Big Blue and Health Care

IBM released a white paper (Healthcare 2015: Win-win or lose-lose?, pdf) some time ago outlining their prescription for health care reform. As (could be) expected IBM focuses on a consumer-driven transformation. The executive summary is an interesting read—most (probably all) has been talked/written about before, but it is nice to see it outlined in one place.

A major component of the transformation will be an introduction of accountability and call for action:

Action and accountability are the basic ingredients of change. To successfully transform their healthcare systems, we believe countries will undertake the following actions:

• Focus on value – Consumers, providers, and payers will agree upon the definition and measures of healthcare value and then, direct healthcare purchasing, the delivery of healthcare services, and reimbursement accordingly.

• Develop better consumers – Consumers will make sound lifestyle choices and become astute purchasers of healthcare services.

• Create better options for promoting health and providing care – Consumers, payers, and providers will seek out more convenient, effective, and efficient means, channels, and settings for health promotion and care delivery.

Asymmetric information is a problem we often speak of during discussions of why market functions break down in health care. This next idea has been floated to combat this problem—it will be interesting to see what develops:

Health infomediaries, who will help patients identify the information required to make sound choices, interpret medical information, choose between care alternatives and channels, and interact with the providers they choose, will become fixtures in the healthcare landscape for both the well and the chronically ill, and for a much broader socioeconomic segment of the population.

The company recently launched a health care island in the virtual world SecondLife:

IBM debuted at HIMSS®08 its newest island in Second Life: IBM Virtual Healthcare Island. The island is a unique, three-dimensional representation of the challenges facing today’s healthcare industry and the role information technology will play in transforming global healthcare delivery to meet patient needs.

The island supports the strategic healthcare vision that IBM released in October 2006, entitled, Healthcare 2015: Win-Win or Lose-Lose, A Portrait and a Path to Successful Transformation. The paper paints a picture of a Healthcare Industry in crisis — of health systems in the United States and many other countries that will become unsustainable by the year 2015. To avoid “lose-lose” scenarios in which global healthcare systems “hit the wall” and require immediate and forced restructuring, IBM calls for what it defines as a “win-win” option: new levels of accountability, tough decisions, hard work and focus on the consumer.

The IBM Virtual Healthcare Island is designed with a futuristic atmosphere and provides visitors with an interactive demonstration of IBM’s open-standards-based Health Information Exchange (HIE) architecture. Working with project leads in the U.S., the island was designed and built by an all-IBM-India team.

Corporate America will have much to say about the direction of health care reform in this country (IBM’s interests are two-fold: defining that direction and then helping health care organizations and companies move in that direction).  Corporate concerns have much to say about this looming change.  It is all just so interesting.

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