Female doctor checking a young patient's heartbeat.

Disrupt or Be Disrupted: Health Care Panel Discusses Changing Industry

The fact that the health care landscape is undergoing change is a “captain obvious” type of statement, according to Robert Casalou, president and CEO, Mercy Health & Saint Joseph Mercy Health System.

Casalou was joined by Tina Freese Decker, president and CEO, Spectrum Health, and Dr. Rakesh Pai, medical group president and chief population health officer, Metro Health University of Michigan Health, during a panel discussion focusing on forecasting the future of health care as part of the annual West Michigan Healthcare Economic Forecast, presented on Friday, Jan. 11 at Grand Valley State University’s downtown campus.

Findings from the 10th annual Health Check, a report focusing on industry and population health trends, were also presented at the event.

Casalou was frank, asking whether he and his peers were developing strategies to simply survive or that would actually improve health, noting that health care isn’t really a product that consumers would choose to buy if they didn’t have to.

“Are we selling the product that people want to buy,” Casalou asked.

He forecasted a continuing “medical arms race” among competing health systems, with more consolidation as a result of standalone practices finding it difficult to survive. Entries into the field by Amazon and Google will disrupt the industry and Casalou said systems need to embrace new models.

“We as health care leaders really need to disrupt ourselves or we will be disrupted,” Pai agreed.

With health care consuming almost 20 percent of the country’s GDP, Pai said his hospital system is working to be a “low-cost leader”. He pointed to the phenomenon of patients using GoFundMe accounts to raise nearly $650 million annually for medical costs as a symptom of a system that is unaffordable and also fragmented and confusing.

“It’s not so crystal clear or transparent sometimes,” Pai said.

Freese Decker agreed that “the cost of health care is just unsustainable.”

She sees collaboration and cultural shifts within the walls of hospital systems as part of the answer. At Spectrum, Freese Decker said low- and high-tech programs are helping to lower costs and improve outcomes. Having the right tools, technology and people are key to driving health care improvement forward, Freese Decker said.

View the full Health Check report here.

Read more about health care reform here:

Photo credit: Fat Camera

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