In November, I had the privilege of presenting and attending the 2023 Becker's Healthcare 11th Annual CEO + CFO Roundtable. This gathering in Chicago brought together leading minds from top hospitals and health systems to address the most pressing issues in healthcare today.

The conference, structured across multiple session tracks, included keynotes, discussions on strategy, leadership, finance, and more. It was particularly illuminating to see the emphasis on rural healthcare, digital transformation, health equity, C-suite diversity, and other pivotal topics.

Our partner, Palo Alto Networks, sponsored a round table discussion titled, Health Equity as a Team Sport, where I was joined by Stacy Stika, CISO and VP of Technology at Integris Health, Dr. Jay Bhatt, Managing Director at Deloitte, and Jason Wessel, Principal Global Healthcare Solutions Consultant at Palo Alto.  Our well-attended discussion dove deep into the crossroads of where health equity meets technology – 'techquity.'  

I shared with the audience that health equity certainly isn't a new concept; it's becoming increasingly prominent in healthcare strategies. Technology plays a vital role in enhancing health equity by improving access to care, especially for underserved and marginalized populations. Virtual care, for instance, can overcome geographic barriers, connect patients with culturally and linguistically appropriate providers, and facilitate the integration of care coordinators, referrals to specialists, and community resources. The design, development, implementation, and iteration of digital tools through a health equity human-centered lens are crucial to ensure they serve diverse populations effectively and do not widen existing disparities. Unfortunately, challenges such as the digital divide and health literacy can limit access to these technologies. Ensuring equitable access requires addressing the digital determinants of health, like technology use patterns, infrastructure, and digital literacy. Additionally, technology should be integrated into clinical workflows in a manner that supports proactive patient engagement and accounts for social determinants of health (SDoH).

I also spoke about how digital health tools can improve care delivery access, patient outcomes, and health equity.  Utilizing non-broadband network digital health tools enables remote monitoring of patients, allowing for continuous care outside the traditional clinical setting. This is particularly beneficial for chronic disease management, where regular monitoring is crucial.  Technologies that support mobile health clinics (specialized RVs or trailers) in communities where the need is greatest and where people can access these services can prevent emergency room visits, improve vaccination administration, promote health maintenance screening, provide laboratory, dental, visual care services, disseminate education, and deliver mental health and social services brings access closer and can improve outcomes. Integrating SDoH data into the clinical workflow can benefit providers, providing insights to overlooked populations suffering from care inequities. Additionally, platforms that offer lifestyle and health education information in the patient's native language, tailored to their specific cultural contexts, will make health information more accessible, understandable, and actionable.

I shared further thoughts on AI's benefits and pitfalls with equitable care: It can improve diagnostic accuracy and personalized treatment plans, enhance clinical resource allocation, and automate administrative tasks to name just a few advantages.  However, if the data is unrepresentative of the population, resulting in biased algorithms, this will be unsuccessful.  Other concerns I noted were those of data privacy, depersonalization of care, accessibility, poor understanding, and lack of trust can be potential barriers. 

Outside of our engaging discussion and over the course of the week, I was able to hear what other healthcare leaders shared about the challenges, strategies, and solutions they were facing within their healthcare systems. 

Technology and Digital Transformation:

  • Kevin Mahoney, CEO of University of Pennsylvania Health System: Highlighted leveraging technology to simplify care and embed it seamlessly into patients' lives while reducing clinician workload.
  • Erik Wexler, COO of Providence: Discussed shifting care delivery outside traditional hospital settings, integrating AI and technology to enhance the patient experience.
  • Kevin Mahoney, CEO at University of Pennsylvania Health System: Highlighted leveraging technology to simplify care and embed it seamlessly into patients' lives while reducing clinician workload.
  • Erik Wexler, President & COO at Providence: Discussed shifting care delivery outside traditional hospital settings, integrating AI and technology to enhance the patient experience.
  • Michael Archuleta, CIO of Mt. San Rafael Hospital and Clinics: Highlighted the role of digital transformation in enhancing care quality and accessibility.

Patient-Centric Care and Accessibility:

  • Craig Kent, CEO of UVA Health: Emphasized a system-wide approach to centralize infrastructure, improve patient outcomes, and increase access to care, especially in rural populations.
  • Robert Higgins, President at Brigham and Women's Hospital & Executive VP at Mass General Brigham: Spoke about transforming care delivery through innovative programs like Home Hospital.

Strategic Growth and Partnerships:

  • Russ Johnson, CEO of LMH Health: Talked about building partnerships for scale and value in healthcare services.
  • Melisa Adkins, CEO of UofL Health: Urged for innovation and the implementation of new, ROI-driven ideas.
  • Craig Kent, CEO of UVA Health: Mentioned strategic growth through acquisitions and partnerships.

Healthcare Innovation and Research:

  • Dr. Shlomit Schaal, Executive VP and Chief Physician Executive at Houston Methodist: Emphasized the importance of patient-centric care, clinical research, and innovation with a highlight on training clinicians with those things in mind.
  • Dr. William Morice, CEO of Mayo Clinic Laboratories: Addressed the evolution of clinical diagnostics in a post-pandemic world.  Today, we are delivering diagnostics to patients at home and in their communities, along with data integration and analytics.

Sustainability and Future Challenges:

  • Dr. Jandel T. Allen-Davis, President and CEO at Craig Hospital: Discussed the importance of innovation to ensure sustainability in the healthcare ecosystem as we wrestle with workforce challenges, politics, and declining reimbursements.
  • Dr. Manmeet Ahluwalia, Chief of Medical Oncology, Deputy Director and Chief Scientific Officer at Miami Cancer Institute: Focused on AI's role in enhancing care quality and addressing care disparities.

These insights underscore a crucial shift towards technology, innovation, patient-centric models, and strategic partnerships, marking a pivotal moment in the evolution of healthcare. It was obvious these discussions align closely with our commitment at WWT to driving innovation and excellence in healthcare.