Tuesday, June 05, 2001

The Cyber Scene in Los Angeles ~ by Krysten Johnson

The Second Annual eHealth Conference - June 5, 2001
"The Changing Paradigm: What a Difference a Year Makes"
Hosted at the Skirball Cultural Center

The annual eHealth Conference is organized by the Healthcare Collaborative
at UCLA. This group is a collaborative of students, alumni, faculty and
staff of the UCLA School of Public Health and The Anderson School at UCLA. It
also includes members of the Southern California healthcare community.
The purpose of the seminar was to: a) focus on changes in the industry over
the past year and assess the reactions of the business community to the changes,
and b) instruct attendees adequately on the use of new technologies. That way, they
can ask the right questions about eHealth and learn how it will affect
operations in their workplace.

Seminar topics included:

  a. The new business realities confronting healthcare
  b. The eHealth revolution - where is was in 2000 and where it is going
  c. The potential of eHealth - quality improvement and cost reduction
  d. Strategies for eHealth - a blueprint for action
  e. Infrastructure development - a roadmap for planning and implementation
  f. Better medicine - is eHealth promoting better treatment opportunities?

It was a real treat for me to attend the conference this year. I was able to
soak up the great intellect and information presented by the speakers
thanks to Terry Laughlin. Terry is one of the Health Collaborative's
committee members and also the Assistant to the Director of Public Health &
Health Services. She introduced me to a slew of people; I truly I appreciated her kind attention.

Before the conference began, I met Dr. Paul Torrens, a professor at UCLA and
co-director at the UCLA Center for Health Services Management. He said
important advancements are taking place in the industry: proper information
handling, communication methodologies and the analyzation of information are
going to be paramount in the future of healthcare. In fact, they will reshape the entire
industry. Torrens said he hoped that the conference would help answer questions
prompted by the impending changes. Next I met Gail Grant, the executive
committee chair for the Collaborative. She explained how the seminar got
started: collaborative members had volunteered much time and effort
to participate on committees that chose relevant topics and procured
speakers and sponsors. (The collaborative started out as a physician's
group, but had attracted a wide spectrum of people in the healthcare, business
and legal industries – even students.) I cut my inquiries off at that point
because Gail had to go up to the podium and welcome attendees.

The seminar featured several session hosts and eight session speakers in all. I
couldn't figure out why there were so many hosts introducing and
interjecting questions to the speakers. Perhaps the hosts had participated
so much in putting the event together that this was some sort of
payback -- to be noticed at the podium. I won't list all of the host names,
but you can read event details on their site.

1st half - conference speakers: Peter Boland, Chas Klivans and David Goodman

The keynote speaker was the enthusiastic Peter Boland, Ph.D., president of
Boland Healthcare. His topic was "The New Business Reality Confronting
EHealth." For me, it was the most powerful and informative presentation. Boland
defined eHealth as the integration of digital technology into the core clinical and
business processes, and proclaimed that we need to redefine and reframe the delivery
of healthcare and rise to the same level of use and understanding that other business
industries have achieved. The activity, spurred by the trends and technologies of the digital
revolution, has not affected healthcare enough. In order to meet consumers needs,
it must catch up or even surpass other industries to effectively serve its
customer base - which honestly could encompass every person on the planet!

Boland made several good points about the industry's lack of technical
evolution, including the guiltless lack of profitability. But he said that
healthcare will become profitable, and the improvements will
come from companies coming INTO the industry. These will be companies
that understand business, management and turning a profit. Standardization of the
industry's tools is also essential, and due to the Internet's capability of using open-system
architecture, vendors will see the potential – and the profitability – of developing such tools.
Boland says that healthcare must move to a CRM model to capture and properly serve the
customer base. Without becoming tech-enabled, the industry won’t be able to grow quickly
and adequately. From Boland’s session, I came away with the notion that soon all companies
will be Internet companies, and healthcare companies are no exception. So, we must all learn to
integrate net-related technologies into our infrastructure and day-to-day service delivery.

The next speaker, Chas Klivans, vice president of Global Business for Edwards
Lifesciences, presented his survey of 200 healthcare and IT executives for
his topic entitled "The E-Health Evolution: Where It Was Last Year - Where
It Will Go." I was initially floored by his presentation at first because it was done
on an overhead projector! At first I couldn't even remember what the
contraption was called because it had been so long since I'd seen one. But
later I found out that some extemporaneous circumstances had disrupted
Klivans' life, and I understood how such a net-savvy presenter could have
been reduced to such a state. Here is a summary of his survey findings: There is a
larger, industry-wide perspective about integrating digital technology into
all clinical and business core processes. That’s a far cry from the 'bolting your
business to the Internet' path to improved care and a healthier
bottom line.

Next up was David Goodman, MD, founder of LifeMasters Supported SelfCare,
Inc. LifeMasters is an interactive, health-management services company that
has survived and matured thanks to its education and effective use of
Internet strategies. Goodman's candid discussion of the pitfalls and peaks his
company experienced during its development was quite enjoyable. After being
in many successful and not-so-successful start-ups myself, I sympathized with
his presentation and was pleased that Lifemasters.com is doing well today. You
can visit LifeMasters.com for more information about his company.

Lunch was served at the break. It was an outstanding three-course meal, and
I had the fortune to be seated at a table with other healthcare consultants. I met
two independent consultants whom I fully expect to do business with in the next few months!

2nd half - conference speakers: Leslie A. Sandberg, Mike Smith, Bill
Halverson, Vincent Riccardi and Helga Rippen

After lunch, a panel was introduced for the next presentation. The speakers
were Leslie A. Sandberg, chief liaison Officer at the University of CA,
Davis Health System; Mike Smith, Director of Telemedicine; John Muir/Mt.
Diablo Health System; and Bill Halverson, co-director & technology advisor
for the California Telehealth and Telemedicine Center. Panel members were
obviously well acquainted with each other by the way they joked together
effortlessly throughout their presentations. Sandberg's presentation focused on
the people, process and technology involved in eHealth, and she spoke quickly,
yet effectively to help get the event timing back on track. She began by identifying
goals and strategies of eHealth and the deconstruction of the business problem. Then
she went through reasons for adopting eHealth by producing quantifiable
goals, performing market analysis and changing management. She also discussed the
critical success factors and the value propositions that eHealth development
will offer its adopters.

Smith took the podium next, and walked us through a four-step process
towards eHealth program development: Strategic Planning, Risk Assessment &
Management, Program Design & Management, and Program Implementation. He also
went over some determining factors for the usefulness of eHealth within an
organization, including long-term strategies; care provider, receiver,
manager and vendor participation; and a solid plan for success that starts
small and grows over time.

Last up was Halverson, an easy-going, likable speaker who explained high-tech
concepts in an elementary language we could all understand. He went through
the technology and infrastructure development involved in an eHealth endeavor,
including the right questions to ask before the endeavor could begin. He ended up
by giving us a helpful overview of various structures that companies already had in
place as examples.

The last presentations were given by Vincent Riccardi, MD, founder and
President of American Medical Consumers, and Helga Rippen, Ph.D., MD, director of
Medical Informatics for Pfizer Health Solutions. Their topic was "Is eHealth
Promoting Better Medicine?" Riccardi started his discussion on a
positive note, but quickly went into the negative aspects that the new
technology brings. He stated that we must take into account that there is no
substitute for hands-on medical care. To make that point, he read a love
poem he'd written when he once awoke from a dream. For those of us in the
audience who were getting tired toward day’s end, this strange
development peaked our curiosity. But as the good doctor went on, his points
became stranger and stranger. I believe his point was that society must
create a way to imbue subtext into medical communications and to develop a
culture to use eHealth technology.

Rippen's presentation was well done, but presented quickly in order
to keep everyone's attention sharp. As a result, I feel I missed some important
elements. She spoke about promoting better medicine and the quantifiable
data behind the notion. Her figures proved that we don't have enough data
yet to say that technology has improved our lives. The key stakeholders and
providers are online, but they are not making a large enough impact on the
consumers because they are not effectively utilizing the tools technology
offers. But she noted that eHealth in medicine is critical for success, and
high-tech systems integration is critical to delivering the goods to
consumers. The challenge is providing physicians with a tool to
revolutionize the practice of healthcare and to improve the quality of service.

The conference ended with a brief Q&A session with all of the speakers.
Inside our conference packet was a brilliant piece of paper that I have not
seen at any recent conferences - an evaluation form! The event
presenters deserve kudos for thinking about client feedback so they can
improve next year's conference. I filled out my form in its entirety. I
enjoyed meeting so many event producers that I filled out a
volunteer form to join one of the Health Collaborative's committees. I
look forward to getting to know the players and helping plan next year's event.
For more information or to volunteer, visit www.healthcollab.org.