The Future of Healthcare with Dr. Harry Greenspun

As part of my series on The Future of Healthcare, I’ve had the opportunity to interview Dr. Harry Greenspun. Dr. Greenspun is a physician executive focusing on healthcare transformation. He has served on the advisory boards for the World Economic Forum, Anthem, Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS). He has also made recommendations to […]

As part of my series on The Future of Healthcare, I’ve had the opportunity to interview Dr. Harry Greenspun. Dr. Greenspun is a physician executive focusing on healthcare transformation. He has served on the advisory boards for the World Economic Forum, Anthem, Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS). He has also made recommendations to the Obama administration and Congress on the importance of health IT investment. Prior to Guidehouse, he was CMO of Korn Ferry Health. Previously, he served as the Managing Director of the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions.

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Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I started my career as a cardiac anesthesiologist at Johns Hopkins, conducting research on minimally invasive heart surgery and collecting data on patients using paper forms. This was in the early 1990’s, at the dawn of databased-backed websites. I got a group at MIT to build an online registration, which we quickly deployed at centers worldwide. I realized that information technology was going to have a profound impact on healthcare, so I decided to launch my first company while still in clinical practice. That launched me on the path of progressively larger roles across all sectors of healthcare.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you in your career?

I have always played in bands and in 2012 was asked to help record a music video calling for patients to have access to their own information. Search “Gimme My DaM Data” if you’re really curious. It featured appearances by Aneesh Chopra, Todd Park, e-Patient Dave deBronkart and others. To this day, it continues to resurface at conferences, on podcasts, and other venues.

Can you tell our readers a bit about why you are an authority in the healthcare field?

My experience spans all aspects of healthcare (clinical, research, business), and all sectors (payor, provider, life sciences, government) both in the U.S. and globally. It also includes new entrants to the industry as well as new care delivery models and clinical transformation solutions, including telemedicine/telehealth, health monitoring devices, technology companies, retailer solutions, and others.

What makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Guidehouse is unique in that we are the 3rd largest consultancy working with the Federal Government, yet operate as a nimble start-up. Our entreprenural spirit gives us the flexibility and agility to organize around converging customer needs, rather than in traditional silos. This enables us to create truly cross-functional teams to address complex issues drawing from our experts in behavioral medicine, public health, analytics, change management, and others. As an example, we have been able to create truly innovative solutions to predict suicide risk among veterans, enabling early intervention. We have also done other great work related to environmental health hazards, examining all aspects from predictive modeling to community resilience, aspects of importance with working to understand the social determinants of health of a population or group of cohorts.

Can you share with our readers about the innovations that you are bringing to and/or see in the healthcare industry? How do you envision that this might disrupt the status quo? Which “pain point” is this trying to address?

We are addressing complex analytics opportunities with the change management needs required to properly benefit from data. Healthcare has historically collected vast quantities of data, but has had little insight into what it means or how to act upon it. In addition, given that only a small fraction of an individuals’ health is determined by the care they receive, we are incorporating social determinants and other critical elements to get a more holistic view of their health to inform better models of healthcare. With that, we are helping organizations capitalize on this information to improve clinical care, research, operations, and the patient/consumer experience.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

We are tackling some of the biggest problems facing vast swaths of the industry. This includes helping public sector clients (NIH, FDA, CMS, CDC, VA, DHA) with their biggest challenges, as well as critical challenges facing academic medical centers, health systems, payers, providers, and non-profits. Ultimately, by improving their ability to accomplish their respective missions, we are improving the value of the health system, providing better outcomes, delivering greater safety, and designing a better patient experience.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. In healthcare, the problem you’re solving is often not the hard problem to solve. I’ve run into countless companies that have created an elegant product or solution. However, its success relies on addressing a much more difficult issue (physician adoption, interoperability, privacy, etc.).
  2. Being a physician isn’t enough. Just because you understand how healthcare is delivered does not mean you understand how the system works and how businesses are run. Clinical experience is the hardest for people to obtain, but not sufficient to add significant value. Learning management and finance skills are both essential and symbiotic.
  3. As a corollary to #2, being a good business person isn’t enough either. I have seen so many companies started based on a business person’s experience at a doctor’s office which lack even the slightest understanding of healthcare. Sadly, many of these companies can raise (and waste) significant sums of money before collapsing.
  4. You’re not at the center, the patient is. If a solution doesn’t ultimately help patients, it will have limited impact and limited value. Such “solutions” are easy to spot by the PowerPoint slide that shows a constellation of stakeholders and joined together by a circle in the middle with their company logo in it.
  5. Healthcare is hard. Being successful requires an excellent strategy, flawless execution, and extensive change-management.

According to this study cited by Newsweek, the US healthcare system is ranked as the worst among high income nations. This seems shocking. Can you share with us 3–5 reasons why you think the US is ranked so poorly?

Our health system does exactly what it has been built to do. It incentivizes treating illness with complex procedures and therapies, often at the end of life. It skimps on prevention, wellness, behavioral health, and patient engagement, as well as failing to incorporate critical social determinants of health. Thankfully, with the shift toward value-based care, the industry is beginning to align toward better outcomes and lower cost.

You are a “healthcare insider”. If you had the power to make a change, can you share 5 changes that need to be made to improve the overall US healthcare system? Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Accelerate value-based payment models: by rewarding outcomes, incentives are aligned to dramatically improve healthcare. So many areas which have a huge impact on health (wellness, prevention, behavioral health) will be stressed, care will be delivered more appropriately. Quality, safety, and service will increase and cost can be contained.
  2. Accelerate interoperability: Improvements will depend on being able to share information, coordinate care, and employ advanced analytics. That requires removing barriers to data flow.
  3. Address privacy concerns: Even if we are able to readily move data, unless privacy and security concerns are addressed, people will not agree to it. Everyone needs to be confident that their information will be protected and that anyone organization handling their information will be a good steward.
  4. Adopt innovation from other industries: Healthcare has often lagged other industries in innovation. We can learn from their experiences in terms of consumer engagement, personalization, customer service, predictive analytics, mobile enablement and others.
  5. Involve patients and their care teams: Finally, don’t leave patients behind. Healthcare has often served the needs of providers without sufficiently including the perspectives of patients, their families, and caregivers. They can be great advisors and contributors and, when educated and informed, can be our strongest supporters.

It’s great to suggest changes, but what specific steps would need to be taken to implement your ideas? What can individuals, corporations, communities and leaders do to help?

Fundamentally, most of these changes can be dictated by the buyers of healthcare. If employers, government agencies, and patients could agree on definitions of these issues, they could then dictate how their terms to providers, technology companies, pharma, and other stakeholders.

What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a better healthcare leader? Can you explain why you like them?

This industry is changing so quickly, one of the biggest challenges is just keeping up with healthcare news. Every day I get curated news digests from Modern Healthcare, Politico, the American Association of Physician Leadership, and others. I also follow broader technology newsfeeds, since so much innovation comes from outside healthcare.

I also mentor many individuals seeking to advance their healthcare careers, particularly physicians. Diversity (and the challenges faced by diverse candidates) is a big concern of mine, so I regularly listen to Rory Verrett’s “Protégé Podcast,” which is truly enlightening.

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