Quality and Efficiency at the 2011 Connected Health Symposium

We are incredibly excited this year to be hearing from both Brent James and Atul Gawande at our annual Connected Health Symposium.  They each point out the importance of quality, safety and efficiency in achieving the vision of a health care system that can meet the care requirements of our nation while keeping costs in check.  Let me say a word or two about each and then share about why we recruited them and how they fit into connected health.

Brent James is Chief Quality Officer at Intermountain Healthcare based in Salt Lake City.  He is known nationwide for his relentless focus on quality, measurement and outcomes. His organization is the envy of health care leaders far and wide, as they’ve been able to deliver high quality, standardized (do I dare use that charged word?) care and achieve success — by all measures — doing it.  Brent was featured in a wonderful New York Times Magazine piece in November 2009.  He is on record advocating for improved efficiency of care delivery, for measuring our effectiveness and for reporting these data to patients, payers and regulators. He is also on record advocating for shared decision making and for wholesale payment reform.

Atul Gawande needs no introduction to most of you.  He has been a prolific writer for the New Yorker and published three New York Times bestselling books.  He has a wonderful way of telling stories about his training and work as a surgeon, about his experiences with patients and about how we, as professions, can do better.  He too is passionate about quality improvement.  He has taken the simple idea of checklists and made that into a movement in healthcare, using time-outs, lists, and processes to prepare for events that have a high degree of potential patient safety risk (surgery being the prototype).

We are excited that both of these giants will be sharing their thoughts with us.

Why did we recruit them and how do they fit in to the connected health ecosystem?

Both share a passion for patient-centric care, as we do, believing that it is fundamentally better care and will conserve dollars.  Both are advocates for health information technology and connected health is a subset of that domain.

The best way to contextualize these two speakers, though, is to think about how a connected patient population would impact their respective visions.  Imagine a world where we are all equipped with ‘wear and forget’ sensors continuously streaming wireless information about one’s health. This forms a powerful set of information to analyze and on which to base quality and performance decisions.

A good example of this is our Diabetes Connect program.  Patients who are having challenges controlling  their A1c or are starting insulin therapy upload blood glucose readings to our database using a wireless home hub.  We share that information back with them in a way that is contextually relevant; we also provide it to a diabetic nurse in dashboard format so decisions can be made just-in-time about care plan modifications.

We’ve shown that increasing engagement from both patients (as measured by frequency of blood glucose upload) and care provider (as measured by frequency of logging into the Diabetes Connect website) lead to improved A1c (up to a 1.5% drop when both parties are engaged).

Imagine, for example, if Dr. James’ vision of quality and measurement was enhanced by these sorts of data streaming in about all of Intermountain’s patients.

The opportunities to analyze, segment, intervene and measure the effect of interventions are enormous.  We believe this will be a reality in the not-to-distant future. In fact, based on the success of programs like Diabetes Connect, our organization, and others, is moving steadily in this direction.

At the Connected Health Symposium, we’ll have the opportunity to discuss the challenges of improving quality care, patient safety and efficiency with such thought leaders as Drs. James and Gawande who are, right now, putting technology to work – and making it work for providers and patients.