In spite of the relatively unstable environment that is the current American health care system, five experts offered their thoughts on the evolution of Houston’s health care ecosystem.
Erik Halvorsen, Ph.D., director of the TMC Innovation Institute, was one of the panelists invited to be a part of the Houston Business Journal’s Power Breakfast Series to discuss “The Future of Health Care.”
He was joined by Julia Andrieni, M.D., vice president of population health and primary care and president and CEO of Houston Methodist Coordinated Care; Bob Morrow, M.D., market president of Houston and Southwest Texas at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas; Dan Parsley, senior vice president of corporate development at angelMD Inc., located in the TMC Innovation Institute; and Chris Skisak, Ph.D., executive director of the Houston Business Coalition on Health. The panel was moderated by Bob Charlet, market president and publisher of the Houston Business Journal.
The panelists agreed that though the status of health care is complicated, the challenging environment provides fertile ground for new ideas.
“There are great opportunities for startups right now, and the innovation we are seeing is unbelievable,” Halvorsen said. “It’s going to continue to come from young entrepreneurs who are on the cutting edge.”
They said Houston has the potential to be a leader in health care worldwide, and it is headed that way, with the Texas Medical Center driving innovation. What is lacking in the ecosystem, however, is the investment in those innovations to keep them based here, and physicians who can move them through the system, Parsley said.
“We need the capital and management expertise to take ideas, create a business around them, exit that business and start the next one,” he said.
The Houston ecosystem is improving, though, he noted, especially with investments made by Johnson & Johnson Innovation in both JLABS @ TMC and the upcoming Center for Device Innovation, as well as the AT&T Foundry for Connected Health, all located in the TMC Innovation Institute.
In addition, with the creation of incubators and accelerators like TMCx, BioHouston, Station Houston, and the Houston Technology Center, as well as support from institutions of higher education, including University of Houston and Rice University, the city is pulling together to offer an environment that can sustain a startup ecosystem, Parsley said.
The kind of care patients should expect to see in the future will be value-based and more personalized, Andrieni said. For example, Houston Methodist uses data and analytics to identify gaps in care and determine the best places to deploy resources.
In addition, her team looks at a patient’s “whole picture” to figure out the social determents that affect their health, among them access to food and shelter, security, mental health and social isolation: all things that impact a patient’s ability to get care and continue a health care regimen. To keep patients involved, they look for innovative patient engagement tools and gaming.
Along the same lines, Blue Cross Blue Shield’s technology is working on predictive models that will soon be smart enough to know someone is going to be sick before it happens, Morrow said.
Part of the challenge will be helping the small population of patients with treatable chronic conditions that often contribute to the majority of the costs in health care, Skisak said. The goal with those patients is to use predictive analytics to shift care toward prevention rather than simply treatment while patients are sick, Andrieni added.
“Turning the ship around is going to be a huge endeavor,” she said. “We are putting the ingredients together, but everyone has to recognize it will be an enormous shift.”
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