Last year tested nearly every aspect of the healthcare system, making the 2021 J.P. Morgan Health Care Conference like none other in its 39-year history. But there’s at least one constant from the past few years – the insight Dan Michelson, CEO at Strata Decision Technology, offers in the recap he writes for Becker’s Hospital Review.
With a customer base that includes 2,000+ hospitals and 400+ healthcare systems, about half of all U.S. healthcare flows through Strata’s financial analytics and performance platform. Needless to say, this gives Dan a unique vantagepoint to observe and add context around the discussions healthcare’s most influential leaders have at JPM every January.
Dan’s biggest takeaway this year? While the pandemic stretched providers to the limit – placing extreme demand on care delivery and untold pressures on their financial stability at the same time – the system proved that it’s too vital to fail. But If providers want to be able to say the same thing ten years from now, they’ll have to look and operate much differently than they do today.
Just like last year, Dan talked to Keith Figlioli for a special Healthcare is Hard episode where they dissect the ideas from JPM that set the stage for the months and years ahead. They talked about what was lost and gained by holding the event virtually, but more importantly, what they took away that will help health systems – and everyone that supports them – build back stronger. Some of the topics they discussed include:
- The Mindset for 2021. Everyone thinks the future is hard to predict, but at this point in healthcare, Dan says it really isn’t. Strata has been working with a cohort of about 50 health systems throughout the pandemic to study patient volumes and utilization, publishing findings every two weeks that have become a monitor for the financial and operational impact of Covid-19. Based on the data, he expects volumes in 2021 to remain at their current levels (which are down across the board from 2019) through most of year and begin to pick back up in the fourth quarter. He says the mindset health systems have this year is to “keep it going as best we can” and that 2022 will be the year they expect a return to “normal.”
- Proving the Payvider Model. As the disconnect between payer and provider continues to cause frustration for consumers, integrated models that align incentives have provided relief, offering a better experience at a lower cost. And the financial stability that integrated systems experienced through the pressures of the pandemic offered another very important proof point for the future of the payvider model. Dan points to Intermountain Healthcare – and former Healthcare is Hard guest Bert Zimmerli – as an example to emulate.
- The Year of Digitizing Operations. Dan expects to see a very big swing back to managing costs and driving productivity through automation and digitization in 2021. There was no time to worry about cost last year, but as volume remains low and the payer mix impairs profitability, innovation and efficiency are coming back into focus.
- Following the Money to Home Health. Out of necessity, the pandemic pushed home health and telehealth years ahead of where they would otherwise be. But Dan talks about how health systems won’t maintain their support for home health unless financial incentives align. The speed with which this shift happens will depend largely on CMS taking the lead and putting the right incentives in place.
To hear Dan and Keith talk about these topics and more, listen to this episode of Healthcare is Hard.