewarding providers for good outcomes.


Transparency and Innovation

The Health Care Summit featured a series of panels with health experts, and much of the conversation centered on improving communication with patients. Health care providers and insurance companies said everyone would benefit from greater access to information and more transparency. Health leaders reminded the audience that patients, not doctors or insurance companies, were the owners of medical records. 

“Any individual has the right to own their records,” Topol said. “We have this flipped right now, and it’s not appropriate.”

George Lenko, staff vice president of client solutions for Anthem, said his company is working to expand online tools for consumers. This allows patients to advocate for themselves, he said.

“If all care was equal, it wouldn’t really matter where you got care,” Lenko said. “There are substantial differences in cost, differences in quality and difference in how providers service people.”

Topol noted that greater use of available data could allow health care providers to reduce costs through better understanding of genetics and how drugs work on different patients.

“We don’t use any of this data in common practice,” Topol said. “We’re not coupling these drugs intelligently with genetic information.”

Increasingly, Topol said, true costs for procedures, drugs, and scans is becoming more available to patients, often through mobile devices.

“Transparency reduces costs,” he said. “This is now a mobile device story…this was once all shielded from consumers, but that’s starting to change.”

Topol noted that in some cities, it’s possible to summon a doctor to your house using a mobile app, similar to the car service Uber.

Doug Naegele, CEO and Founder and Infield Health, also agreed that mobile is the future.

“I’m sure you’ve all gotten blood tests back, where you look at it and you’re like ‘I have no idea what this means,” he said. “But if you had it in a very intuitive format that tells you, of these 14 tests, these are the two you need to look at…that kind of stuff is around the corner.”