“Healthcare has finally entered the 21st century” Interview with Karen B. DeSalvo, Former Acting Assistant Secretary for Health and National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services

 -Karen B. Desalvo

With just a few months to go until the Digital Healthcare Transformation Assembly, we sat down with Keynote Speaker Karen B. DeSalvo, Former Acting Assistant Secretary for Health and National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services to get her insight into the challenges facing the industry today. We also asked her to provide a sneak peek into her presentation.

Health IT is playing a huge role in healthcare. What opportunities does this present for the industry?

KD: We simply can’t be successful in advancing the value-based care agenda or improving health if we don’t leverage health IT. That is why it was central to our value-based care agenda at the US Department of Health and Human Services. Our strategy was to change the way we paid for care, delivered care and distributed information. We shared the private sector’s view that we would need to not only digitize the care experience but advance data liquidity to support interoperability, population health management, public quality reporting and value-based contracting arrangements, just to name a few uses.

Population Health has been a huge topic of conversation at our events this year. How is digital health technology improving population health?

KD: Health systems and payers increasingly recognize the opportunity to identify those individuals most at risk and the rich resource of data in the electronic health record is allow the development of ever more sophisticated prediction models.  This supports more targeted and effective population health management efforts and also more real-time tracking and team communication about challenges and successes.  Interoperability is essential to this effort.  Success in the value-based care world requires data that can document care utilization and outcomes in the entire health care system driving the business case for data sharing.

How is data transforming healthcare?

KD: The most exciting work in this area is how it is enabling artificial intelligence and machine learning which in turn stands to transform diagnosis, treatment and patient engagement.  In the future, digital support tools will be just as much of the care team as patients will be.  These tools will be able to pull the essential clinical information needed by the physician or nurse for decision-making in that moment and present it in a usable and actionable way. 

In any company, the culture and leadership often make or break digital transformation. What advice would you give to healthcare professionals leading the digital mindset change in their business?

KD: Technology has historically been something that the c-suite delegates and relegates to special conversations. But this is rapidly changing. The transformational changes that came as a part of HITECH and now value-based care have expanded the awareness and experience of executives to health IT and digital health more generally. They are recognizing that health sector leaders who embrace digital care platforms and data are increasing success financially and with health outcomes. And if the positive potential hasn’t yet resonated, the realities of the management, legal, financial and public relations challenges that come with a cybersecurity breach have not been lost on anyone in leadership and is building bridges to the health IT teams and health IT leaders shouldn’t miss that opportunity to open dialogue and advance changes in the culture and priorities of leadership.

What are the biggest challenges facing the industry? Cybersecurity? Patient engagement? Regulation? Policy reform?

KD: I think the biggest policy challenges facing the industry are cybersecurity, data blocking, and understanding privacy. Though there are technical issues in these areas, most of these challenges represent opportunities for the public and private sector to work more collaboratively on the business case and culture change needed in these areas. The leadership of health care systems must take a more aggressive role and make health IT and the associated issues part of their organizational priority list to mitigate risk and strengthen their competitive position. 

How has technology enabled American’s to be more aware of their healthcare needs and how do the providers and payers need to continue to evolve in the digital age?

KD: The revolution in this area is only beginning. We have reached the point where now everyone in America has an electronic health record, and already people are pushing to include new sources of personally generated data and to be able to view, send and download with significantly more flexibility. The data are clear that individuals who have access to their health information in a timely fashion and actionable format are better engaged and more satisfied.  Beyond health information, there is an explosion of exciting innovation on the part of providers and payers leveraging technology to better engage their customers. That said, I think that the health sector is still reticent to share too much and wants too many delays. We need to trust our patients, customers more and respond to their wish to have the information. 

How is the US Department of Health and Human Services working to assist the industry in digitally transforming?

KD: What people don’t always remember is that the federal government is not only a policymaker and regulator of health IT, but also a purchaser, developer, and provider. This makes for a dynamic opportunity for them to interact with the private sector. I am particularly excited about the work the FDA is doing to provide a more supportive environment for technology companies and balancing that with consumer protection through their FDA PreCert program.

Since leaving the US Department of Health and Human Services what areas of Healthcare are you focusing your work on?

KD: I have remained busy working at the intersection of health care, public health, and technology. These past few months have been a great opportunity to understand the social determinants of health movement and help advance the field through knowledge building, guiding organizations, and learning from successful models. 

Where do you see the future of Healthcare innovation in 2020?

KD: The industry is responding to the disruptive forces of technology, consumerism, likely declining revenues and the understanding that social needs are driving cost and outcomes, perhaps more than clinical care. To be successful in the future, they will need to create more direct to consumer products, communication platforms and more transparency in outcomes and pricing. And care models that are increasingly virtual and leveraging Ai to be as customized as possible. There are additional interesting trends to watch including blockchain and the use of digital platforms like Amazon to improve efficiency and effectiveness of the healthcare system.

With only a few months until you keynote the Digital Healthcare Transformation Assembly, can you give our readers a taste of what you’ll be talking about?

KD: There are so many exciting topics in health care right now. I plan to focus in my remarks on progress on bending the trends in cost and health outcomes and what partnerships, competencies, and tools will be needed in the next chapter of this essential work. In particular, will be sharing how health care, public health, and health IT are working together to improve health inclusive of addressing the social determinants of health.

You get invited to speak at a lot of events. What stood out to you about our event, that brings together C-Level executives in an intimate setting?

KD: The title honestly – “Digital Healthcare Transformation Assembly”. Healthcare has finally entered the 21st century and is working to catch up with the digital revolution in other industries. Survival, not only success will depend upon how smartly, effectively and efficiently health systems can make digital part of their core business approach, not just side projects.

Thanks to Karen for joining us on the Digital Diary.



The Millennium Alliance is pleased to announce that application for our bi-annual Digital Healthcare Transformation Assembly is now open! Seats are reserved for the C-Level executives leading the digital healthcare revolution to come together on December 5-6, 2017.

We are thrilled to announce that joining us for this edition will be Keynote Speaker Karen B. DeSalvo Former Acting Assistant Secretary for Health and National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.

The Digital Healthcare Transformation Assembly has been designed for all of our partners, affiliates, and members to once again gather in our unique format to develop new relationships, collaborate with like-minded peers, and learn cutting-edge intelligence to take back home and help tackle the biggest business issues of today.

Limited sponsorship opportunities are available. Download the Digital Healthcare Transformation Assembly Sponsorship Prospectus for more information >>

Our agendas and attendee lists are for Millennium Members only. Apply today for access!

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