What Keeps Top Healthcare CEOs Up at Night?

October 16, 2013
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healthcare CEO panel

healthcare CEO panel

First published on MedCityNews.comThe reason that innovation in healthcare has lagged behind innovation in other industries certainly isn’t because of a shortage of ideas. That was the message from a panel of executives representing investors, providers, insurers and medical products at the Cleveland Clinic Medical Innovation Summit Monday.

They were asked what keeps them up at night, and a theme quickly emerged: The challenge of both staying afloat and getting ahead as healthcare evolves so quickly.

“How do we embrace new business models […] when we have $18 billion out there in what the business model is today?” questioned Sue Spiegel, the CEO of GE’s healthymagination initiative. “How fast can we evolve that, and how fast can we really partner with the innovators and scale it within the constraints of policy and reimbursement? We’re innovating faster than we can get things through the system.”

Also speaking from the investor perspective, Harry Rein, partner emeritus at venture capital firm Foundation Medical Partners, echoed the challenge of that when evaluating potential investments. “Things are changing so quickly that […] how long does that business model stay relevant?” he said. “Maybe it’s a great idea and it’s going to work where we are today, but when we go three moves down the chessboard, is that really going to work?”

George Barrett, CEO of Cardinal Health, spoke to that from the corporate perspective. “We have to compete in the world we know today but at the same time recognize that the last thing we want to be is great at something that’s irrelevant in a few years.”

From the payer side of the equation, WellPoint CEO Joseph Swedish said his concerns are a bit different. In WellPoint’s world, the fastest growing cost component is in specialty drugs, he said. His wants to make sure that WellPoint is not denying patients use of innovative pharmaceuticals or devices because of potential costs. “Our challenge is to figure out how not to let cost considerations be the primary consideration,” he said. “It’s going to be at the end of the trail, after the analysis of the outcomes, after our collaborations with pharmas […] but we want to make sure we don’t deny best care possible because of cost.”

But no amount of new treatments or cost cutting will be enough if the demographics of the country don’t change, said Cleveland Clinic CEO Toby Cosgrove. “We have to control (the obesity) pandemic,” he said. “And we have to look for innovative ways to do that.”

[Image credit: @AstraZenecaUS]