Premier CEO: Data interoperability, FDA reform key to driving innovation in healthcare

To Premier Inc. President and CEO Susan DeVore, the best way to drive meaningful reform in healthcare is through cross-sector, private-public collaboration between a variety of healthcare stakeholders that don't always see eye to eye.

Hence her involvement as the chair of the Healthcare Leadership Council (HLC), which on Wednesday published a report detailing six recommendations to improve the U.S. healthcare system. Those recommendations, DeVore tells FierceHealthcare in an exclusive interview, were the product of a year-long process that started with a simple opinion shared by the HLC's members, which include representatives from the provider, insurer, manufacturing and technology sectors in healthcare.

"One of the things we've been talking about in the last year is that innovation has been a little bit lost in all the reform conversation," says DeVore (right).

So last March the HLC brought together nearly 100 different organizations for a summit based on the concept of how to feasibly drive innovation in healthcare. Out of that, three workgroups emerged that focused on patient engagement, data interoperability, and "how to move forward from antiquated regulations that maybe worked in a fee for service world but don't work in an alternative payment and reform world," DeVore says.

To those who might be skeptical that Congress and the White House are likely to make progress on healthcare regulatory issues in a partisan election year, DeVore said she and her fellow industry leaders acknowledged the challenge but were nevertheless optimistic. After all, she notes that Congress was able to pass the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act last year, ushering in long-sought physician payment reform.

Plus, she adds, "we actually intentionally tried to come up with initiatives that we thought were implementable in the current environment because they were bipartisan and because everybody was philosophically in agreement on them."

For example, she cites the HLC's recommendations to improve the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services' Medication Therapy Management model. "CMS rolled it out, but they didn't include Medicare Advantage in it, and it's got maybe too long a timeframe on it," DeVore says. Given how critical the issue of medication adherence is to patient outcomes and cost management, the HLC believes its suggested tweaks are likely to be implemented, she adds.

DeVore believes all six recommendations are "implementable in today's environment." But from her perspective, two topics stand out as the most pressing.

For one, she says that making data interoperability a priority is critical in order to drive the delivery and payment reforms the health system is striving toward.

"I think healthcare information interoperability and removing some of the barriers in those antiquated regulations that really help us connect the information and have the flexibility to actually implement these forward-looking payment models and delivery models are really important," she says. "So we don't have the luxury of taking 10 years to have an interoperability roadmap. We've got to have interoperability in two years."

In addition, the HLC's suggestions for how to speed up the Food and Drug Administration's regulatory processes are especially important given the drug-pricing challenges facing the healthcare industry, she says. Not only will this help get patients the drugs they need more quickly, but also "the more competitors you bring, the more products you bring, the more generics you bring, the more biosimilars you bring, the better you're able to actually manage the cost because it creates competition that actually drives that cost down," according to DeVore.

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