One-on-One with Andy Slavitt, Board Chair & Founder, United States of Care
A conversation about the future of digital health and healthcare as a right.
Q1: What do you envision the role of digital health will be in the future?
Andy: We can’t forget that at base level most interactions are person to person. Without digital health, we are led to the lowest common denominator – the interaction. The interaction between the patient and the provider. The only way we can share knowledge and scale with any consistency is with digital technologies. What we need in the healthcare system is the opportunity to walk into a care facility in a small town or a big city and have the same experience – get access to the latest knowledge and the best results. The only way you can do that is with digital. The other thing is – digital has to bring down costs, if it just making things fancier, we don’t need it. We don’t have enough efficiency and cost reduction. In other industries, technology is part of what helps keep costs down. Technology hasn’t yet proven to make healthcare less expensive, so that’s another challenge.
Q2: What do you anticipate will be the next big digital innovation that would change the healthcare landscape?
Andy: I actually think that some of the technology that isn’t necessarily consumer-facing but helps enable medical professionals, healthcare worker and others to communicate, share information and get resources to people efficiently are kind of a real near-term opportunity! Take an area like mental health and addiction. People are experiencing different parts of healthcare system and it is all uncoordinated. Digital has the potential to help make sure that a provider sees the latest information on a patient so that there is no over prescribing and so that we are maximizing the ability to understand the patient. People don’t have to keep repeating themselves. People with mental illnesses have trouble with that.
Q3: What is the one thing digital health innovators should focus on in the US that will have the biggest impact?
Andy: The focus should be on prevention and social service, access and primary care. Going back to the point about reducing costs – if innovators could finds ways to dramatically lower cost by doing the same things but with digital technologies, that’s what we need! They should focus on the real problems, such as resolving the massive health disparity gaps. For example, every community in the country has hungry kids. But you know what else? Every community in the country has restaurants which have extra meals after breakfast, lunch or dinner. If we can use a digital app to enable the kids to get free healthy food after school by connecting them to those restaurants, that’s one less hungry kid – that’s a big impact.
Q4: How do we change the culture of healthcare? How do we change that mentality in order to achieve better outcomes?
Andy: Americans should have the right to have access to a regular source of care and to be able to afford to take care of their families. The language gets very divisive – privilege, right… Don’t ask people to political question, rather, ask them: Do you believe every American have the ability to afford to take care of their family? 85% of Democrats, 75% of Republicans, and somewhere in between Independent say, YES. I think, health care is the right that allows you to enjoy all your other rights. If you don’t have the ability to afford to take care of yourself and your family then all the other rights don’t matter anymore.
Q5: What advice do you have for digital health innovators in terms of their careers?
Andy: Work at CMS for a couple years. Get a different perspective. Work for state government. Spend time in the public sector, spend time on the innovation side and develop a universal perspective as opposed to the perspective of what can my company sell. As soon as you have a digital company or any company, the whole world looks like it needs your solution. It’s good to get the broadest possible view. Work for someone, or company, that you respect. An organization which you trust. That will give you ridiculous opportunities that you don’t think you’re ready for but that’s how you will learn.
1. What is a saying, quote or phrase that motivates you?
“Never, never, never, give up.” – Winston Churchill.
2. What book do you recommend to our listeners?
Read biographies. A business book to tell you what some formula is or you can read about what someone actually did with their lives. Find someone you admire and read their biography. The biography of Churchill, Lincoln, Madeleine Albright… Just make sure it is written by a good author. Observe what they did in their life. Think about the moments of despair, challenge, and uncertainty that everybody has had to go through and how they responded to them.
3. What’s the best tech that makes your life better and easier?
4. If you had a check for $5 million to invest in a digital health technology today which one would you pick?
I am running a fund investing in technology and I’ll tell you about a couple of companies we are invested in. One, Cityblock Health, was incubated at Google. It is focused on building tech-enabled clinics in high density urban environments. Another, Welbe Health, provides integrated medical and social services to frail seniors.