Reducing Cost and Inefficiency
Do you think that electronic systems can be implemented to help take cost and inefficiency out of health care billing and payment systems? Have you seen any that hold promise? Conklin: There is an assumption here that we are paying too much for health care. I am not sure that we necessarily are. While I do believe that systems can make care more efficient and effective, I am not sure that it will cost less as a result (except if we somehow slow expectations of speedy return on investment dollars for the big systems developers).The challenge we are addressing is to bring exactly the right information to the point of service, whether that is bringing the right clinical information to a retail activity (for example, knowing a patient's allergies when he or she is buying vitamins from our e-store) or into a clinical interaction (such as remote monitoring of a patient to ensure compliance or that we can intervene with a lesser level of service before a patient's condition deteriorates). Temple: Absolutely, positively, unequivocally. The challenge is that every inefficiency and dysfunction within the health care delivery system has a well-funded stakeholder who stands to lose a great deal if that inefficiency were to be remedied. The technology is here today, but we need a political will to really mandate that it get deployed. HIPAA [Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act] was supposed to be a big step in that direction, but the HIPAA transactional standards have been around since 2003 and really even to this day haven't enjoyed the traction that we all thought they would to streamline and digitize many aspects of the health care revenue cycle process.
We are in the process of implementing an architecture that will support services across our entire organization, including traditional acute care, community services, retail services and our international markets. These services will provide the capability to create a very customer-friendly, "sticky" environment like that on Amazon.com where we will be able to customize relationships with our customers (patients, clinicians, family members, retail shoppers, and so on).