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Why We Need to Look at Healthcare Innovation Differently


The man who ran Medicare and Medicaid under President Obama speaks out.

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When Andy Slavitt was in charge of Medicare and Medicaid, he noticed a problem that few healthcare innovators seemed eager to fix.

The issue was a familiar one: The brightest minds and the biggest bank accounts weren’t being used to improve the health of the country’s most vulnerable people, like the working poor. Instead, he said, fads and hype directed much of that power and potential.

Because that problem persists, people at the nexus of healthcare and technology must begin to think differently, Slavitt said yesterday, Sept. 27, at the Mayo Clinic Center for Innovation’s Transform conference in Minnesota.

“Whether it’s investing this year in AI, last year in digital, the year before in interoperability,” he said, “we’re chasing capabilities and technologies.”

For almost two years, Slavitt served as acting director of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services under President Barack Obama. His tenure ended in January.

During that time, he said, he worried little about “the 60-year-old jogger with two Fitbits.” More pressing was the woman who lived two bus stops from the nearest dialysis center, risking kidney failure if she didn’t get there in time.

Innovators and thought leaders need to turn their attention to those marginalized groups and baseline, preventative measures, he said. Behavioral health, nutrition, and even ways to tackle social issues could prove most important.

“All the things everyone else in the world invests in,” Slavitt added, “so they don’t have to invest in healthcare.”

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Craig Newman
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