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by Ted Sholl, 2Y 2019

As the day began, the question on everyone’s mind was: “What on earth are we going to do for the next nine hours?” The daylong Kellogg Trust in Healthcare Expert Collective was about to begin and there was no agenda. 130 experts from the payor, provider, pharma and medical-devices sides of healthcare gathered in Kellogg’s White Auditorium. As one of the youngest attendees, the other question on my mind was what would I have to contribute to this group of experts? Both questions would soon be answered.

A student looks back on the Kellogg Trust in Healthcare Expert Collective

I was invited to join the collective when one day I fortuitously arrived early to Professor Kent Grayson’s class. In addition to teaching marketing, Professor Grayson leads the Trust Project at Northwestern. A casual question about how recruiting was going soon turned into me expressing my interest in health analytics, and my hope that with the shift to value-based care a financial incentive would exist to use big data analytics to identify and treat patients before they endured expensive hospitalizations and surgeries. “I think I have something you might be interested in,” said Professor Grayson.

Two months later the day finally came. The day’s goal was to discuss the trust challenges as we move towards value-based care. Can patients trust vertically integrated healthcare systems to provide the best care even if it hurts that system’s profits? Can physicians trust patients to follow their care directives when the patients can find conflicting “medical” opinions online?

The format of the day soon became clear. We wrote questions on large pieces of paper and each question was assigned a time slot and room. Soon the attendees were studying a wall of questions, creating their own schedule based on their interests. I led one of the first sessions. My question was: “Is it ever appropriate to limit the information a patient receives or the manner in which he/she receives that information?” I anticipated most would say “absolutely not.” Yet while implementing an EMR system, I heard physicians complain that our software automatically sent patients test results before the physician could explain that result. I wanted to hear both sides. Most agreed that patients should see all information so long as it was accurate, and accurate may mean having a provider, not the internet, explain your results.

How then could patients learn to trust healthcare professionals over the internet? One attendee volunteered coaching high-school students in personal finance. This experience made him wonder if teaching high-school students how to find quality information and how to navigate the healthcare system could instill trust in providers at an early age. A physician in the group agreed. “They come in with their 23andMe results and I’m like, ‘You just need to stop smoking, exercise and get your two hugs a day!’” The group laughed.

Conversations like this one continued throughout the day. Physicians exchanged ideas with insurance VPs, medical-device salesmen conversed with hospital administrators. I felt I was able to contribute some valuable health IT insights too. Even though the challenges in healthcare are daunting I was encouraged to see our goals are more similar than different.

So, did we solve all issues of trust in healthcare? Did we answer the dozens of questions we created at the beginning of the day? No, and no. Did we start some valuable conversations that I believe the participants will continue within their organizations? I believe so. Healthcare will not be fixed in monumental changes overnight, but by small steps like the one the Expert Collective took.