This Week Health

Today on Insights. We go back to a conversation Host Bill Russell had with David Dirks, VP of Strategy at Intermountain Castell. The topic of discussion was How Data Can Disrupt Healthcare to Create an Industry of Staying Well. We focus so much on treating illness rather than understanding how to keep people well and out of the hospital. Data plays an integral role in keeping people healthy. How can we utilize this data going forward to create “health” care instead of “sick” care?


Hello and welcome to another episode of Insights. My name is Bill Russell. I'm a former CIO for a 16 hospital system ???? and creator of This Weekin Health IT. A channel dedicated to keeping health IT staff current and engaged. Our hope is that these episodes serve as a resource for the advancement of your career and the continued success of your team. Now onto the ???? show.

Today on insights. We go back to a conversation host Bill Russell had with David Dirks, VP of Strategy at Intermountain Castell. The topic of discussion was how data can disrupt healthcare to create an industry of staying well. We focus so much on treating illness rather than understanding how to keep people well and out of the hospital. Data plays an integral role in keeping people healthy. How can we utilize this data going forward to create health care instead of sick care?

So David, I love going to the JP Morgan conference and listening to your CEO and your CFO stand up there. First of all, you guys have some of the best financials in the industry. Second of all they're always really pushing the envelope. And when he was talking about stories, when Michael was talking about stories of Netflix and Blockbuster. I think if anyone's really going to change what healthcare looks like, it's probably Intermountain given the parameters around what you guys operate in those markets and the partnerships that you have and whatnot.

And I'm wondering as you guys are looking at it, we went from Blockbuster, go to the store, Mail-order Netflix then essentially online and now being the complete. And I think about healthcare and what it could be. And I'm tapping into your VP of Strategy here. Healthcare can really be different. We can keep people healthy. We can keep them out of the hospital. All these things get talked about every year at the JP Morgan conference. Data becomes a integral part and these kinds of operational systems become an integral part. What could healthcare look like if we continue down this path with some of the things that we've talked about today?

Yeah. Bill, Intermountain, we began this, this journey really 10 years ago about doubling down, saying, okay, we've got to transform healthcare. It's way too costly. We're treating illness rather than understanding how do we keep people well and how do we keep them out of our hospitals?

And we doubled down on that. We really accelerated that when Dr. Mark Harrison came the CEO and we realized the traditional legacy business of healthcare, which is treating people within hospitals needed to be disrupted and either we were going to be driving that disruption or it was going to happen to us.

Oh and probably more important than that is doing the right thing for the right patients where we should be focused. So what we realized though, is that causing that disruption within the context of a 23 bed hospital system wasn't going to happen. We were sort of running into each other. And so we restructured the organization into two different divisions. One was our community-based care division, which their charge really is how do we keep people well and out of the hospitals and then our specialty based care group, where when people do need care, how do we provide it in the most convenient, least restrictive, least costly space possible?

So with that separate business, where you know to some extent, we take this seriously and say, what we need you to think about every day is how do you put our hospitals out of business, right? And the best possible scenario for us it's that we never need another hospital again, because that means people are healthy.

They're not getting sick, they don't need that higher level of care. What that did in sort of creating a very clear, sort of separate component of our business where we could say we're going to align the financial model, right? We're going to align the incentives in the right way. We're going to allow people to innovate very quickly on how do we keep people?

Well we've seen a massive transformation around just moving from the traditional healthcare environment. So if you think about where healthcare has had and where Intermountain is trying to be out in front of that is how do we leverage digital and virtual tools to meet people where they are and provide all of the care possible in a virtual digital environment, right?

How do we make it so that people don't even have to leave their home for most of health care or if they're on the go, they can get their healthcare by the pound. So we've made huge investments in our digital front door, which really is all things that you need in order to be able to interact with the healthcare environment.

If you do need care, if you do need to go somewhere in bricks and mortar, we're making massive investments in care delivery models that are actually outside of the hospital, right in an ambulatory setting. So that if I do need in-person care, it's super convenient. It's low cost. And then we're beginning to look at, okay, what do the hospitals of the future need to look like?

And the answer is they look very different than what they look like today because so much of what is done within the walls of a very expensive hospital today, you actually can do in a different way. And even the traditional hospital interaction. We have a hospital at home business. There's lots of other groups that are moving towards hospital at home.

We're finding the opportunity for patients who are traditionally inpatient acute. We can actually care for them very effectively in their home, in a home-based setting. So what we hope healthcare looks like in the future is you have a level of convenience and service that you expect from Amazon or any of the other USAA or any of these other companies that are known for a seamless, extremely convenient, high quality experience. We expect it to be much lower costs because now we're able to leverage tools and technology and assets in a way. They're much less expensive. And how do we make it frictionless while at the same time? People don't like to be unhealthy if you go to people and say, do you want to be unhealthy? Question is no. So you have to think about, well what are all of the barriers standing in the way? Is it education? Health education? Is it financial barrier? There's a myriad of things and humans are complex. Those factors are different for everyone.

A combination of them. So what we're trying to do is how do we understand each person as an individual and what their individual needs are, and then tailor our approach. And what they need. So we recently added equity as one of our strategic imperatives. And while that's certainly important for a lot of reasons outside of strategy, from a strategist perspective, equity is important because if I can understand each individual and their individual context and deliver them a set of tools that helps meet their health needs.

Then just purely from a strategic perspective, I win right now. It also turns out that it's really great for society and making sure that wherever you live and whatever your ethnic background that you're getting the best care, that's the outcome we want. It's also profoundly strategic. And to bring it back to this conversation, the only way I can understand people at that level and tailor those services is if I have a very effective, high performing data supply chain in order to inform that.

Wow, thanks for tuning in another great episode. If you have feedback for us regarding this content and materials, or if you would like to help us to amplify great thinking to propel healthcare forward, which is our ???? mission, please send us a note at Thanks for listening. That's all for now. ????

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