Placing patients in the healthcare ecosystem
From the SAS Health and Life Sciences blog: A Shot in the Arm
When I present SAS’ health and life sciences strategy in meetings and conferences, I often start with four principles that have served to guide the organization’s charter:
1. The health and life sciences ecosystem is fundamentally broken.
2. Deeper insights into patients and organizations are needed to improve it.
3. These insights will come from a new era of industry analytics.
4. These analytics will rely on data found all across the ecosystem.
There was a time when my message was received – let’s see, how should I say it – less than warmly on at least one of these principles. But those days have long passed. Now, it seems not so much a matter of defining the “what” as the “how” and “when.”
The centerpiece of this new view of improving healthcare is the patient. Of course, any industry veteran can tell you that patients have always been at the center, so one might argue that this new view isn’t so new. And yet, we find ourselves in our current situation of rising costs, questionable outcomes, and inconsistent safety and quality records. If patients have been the intended focus, are we really hitting the mark?
I do believe that most healthcare organizations already have patients at the centerpiece of their strategies. But I’d be willing to bet that, like SAS, there are reasons clear and obvious to those involved that explain why the day-to-day activity and progress does not always line up with improvement that benefits patients.
Whether we look at electronic medical records, business intelligence software adoption, disease management programs, aggregate drug safety analyses, or a myriad of other insight-oriented capabilities not fully operational across the ecosystem, we can readily cite the reasons why we are not able to make better information-based decisions. And the expected declines in IT spending in 2009 as a result of the general economic slowdown will undoubtedly delay what progress is being made.
Meanwhile, patients are actively educating themselves on healthcare options, costs and outcomes. They are not waiting to be given the answers: They are going out and finding the answers themselves with online resources, patient communities and health information assets of all types. They are using software to bring disparate information together to make better decisions about family health. To that end, maybe SAS should – as a recent commenter suggested – be in the consumer healthcare software business.
It’s true. SAS software is used primarily by business and academia as opposed to consumers, so our focus tends to reside with those constituents. But the more I think about it, the more it makes sense to include healthcare consumers in my blog’s description. It now reads: “Welcome to the SAS Health and Life Sciences blog. We explore how the healthcare ecosystem – providers, payers, pharmaceutical firms, regulators and consumers – can collaboratively leverage information and analytics to transform health quality, cost and outcomes.”
Jason Burke is the Global Director of Health and Life Sciences for SAS.