In conversations with healthcare leaders at this year’s 2019 HIMSS National Conference, we kept hearing a theme loud and clear: disruption is no longer on the horizon for the healthcare industry. Disruption is here.
A perfect example of this disruption arrived the week of February 11 (at HIMSS 2019 as a matter of fact), when the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) revealed proposed rules requiring new standardizations for insurers and providers in their management of electronic health data. CMS and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology advocate requiring healthcare providers and insurers to utilize open data-sharing technology to provide greater patient transparency and interoperability into the future. As proposed, this rule will require insurers on Medicare Advantage, Medicaid, The Children’s Health Insurance Program, and Affordable Care Act plans to give access to electronic health data to enrollees by next year. 
In short, payers and providers will need to shift rapidly from siloed systems to open, transparent technology platforms and solutions in order to drive the sort of customer-centric care mandated by CMS’ proposed rules. 
Technology is Disrupting Healthcare
Technology as a game changer for the healthcare industry is nothing new, but the industry has been notably slow to adopt key technologies and digitize in a holistic way. Yet technology is the primary solution to closing the gap between customer needs and payer/provider solutions. 
Industry innovators and disruptors are not standing still. Beyond regulatory bodies and long-standing industry players, major technology players, such as Google, Apple, and Amazon are continuing to seek ways to integrate their historically non-healthcare technology offerings into the continuum of care. Consider, for example, Amazon’s acquisition of PillPack and the firm’s partnership with Berkshire Hathaway and JP Morgan.  That was Amazon’s disruptive and innovative activity in 2018. What will this year bring?
In addition, a wide variety of healthcare technology startups are seeking new means to impact payers, providers, and (most importantly) patients in proactive ways. These startups provide a perfect opportunity for industry mainstays to acquire critical technological innovation. Johnson & Johnson, long an acquirer of healthcare technology, acquired its way into medical robotics with its $3.4B deal for Auris. 
Use Technology to Meet Human Needs
So where does this leave industry leaders?
If disruption is here, and technology is its medium, healthcare leaders have the opportunity to make significant shifts by leveraging technology as a game changer.
There is a clear business case for leveraging technology to meet the needs of patients, while also driving both top and bottom-line growth for healthcare organizations. As just one example, AI toolsets can process massive amounts of data, including data pertaining to regulatory and claims concerns. This allows for the redirection of human time and efforts toward effectively meeting patient needs.  When asked what technology will be the most disruptive in coming years, 55% of leaders surveyed indicate that artificial intelligence, across a broad array of functions, will be the most disruptive technology asset across the continuum of care over time. 
There is a broader case being made by healthcare and technology innovators, however. Technology, far from removing the human element of care, can actually drive human-centric, personalized care, reshaping patient interaction, cross-provider collaboration, and, as CMS so clearly advocates, creating transparency across the continuum of care to empower the consumer.  Healthcare, so long considered a reactive industry, can utilize technology to proactively meet the needs of its consumers effectively and impactfully.
This is the promise technology disruption entails: a more cohesive, responsive, and ultimately healthier way to meet consumer needs, from moment to moment.
Leaders Set the Pace of Change
Considering the opportunities, and potential pitfalls, inherent in technology’s disruptive effect on healthcare, how can organizations successfully develop, integrate, adopt, and execute utilizing ground-breaking technology solutions in order to meet consumer needs?
First, confirm the alignment of the technology to your organization’s priorities and attain buy-in. It is critical that the vision for the technology is both consistent and consensus-driven to ensure ongoing alignment and delivery of value.
Second, prepare your organization for the change and impact of the new technology. Operating paradigms will shift, roles will change, and discomfort will occur. Focus the team on the value created by the technology, both for the organization and (most importantly) the consumers impacted. Plan, plan, and plan again, focusing on both operational and technical requirements to drive success.
Third, bend the change curve. Over 29% of organizations react too slowly when implementing transformative strategy, missing opportunities and failing to mitigate emerging risks.  Leaders must set the pace of change by defining the technology strategy, structure execution so that it does not fatigue teams unduly, and map out process roadblocks before encountering them. Once the execution plan is defined, leaders must relentlessly drive implementation and follow through to get results and measure ROI.
In this way, healthcare leaders can embrace industry disruption, from within and without, as a means to positively impact their organizations and, most importantly, their patients.
 See: Robert King, “CMS proposes interoperability rules to increase EHR access”, Modern Healthcare, 2/11/2019.
 What was once considered “patient-centric” should now really be “customer-centric”. After all, there is an entire continuum of care at work, with not only the patient being impacted by the technological changes on our front doorsteps.
 Nikhil Krishnan, “Healthcare Consumerization”, CBInsights. As of 2017, Amazon saw the most AI deals across industries. AI startups are operating on value creation theses designed to disrupt healthcare, from preventative care to telemedicine and beyond.
 See: Sharon Terlep and Laura Stevens, “Amazon Buys Online Pharmacy PillPack or $1 Billion”, The Wall Street Journal, 6/28/2018. Reed Abelson and Tiffany Hsu, “Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway, and JPMorgan Name C.E.O. For Health Initiative”, The New York Times, 6/20/2019.
 Alexandra Garfinkle, “J&J to Buy Auris, Enter Medical Robotics”, The Daily Deal, 2/13/2019.
 Minoo Javanmardian and Aditya Lingampally, “Can AI Address Health Care’s Red-Tape Problem?”, Harvard Business Review, 11/5/18.
 See: “The Most Disruptive Tech Giant in Healthcare”, CBInsights, 1/23/2019.
 See: M. Bridget Duffy, “Keeping Human Stories at the Center of Health Care”, Harvard Business Review, 10/8/2018.
 The Economist Intelligence Unit, “Why Good Strategies Fail: Lessons for the C-Suite”, March 2013. See also: Donald Sull, et al. “Why Strategy Execution Unravels – and What to Do About It”, Harvard Business Review, March 2015.
© Copyright 2019. The views expressed herein are those of the author(s) and not necessarily the views of Ankura Consulting Group, LLC., its management, its subsidiaries, its affiliates, or its other professionals.
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