Aspen Ideas Festival 2012
Discover the big ideas being explored at this seminal event through the voices of Booz Allen leaders.
Booz Allen Senior Vice President Angie Messer spoke with genConnect at the 2012 Aspen Ideas Festival about how bringing together people with diverse backgrounds, experiences, and ideas results in the best solutions for clients.
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At the 2012 Aspen Ideas Festival, Booz Allen Senior Vice President Peter Trick participated on a panel about “smart” transportation, and he attended several other discussions on the topic of cities and infrastructure. His takeaway: We need to think about redesigning our cities because they will be our economic engines.
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Booz Allen Senior Vice President Kevin Vigilante, MD, shares his observations about the Aspen Ideas Festival panel discussion titled “Healthcare and the US Economy.” The panel was moderated by Booz Allen Executive Vice President Jimmy Henry, and panelists included Peter Orszag, vice chairman of global banking at Citigroup; Elizabeth Nabel, president of Brigham and Women’s Hospital and professor of medicine at Harvard; and Martin Gaynor, the E.J. Barone Professor of Economics and Health Policy at the Heinz College of Carnegie Mellon University.
What was the most important point to come out of the conversation?
This panel was able to describe some of the bottom-line items we need to pay attention to in order to constrain costs while maintaining the quality of care. That ultimately drives us to the core question: How do we promote value? That is the crux of the issue.
I would resist the axiom that healthcare quality is compromised every time we reduce costs. A large body of evidence indicates that an enormous amount of care delivered in this country is unnecessary, wasteful and redundant, poorly coordinated, or inefficient. If we can extract that waste, it will both reduce costs and improve the quality of care. The idea that it is somehow a zero-sum game simply isn’t true.
How is Booz Allen engaging with its clients to tackle healthcare costs?
Through our E3 campaign—Enterprise Effectiveness and Efficiency—we deliver both results. Often this involves identifying variations in care. At the first level of cost analysis, we work with clients to understand where the outliers in a given healthcare system are located. That helps our clients zero in on and understand processes that are not being optimized. Cost issues are often a systems engineering problem.
Can you share an example of how Booz Allen is helping clients simultaneously lower healthcare costs and improve quality?
Booz Allen is currently working with Mercy, a large hospital system, to understand the earliest signs of sepsis, look for ways to detect it earlier, and identify instances where staff is not taking the proper measures to prevent it. Sepsis is a severe, often fatal blood stream infection that occurs in hospitals. We took more than 25,000 electronic health records, and through a natural language processing technique that came out of Booz Allen’s intelligence work, we were able to extract significant data relevant to the issue. By using data analytics to understand what was happening throughout our client’s system, we were able to help them develop a roadmap to improve the quality of care, reduce patient morbidity and mortality, and save many millions of dollars.
It sounds like there’s a real opportunity to draw insights from healthcare data to improve value.
As we think about tools that are available in healthcare to optimize quality and minimize costs, we have the benefit of something we’ve never had before—vast quantities of data that come from enormously diverse sources. We have genetic data now that we can sequence the genome; we have clinical data that comes from electronic health records; we have multiple sources of data that we never had before to correlate and use to answer questions, or even to pose questions around how better to treat patients so that we’re giving the right care to the right people at the right time and we’re avoiding treatments for other people that now we know don’t work.
The problem is the amount of data we have is quickly outrunning our ability to analyze it. We have to bring different methodologies to analyzing data, and we think there’s a great opportunity here to use capabilities from the intelligence community, which very often deals with very large amounts of data, known as big data. Because decision-velocity is very important in the intelligence community, analyzing that data has to happen fast, and it often comes from different sources and lacks sufficient context. This is analogous to the healthcare environment. We believe by taking our very robust intelligence analytics capability and bringing that into the healthcare space, we’ll be able to make strong contributions to analyzing big data better and faster and to putting a different lens on the data.
How else is Booz Allen helping its healthcare clients reduce costs?
For instance, we work with clients on developing better information technology services throughout an organization. Often that means right-sizing the IT infrastructure. This is an area that is not controversial to staff or patients, and it saves the client considerable amounts of money on the back end. We also help with strategic sourcing and supply chain management. Costs are driven up when an institution has 15 orthopedists each using different bone graph material or several cardiologists using different cardiac stents. When our clients reduce these variations and use volume purchasing to negotiate better prices, they save a lot of money. Booz Allen brings these kinds of industry best practices to help increase efficiency for our clients.
Talk for a minute about the innovations occurring throughout the healthcare system that are driving down costs and improving care.
We are never going to emerge through our current conundrum by brute force or working harder—it’s going to be through innovation. The question is this: How do we introduce incentives so that physicians and hospitals, payers and patients are all incented and rewarded for optimizing health and positive outcomes? We’re seeing this in parts of the Affordable Care Act, with accountable care organizations, bundled payments, and health savings accounts. These are all innovations that create those incentives, and they are starting to ripple through the system.
How is innovation at the systemic level going to reflect in the personal care that patients experience?
There are already such innovations in how we deliver and monitor care, how we use mobile applications and personal monitoring devices to collect data. But we need to keep in mind that our whole system of care is based on a 19th century model—the visit. You go to see a doctor who takes care of you, and then you go home. That is not the right paradigm. We need to move toward what the Institute of Medicine calls a “continuous healing relationship” through which the healthcare system is available to the patient 24/7. It’s a team-based model of healthcare where you can share information with providers through a variety of modalities, whether its texting, e-mail, mobile apps, or wearable monitors. It is model for coordinated care and chronic disease management that is vastly different than we’ve used in the past. Until we make this shift, we will not control the costs that were driven by chronic disease and optimize the quality that all these patients deserve.Read more and comment