In Lessons Blog

Stanford MedX is an amazing conference held annually through the Stanford School of Medicine. It is a time when entrepreneurs, leaders of companies and patients gather to discuss problems in today’s heath care system and innovative ideas for tomorrow. The event serves as a catalyst for new thinking about the future of medicine and an opportunity to network with healthcare’s brightest minds.

The “X” in the title is meant to focus participants on the endless ways technology can transform and redefine the practice of medicine.

Under the leadership of Dr. Larry Chu and Dr. Bassam Kadry, the conference brings together the best ideas from academia, business and the patient experience in the pursuit of meaningful change. Most importantly, and more than other technology programs, it is both evidence and science based. One of the best parts about presenting at MedX is the constant flow of social media conversations happening around you. Participants take to LinkedIn, Twitter and other relevant platforms to share ideas and spark new conversations. Every year, MedX is a trending topic on twitter during the conference.

I had the chance to address two separate and very different audiences during my two days at MedX. The first audience, taking part in the  2017 Health Care Innovation Summit, was made up of business leaders, CEOs and HR specialists. Their concerns focused on plan designs and ways to solve the cost conundrum without compromising quality. They were intrigued an the idea I shared that involved the nation’s largest companies demanding from healthcare’s biggest stakeholders that the delivery system become more integrated at every point of care, convenient for their employees and paid through capitation rather than on a fee-for-service basis. They understood the shortcomings associated with incomplete data and recognized how much work time employees lose when they’re forced to visit the doctors office instead of participating in video visits and being able to send secure emails to their doctors. I challenged these leaders to commit to giving doctors and hospitals five years, warning them that afterwards, they would not purchase coverage from providers who failed to achieve these expectations.

On the second day, I spoke with a broader group numbering close to 400 participants. Inside Paul Berg Plenary Hall at the Li Ka Shing Learning and Knowledge Center, I spoke about the future of healthcare. The threats of stagnation, I said, will lead American healthcare to become first unaffordable, then rationed. The dangers of disruption are all around us, particularly among doctors and hospitals in other parts of the world who have implemented superior systems of care provision. Many are already achieving higher quality outcomes at a lower price. I used the analogy of the “White Walkers” from the Game of Thrones, noting how a threat that seems  distant can become very real in a relatively short amount of time. My apologies for any spoilers.

I closed my remarks by emphasizing how the current problems in the American health care system not only negatively impact patients, leading to hundreds of thousands of premature deaths a year, but that these problems are also eroding the professional satisfaction of physicians.

I pointed out that the solution to the challenges in medicine today will not come through attempts at price control. That will only create a two-tier system of access and care. Instead, it will come through innovation and technology designed to make care more affordable, including the improvement of some tools already available, such as the comprehensive EHR, data analytics and video.

The next step will be for MedX participants to apply them. Judging by the social media conversations taking place, even days after the conference, I trust the attendees left inspired about all that was possible. I sense that they are energized and ready to translate the theoretical into practice. I am optimistic that many will return next year with solutions for next set of challenges. I can’t wait.

Dr. Robert Pearl is the bestselling author of “Mistreated: Why We Think We’re Getting Good Health Care–And Why We’re Usually Wrong” and a Stanford University professor. Follow him on Twitter @RobertPearlMD

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