WellPoint CEO: Healthcare Revolution Under Way

Philip Betbeze, for HealthLeaders Media , March 28, 2014

One of the reasons (and there are literally hundreds) healthcare is so expensive is that because of a lack of good data, physicians and other clinical caregivers had long been reduced to an educated guessing game on how to treat a patient's problem, which might be serious, and which might not, unless that patient was sitting right in front of them—maybe in the ED.

Another way to describe the magnitude of the coming transformation is that the art of medicine is changing to the science of medicine. With devices and data now available to nearly instantaneously guide clinicians on how to proceed, often without the patient having to physically visit a site of care, vast amounts of staff time and expensive interventions can be avoided.

Not an Insurer
That's one reason Swedish, the former president and CEO of Trinity Health, doesn't like to use the word "insurer" when referring to his company. Instead, he calls it a health benefits company. As such, he wants his organization to lead the deployment of data-dependent decision-making tools and monitoring devices that he says have the potential to not only reduce the cost of providing care, but also to improve patient outcomes.

Asking the audience to use their imagination, he described a patient whose EKG readings are being continuously monitored. Whose blood pressure, blood sugar, and any number of other vital signs are also being continuously monitored. You might envision that person in the intensive care unit of a major trauma center. But no, Swedish says such patients might be sleeping in their own bed at home.

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