On Tuesday, 9 July 2012, health industry stakeholders are convening in Philadelphia for the first CONVERGE conference, seeking to ignite conversation across siloed organizations to solve seemingly intractable problems in health care, together.

Why “converge?” Because suppliers, providers, payers, health plans, and consumers have been fragmented for far too long based on arcane incentives that cause the U.S. health system to be stuck in a Rube Goldbergian knot of inefficiency, ineffectiveness and fragmentation of access….not to mention cost increases leading us to devote nearly one-fifth of national GDP on health care at a cost of nearly $3 trillion…and going up.

The good news: pioneering health care stakeholders have begun to collaborate on a broad range of projects that are bringing together once quite separate organizations in order to address the Triple Aim of Care, Health and Cost. These innovators are working to solve tough challenges in health care that, alone, are unsolveable.

Many forces are aligning to support once distant suppliers, providers, plans, researchers and consumers in collaborating to improve the quality of health, expand access, and lower costs for individuals and society-at-large. These factors include:

  • Cloud computing
  • The ability to corral and analyze #bigdata to improve clinical workflow and anticipate patients’ health care needs in advance of complications (say, to prevent hospital readmissions)
  • Demand for greater transparency from health providers, health plans, suppliers (e.g., life sciences/pharma and medical device companies) on quality, risks, access and price
  • The move from volume- to value-based health financing
  • Consumer demand for greater involvement and empowerment in health care, motivated by higher out-of-pocket costs and an overall migration to DIY lifestyles in many aspects of personal life, among other factors.
To be a good corporate collaborator in health will require developing new muscles: success won’t be based much on the technology, which is largely in place to enable working together. Instead, it will be human factors like trust, being authentic, and rationing corporate lawyers’ hunger for risk-managing at the fine-tooth-comb level. Getting to Kumbayah in health care collaborating will be slowed based on these issues, and not due to some of the other favorite blame-game topics of data privacy and sharing (which is not trivial but addressable through sound policies and procedures) among others.

Health Populi’s Hot Points:
I am pleased to moderate a session at CONVERGE titled, Online Collaboration: Where Is The Puck Going? My partners on the panel are Dr. David Delaney, Chief Medical Officer of SAP America; Dr. Harry Greenspun, Senior Advisor at Deloitte Center for Health Solutions (@harrygreenspun); and, Joel Selzer, CEO and Co-Founder of Ozmosis. Together, we’ll brainstorm all aspects of ‘the puck’ of collaboration: what’s worked thus far, what we’ve learned, what’s holding us back from getting to “yes” in health care collaborations. And as a health care forecaster, I’m also keen to crowdsource our opinion not only on ‘where’ collaboration is going, but how fast we’re moving there toward a tipping point beyond the initial pioneering phase. Stay tuned to tweets at hashtag #ConvergeConf to learn in real-time as we do during the CONVERGE 2012 conference.