Connected Health and the Rise of the Patient Consumer

(Health Affairs, February 2014)

How to achieve better care at a lower cost? Two powerful new forces may hold the answer.

America’s health care delivery sector stands at a tipping point—a convergence of a growing, graying, and highly consumptive population with increasingly limited financial and human capital resources.

Policy makers naturally gravitate toward government to provide the framework for solutions to this worsening scenario in which demand outstrips available resources. I’ve spent about equal time in government and the private health sector, and I believe there are two other levers that are more likely to be effective.

The first lever is the rapid ascent of the newly empowered consumer, equipped for the first time with actionable knowledge that can affect his or her health. The second consists of magnificent advances in information technology (IT). The exponential growth and application of these technologies are revolutionizing, in a very short period of time, the automation, connectivity, decision support, and mining of health information and data, which together will radically transform and improve health care delivery.

These two forces are just beginning to come of age. Neither was a significant driver of health care value just three years ago. Today their potential is enormous. Together, the empowered consumer and rapidly advancing health IT will channel our chaotic, fragmented, and wasteful health care sector toward a more seamless, transparent, accountable, and efficient system. They will answer the underlying question of how we will get better care for less cost. They will be the primary keys for game-changing, value-driven reform, where provider compensation and payments are determined not by the type and number of specific services rendered but by the quality and outcomes of care provided.

The rest of this article is available for free courtesy of Health Affairs.