Perspectives

2015 Federal Health Industry Outlook

Interview with Dr. Terri Cooper

The provision of affordable, accessible, high-quality health care is top of mind for departments, agencies, and centers concerned with Federal Health. Dr. Terri Cooper, leader of Deloitte’s Federal Health Sector, discusses opportunities and challenges in the coming year.

What are the biggest health-related opportunities for the federal government in the coming year?

The primary opportunity (and challenge) in 2015 for federal health officials–whether they are providers, planners, policy-makers, or regulators–is to concurrently rein-in costs while providing consistently good medical treatment to the widest-possible consumer base. Leveraging developments in three promising areas may help health officials achieve their objectives:

  1. Population health – By managing markets more efficiently, developing new models of care delivery, and working towards comprehensive Affordable Care Act (ACA) implementation and innovation, federal health agencies can control costs and provide better care to more patients. Value-based Care (VBC) payment models are becoming an increasingly important strategy in improving population health management. Care coordination driven by a standardized, cost-efficient set of protocols can maximize value, reduce risk, better align incentives, and encourage more thoughtful investments.
  2. Health information technology (HIT) – The continuing expansion and sophistication of HIT, apparent in the increasing adoption of advancements such as electronic health records (EHR), telehealth, mobile health (mHealth) applications, and data analytics, will likely contribute to reduced costs, higher quality, greater efficiency, improved reporting, and broader patient access.
  3. Translational medicine – Medicines developed using traditional R&D processes can take 17 to 23 years to move from scientific discovery into the daily practice of doctors and hospitals.[1] Shifting to a translational approach–in which a more dynamic, integrated, and continuous process of data sharing occurs between the steps in the R&D value chain–holds great promise for shortening the development time for new drugs and treatments and providing the quality health care consumers are seeking.

Importantly, the need for systems and solutions that provide consistent return on investment (ROI) is an essential part of all 2015 federal medical and budgetary considerations. Perhaps that’s the biggest opportunity (and challenge) of all—to develop programs and cost models that increase the prospects of strong ROI, while still satisfying an agency’s mission.

[1] Balas EA, Boren SA. Managing clinical knowledge for health care improvement. In: Bemmel J, McCray AT, eds. Yearbook of Medical Informatics. Stuttgart, Germany: Schattauer Publishing; 2000:65‐70.

What trends do you see disrupting ‘business as usual’ in 2015?

The leaders of federal agencies, departments, and health centers would probably place potential data theft and manipulation of sensitive consumer information at the top of the list of things that keep them up at night.

Managing enterprise risk, implementing cyber security, and safeguarding sensitive health information will be a critical policy and funding focus for the federal health sector in 2015 and years to come. Federal authorities must develop the policies and allocate the resources to beat back attacks and fend-off potential threats. On a more positive note, the federal health sector is expected to benefit from continued innovation in harnessing and interpreting data through analytics. This will improve organizations’ ability to collect drug information, develop more comprehensive data infrastructure for care delivery, and enhance data collection and application in the management and funding of grants.

What are some innovative actions federal health organizations could adopt to meet mission objectives more efficiently?

Tremendous innovation is taking place in the health care and life sciences marketplace, and the federal government plays a key role as catalyst, funding agent, and regulator. Many advances have the potential to truly transform the medical landscape and to be of great potential use for federal health authorities. For instance, the development of contact lenses that can measure blood glucose levels adds an exciting new level of diagnostic capability that can aid in early detection of Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes. Using a smart phone to do blood work is another example of medical diagnosis meeting 21st-century technology. Imagine that, rather than going for a full blood workup, you could take a tiny bit of blood, send an image through a smart phone and have it analyzed quickly and efficiently–saving time and money, not to mention blood.

Innovation is also taking place outside of the technology arena, as public agencies look for new ways to manage costs and push towards higher quality. Better sharing of vital public health information across department lines may help to increase data access, clarity, applicability, and efficiency. For example, the sharing of veterans’ and military health data in an effort to expedite the processing of service treatment records is an important step forward in treating those who have sacrificed so much for our country.

Finally, 2015 may see the move towards new and creative alliances between government and private industry. Productive public/private partnerships (PPPs) can generate innovative health care solutions, especially as agency administrators continue to look for intelligent ways to reduce costs without sacrificing quality.

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