Everything Old is New Again at Lenovo #HIThinkTank Event

Posted on June 28, 2017 I Written By

Colin Hung is the co-founder of the #hcldr (healthcare leadership) tweetchat one of the most popular and active healthcare social media communities on Twitter. Colin speaks, tweets and blogs regularly about healthcare, technology, marketing and leadership. He is currently an independent marketing consultant working with leading healthIT companies. Colin is a member of #TheWalkingGallery. His Twitter handle is: @Colin_Hung.

Last week in Durham NC, 35 healthcare innovators gathered at the Lenovo offices to discuss three trendy topics: Value-base care, connected health and virtual care. Dubbed the Health Innovation Think Tank #HIThinkTank, it was the first summit-style event hosted by Lenovo Health.

#HIThinkTank was designed to be an opportunity for audience members to learn about the latest innovations from leading academics, technology companies and healthcare organizations. I went into the event expecting to hear about the latest in artificial intelligence, big data, predictive analytics and genomic medicine. It did not turn out to be that kind of event…and it was all the better for it.

I would say that the overall theme of #HIThinkTank was innovation through the application of old ideas in new ways. In other words, everything old is new again in healthcare.

The day started with Rasu Shrestha MD, Chief Innovation Officer at UMPC Enterprises, emphatically stating that we are “in a time of tremendous opportunity in healthcare” and that it was “time for us to move from ‘doing digital’ to truly ‘being digital’”. Shrestha went on to explain that our challenge now was to reimagine clinical processes/workflows in light of modern technologies and methodologies. Like the re-engineering wave that swept through manufacturing in the 1980s, Shrestha believes it’s time to engage all stakeholders and collaborate on reworking healthcare.

Shrestha was followed by Juliet Silver of Perficient who gave us all a dose of reality by telling her personal healthcare story. The day Silver’s husband was diagnosed with cancer was the day she became an advocate – “Google searching and academic research quickly became my constant companions as we struggled to make sense of his disease.” Silver made specific mention of how she had to manually obtain paper copies of her husband’s medical records in order to share them with members of his care team and what a difference that made in his care. She hinted that patients may be the key to truly solving healthcare’s interoperability problem as they are the one stakeholder with the most to lose/gain.

After Silver, several speakers made their case for a return to a more community-based approach to healthcare – one that harkens back to the days of early pioneers when physicians, nurses and members of the community worked together to keep each other healthy.

Holly Miller MD of MedAllies presented the results of a local implementation of CMS’s Comprehensive Primary Care Plus (CPC+) program – a program that stressed simple post-discharge follow-up as a way to reduce readmissions and keep overall healthcare spending to a minimum. Miller specifically mentioned how community doctors do this all the time.

This was echoed by Marty Fattig, CEO of Nemaha County Hospital, a 16-bed facility 60 miles south of Omaha NE. Fattig spoke at length about the successful EHR, HIE data sharing and population health initiatives by his staff. Particularly noteworthy was his repeated statement: “We may not have the financial or technical resources of the large networks, but we get stuff done because we are all driven to improve the health of our community peers. It makes a big difference that we see our patients at church, at the grocery store and at the post office.” Ironically this old fashioned community approach to delivering healthcare is now the goal of many healthcare organizations.

In the afternoon Steve Aylward of Change Healthcare and Dr Sylvan Waller led the discussion on virtual care by first reminding the audience that over 90% of virtual visits still happen via the phone. Video consults is the fastest growing area of virtual care, but it has a long way to go to catch up to the telephone. Dr Waller said it best “In 30 years #telehealth will finally become the overnight success everyone expects it to be”. Both Aylward and Waller stressed that we cannot lose sight of these “older technologies” that work for patients when we think about innovation.

For me, what drove home this theme of old-is-new-again was the afternoon tour of the Lenovo model data center. This new highly efficient and “green” room prominently featured Lenovo’s latest innovation – direct water-cooled servers. The new NeXtScale WCT server series boasts high pressure water lines that physically run through the server and draw heat directly away from the quad CPUs. Back in the early 90’s I remember getting a tour of an IBM facility (not far from Lenovo’s facility in Durham) that still had a functioning 308X mainframe that featured…you guessed it…water cooling technology.

All in all, I walked away from #HIThinkTank feeling encouraged about the future of healthcare. It was refreshing to be at an innovation event and hear about actual successful implementations rather than pie-in-the-sky promises. The event reaffirmed my belief that technology alone is insufficient to fix healthcare. Those of us in HealthIT need to do more than just create cool products, we need to help clients re-engineer their internal processes to better utilize those products to improve community health.

As Dr Shrestha said – It’s time for us to stop doing digital and truly be digital.