Patient-centrism: The data-driven trend to watch in healthcare transformation

Every day, 750 quadrillion bytes of data are generated in health care. 

And all that data is not only driving the shift from volume to value, but pushing a broader trend that health leaders should be paying close attention to: patient-centrism.

It has become a mantra throughout the modern healthcare system, said Clifton Leaf, editor-in-chief of Fortune magazine, speaking Monday about industry transformation at an event hosted by the National Institute for Health Care Management (NIHCM) Foundation. But patient-centrism reflects a total flip in thinking about patient data access from years' past when patients were typically the last to know about their own health information. 

"A lot of what's happening here is a social and behavioral challenge," Leaf said, as it requires traditional healthcare organizations and new entrants to center their approach around the patient. That wealth of data is also pushing some companies into the healthcare space, Leaf said. Fortune will release its annual Fortune 500 list shortly, and a number of those included this year have jumped recently into healthcare, he said. 

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10 data-driven trends to watch in healthcare transformation

Here are 10 "big trends" driven by data that the industry should be monitoring over the next several years, according to Fortune's Clifton Leaf.

  1. Realignment and merger activity
  2. Patient-centrism
  3. EHRs "get Apple-ed"
  4. Artificial intelligence "democratizes" care
  5. Precision medicine is rebranded as precision health 
  6. De-emphasizing the hospital as the center of care 
  7. Reimagining the clinical trial 
  8. Smarter (and louder) medications
  9.  Population health gets a boost
  10.  A growing focus on the "diseasome" 

That patient-centered mindset informs other trends, he said. A patient-centric healthcare system focuses more on population health and puts less of an emphasis on care provided in traditional hospitals. 

Some of the trends noted by Leaf are in their infancy—"smarter" medications, for example, are not widespread.

But as research continues in this area, these drugs have the opportunity to improve adherence as they can ping devices to let doctors and caregivers know when a patient has taken a specific medication. 

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The industry's move away from fee-for-service isn't—and can't be—entirely high-tech, said Patrick Geraghty, CEO of GuideWell and Florida Blue, who was also speaking at the event. 

Florida Blue and GuideWell, for instance, may offer to visit a patient's home to gather crucial information that can inform their care rather than providing remote monitoring software. "It's very low-tech, but it goes a long way to keeping people healthy," he said. 

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Gail Wilensky, Ph.D., a senior fellow at Project HOPE and former administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services under the first Bush administration, said there are different ways that private and public sectors can influence that transition from volume to value.

The government, she said, is far better at subsidizing and promoting research that has a long lead time and driving large-scale changes, she said. The research at the National Institutes of Health, for example, is often conducting over a wide time frame instead of driven by a desire to commercialize a product. 

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Commercialization is what the private sector does best, however, Wilensky said. It doesn't face the regulatory, legislative or appropriative hurdles that the government does. 

She said the White House's recently released drug pricing plan is an example of the public sector jumping in to provide direction to private business. Though it is still too early to say if the plan will work, Wilensky said that transparency and competition—which the policies promote—must be pushed by government as the market doesn't focus on those elements on its own.