Mayo’s Chief Digital Officer: The hospital of the future isn’t just about technology

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Technologists conjure up images of the hospital of the future as a network of connected devices, automated systems and virtual visits. While all these innovations are important, Rita Khan said planning for the future of healthcare should go beyond technology alone.

“I think there are a lot of opportunities to step back and not just think about interesting technologies that can be applied,” she said at MedCity INVEST’s virtual conference. “I think care delivery itself will change significantly over the next 10 years.”

Khan was named Mayo Clinic’s first chief digital officer in December. Though Mayo Clinic was no slouch when it comes to technology, Khan was tasked with building solutions that lead to a better consumer experience.

For instance, she’s interested in remote patient monitoring and remote diagnostics. But more broadly, she sees an important opportunity to improve the patient experience and take a more holistic look at care, whether it takes place in patients’ homes, the hospital, or another setting.

“We should rethink or reinvent the whole system. How do you support distancing with your family? How do you make it safe for employees?” she said. “All of these things we need to rethink and build into the hospital of the future.”

Dr. Genevieve Melton-Meaux, chief analytics and care innovation officer for Minnesota-based M Health Fairview, is also taking a closer look at how to strike a balance between virtual and in-person care. For example, the health system is looking to use virtual visits for behavioral health appointments when possible, and is also using remote patient monitoring for patients with Covid-19 who don’t need to be hospitalized.

Melton-Meaux is also looking at ways to make the entire process smoother for both patients and providers. For example, most telehealth platforms currently are not fully integrated with health record systems.

“We’re still working through a lot of these pains,” she said. “We are at such an interesting time where it is clear that healthcare is going to become and has to becomes much more consumer centric.”


Payers and policy

Payers will also have a big role to play in the future of digital care — something that both leaders are watching. Prior to the pandemic, virtual programs traditionally were reimbursed at a fraction of the cost, or in some cases, weren’t covered at all.

Now, legislators and insurers are stuck with the task of figuring out what that rate should be in the long term.

“The idea of being reimbursed for a phone visit at party was unheard of,” Melton-Meaux said. “There’s not an expectation for parity. There’s an expectation that it can be viable. That a provider with expertise can provide these services in a way that’s convenient for patients.”

Khan said that Mayo Clinic was actively having conversations with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and private payers. Notably, a handful of insurers have committed to offering plans with no-copay telehealth next year, a broad expansion from what was covered prior to the pandemic.

“Everyone understands care and models of care are changing. There’s a huge push for better health outcomes and driving affordability and frankly I think viMrtual care can be a part of that,” Khan said. “We can’t lose this opportunity and this moment of transformation.”

Both leaders are also keeping an eye to other legislation that could change the patient experience, such as new interoperability requirements that are going into effect, and HHS’ price transparency rules, which would require health systems and insurers to disclose their negotiated rates.

“There is an absolute responsibility for all members of the value chain for healthcare to move in the direction of consumer transparency and empowerment,” Khan said. “That means we all have to do a little lifting. The interoperability rules will help with that.”

Photo credit: nevarpp, Getty Images

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