Jeffrey A. Sachs has worked on various high-level health initiatives over the years, from advising former New York governors Hugh Carey and Mario Cuomo to providing guidance on California's Medicaid waiver in 2010.
Yet Sachs, founder of Sachs Policy Group, a New York City-based boutique consultancy, has a career history far-flung from the buttoned-down and cautious health policy wonk might expect him to be and he makes no bones in discounting the healthcare industry's preoccupation on policy minutiae in turbulent times.
"The move to value is a convergence being driven by technology, not public policy," Sachs said. "I say to the people I talk to, 'If you think it's public policy, that would be really good for you, because you could stop it.' But it's not public policy."
No, Sachs said, the revolution will ultimately be tech-driven, by consumers, in what he called "the march of history, not the march of policy."
"It will be the consumer driving these changes," he said. "That's what is going to make the difference. That's what's forcing hospitals to change their business models and have different hours. That's not to say public policy doesn't help patient satisfaction scores and all of that helps. But this is the market now speaking and technology will enable the public to be far more proactive."
Sachs will have an opportunity to spread his message to a wide range of healthcare and pharmaceutical companies as well as technology innovators through a newly announced partnership with Junto Health, the re-named Blueprint Collective. A spinoff of the New York City-based Blueprint Health accelerator program, Junto Health is an invite-only initiative with current members accounting for more than $700 billion in revenue and representing over 600,000 physicians.
Large member institutions from across the healthcare and technology industries gather into small groups to define their common needs and common goals. Once those goals are established, Junto Health acts as a technology scout to find startups that can provide solutions for the member groups. Or, as an alternative, Junto Health helps the members co-develop solutions among themselves.
As a result of the new partnership with SPG, Junto executives said members participating in the organization's collaborative innovation process will now also be guided through an analysis of relevant macro trends by SPG.
For high-level guidance, Sachs said the most salient lessons will come from industries such as entertainment, which were convulsed by digital information delivery long before healthcare.
"Many of the things we see happening in healthcare now, I saw happening in other fields," he said. "I was in media for 10 years. I was at Warner Music Group in 1995 when Internet in a Box came out, and I remember saying to them, 'You need to adapt to this, and they held up a CD jewel box and said customers would always want something they could hold and own. The rest is history the consumer ultimately pushed the media industry away from the traditional business model and today you see all the new streaming services the music industry ignored."
Sachs said he liked the "organic" approach Blueprint took in evaluating emerging technologies; one thing he said he hopes to contribute in the new relationship is a sense of context, from the perspective of both hospitals and technology innovators, but also from a new angle to try to inspire a sense of nimbleness he said is often lacking in big players in the healthcare market.
"What I try to do, and what we try to do, is to say, 'No, you have to look at it from the perspective of the consumer, because as much as all this enables you, it is going to enable them more. They'll be more powerful. They're paying more. They have more skin in the game.'"
Junto Health CEO Doug Hayes said the collaborative has been constructed to address the broken processes around the "discovery and diffusion" of new technologies that could improve care delivery. Often, he said, large healthcare organizations may discover a need for a technological approach to a problem only to suffer from a lack of competence in developing that technology.
As for the process of diffusion, which may sputter in fits and starts, Hayes said those organizations are not to blame for that "they have a traditionally conservative approach to new technology, as they should, but right now there is an opportunity to share a little bit of the risk and find better ways to discover and diffuse the emerging new technologies, and this is front and center why we launched Junto Health."
With regard to Sachs's observation that the consumer will be the linchpin to success or failure in the future, Hayes said Junto does not include any sort of patient representation now, but expects that to change.
"It is something we're actively working on," he said. "To make this model most effective, we do need every stakeholder at the table, and that is a group we will be looking into over the next couple months."
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