I’m traveling to San Francisco next week for the 36th annual JP Morgan Healthcare Conference.This conference is one of the largest healthcare investment events out there, with over 400 private and public companies presenting to more than 8,000 attendees. Needless to say, the event plays a significant role in shaping conversations across the entire healthcare industry.
Here are a few topics I’ll be paying special attention to while I’m there:
- Hospital consolidation
I’m a little obsessed with the ever-changing hospital landscape. Rural and many community-based hospitals aren’t able to survive on their own as they used to, and it seems that every day I’m reading about another hospital consolidation. For example, there’s been talk of Ascension Health in St. Louis merging with Providence St. Joseph in the Pacific Northwest, which would create the largest for- or not-for-profit health system in the entire country—a consolidation of 191 hospitals in total. Additionally, this past August, Ascension signed a deal to merge with Presence Health out of Chicago, and CHI and Dignity Health have been pursuing a merger for almost a year. Previously, it seemed like HCA was the only for-profit health system with the capital to buy such large hospital systems, but the not-for-profit systems are significantly more active in the M&A space. If this trend continues and individual hospitals keep losing market share in their key markets, I expect only the larger, consolidated systems to survive.
- The shift from inpatient to outpatient and outpatient to ambulatory surgery centers
One of the reasons many traditional acute care hospitals are struggling is because outpatient services are and have been on the rise. Procedures that traditionally have been done as inpatient for the past several decades are now being done not only as outpatient surgeries in hospitals, but over the past five years the shift to ASC-based procedures continues to outpace hospital-based procedures. Because physicians and health systems have become more advanced around understanding the health risks associated with their patients, they are much more willing to push lower-risk patients who require a surgery to an ASC setting, when previously these would have been done in an inpatient hospital setting or even an outpatient surgery setting at a hospital. I’m curious to hear from leaders of major health institutions about the technology that’s driving this shift and what new technology they expect will continue this trend. What does the future of acute care hospitals look like? Are they going to become large ICUs, CCUs and telemetry only? What are hospitals doing to try to retain patients for longer than just one visit—in other words, create brand loyalty to a healthcare institution? The need for greater “stickiness” has been part of the conversation for a while, and I want to know what new tactics hospital systems are adopting to carry the patient-provider relationship down the entire care chain.
- Coordinated care
There are so many companies competing in the population health management and care coordination space right now, mainly because the current system is bloated and ineffective. Everyone shares a common goal: to coordinate patients’ care in one streamlined process, from the time they arrive for scheduling, through admissions, all the way to post-acute care, home health, follow-up and billing. What types of technology are really having an impact on changing consumer behavior to become an active participant? One great thing about the JP Morgan conference is that it brings together both buyers (health system providers) and sellers (technology companies) in one space, so it’s an opportunity to learn from both sides about solutions, adoption rates and differentiation in the market. I want to know who’s doing coordination well and how they are achieving that.
- AI and machine learning
The potential for automation in healthcare is fascinating. BIP Capital has recently started to spend much more time investigating artificial intelligence companies in several areas, including remote patient monitoring, and I’m eager to hear about other use cases. There’s a revolution starting to take hold in healthcare. Accenture estimates that by 2026, AI applications can create $150 billion in savings for the U.S. healthcare economy. So how do we get there? How do we successfully automate the manual jobs that don’t require human skill for the majority of repeatable tasks? For example, why is the revenue cycle still so manual? Why are we still scanning documents and faxing them to payers? Why are we using radiologists’ time and energy to read every patient image when only a small percentage of those images fall outside the range of “normal” and require special attention? I know there are companies creating solutions to these inefficiencies and I’m excited to learn more about them.
BIP Capital has long been recognized for the strength of our healthcare portfolio. I’m excited to connect with industry innovators next week to learn how we can continually improve our health operations while also supporting the entrepreneurs who are working tirelessly to make new and better solutions a reality.