The Future of Health Podcast

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Rasu Shrestha is physician and business executive who spends his time thinking about how to keep people out of his hospitals. Well, sort of. Rasu is the Chief Innovation Officer at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) and Executive Vice President at UPMC Enterprises, where he leads a large team of people working to align all sides of the payer-provider-patient relationship work together. The goal?

[To] make sure that thriving becomes a thing so that if we don’t do a procedure, if we don’t have a patient in our hospital beds, economically it still makes sense for the system as a whole.

Rasu and the UPMC team work from the assumption that patient-centric care and building an economically viable business don’t have to be mutually exclusive. So, they give people access to tools that will help them become (or stay) healthy and stay out of UPMC’s hospital beds. At the same time, UPMC isn’t just a hospital system, but also a payer. With this integrated system, along with the portfolio of companies within UPMC Enterprises, the organization is finding ways to maintain actual wellness without having the revenue pressure of doing more procedures. Value-based care writ large.

If our hospital beds are filled in the future we have failed. And we’re specifically focusing on technologies and capabilities that would allow for our hospital beds not to be filled.

It’s a perfect example of innovating around people, rather than the “commoditized” patient. It’s aligning the incentives of everyone involved to make a quality decision where everyone sees a benefit.

Importantly, it’s also about a willingness to see small adjustment as “innovative.” That’s idea that a lot of us are probably uncomfortable with. So much of the language we use equates innovation with revolutionizing an industry, which isn’t necessarily wrong. But Rasu sees innovation, in part, as making incremental changes in the healthcare system that will drive behavioral change in individuals. Changing course two degrees at a time, which over time will alter the final destination dramatically. Once enough individuals change their behavior, you’re looking at massive gains in health—health of people and health of the system as a whole.

Accomplishing behavior change depends on a good use of data. Taking all of the data and then extracting the useful parts:

It’s really about transforming that data, connecting the dots, and putting all of that in the context of the decisions you’re trying to make. And moving from data to information, from information to knowledge. And taking that knowledge and getting insights. Contextualizing those insights and then getting to what we’re really talking about, which is behavior change.

By using good science, extracting actionable insights from big data, and integrating the payer with the provider, Rasu sees UPMC and similar organizations creating financially viable businesses that also make life better for people:

Healthcare shouldn’t just be about surviving. It should really be about thriving.

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