Business leader at Philips Wellcentive talks lessons learned and the future of value-based healthcare

Philips Wellcentive’s Business Leader Niki Buchanan also gives tips for women working in the health IT industry.
Philips Wellcentive’s Business Leader Niki Buchanan

1.     Given your extensive background, can you give some lessons learned that can help health organizations better support and implement policies to support more effective IT strategies and operations as the industry moves away from fee-for-service?

As we partner with our customers throughout their value-based care journey, we’ve learned that gaining relevant experience has become a necessity for growth. Healthcare organizations that move more quickly to conform to a value-based economy will benefit from the ‘snowball effect’ – by taking on incremental quality revenue generation now, organizations will be better set up for bigger and better value-based care contracts in the future. On the other hand, those who wait on the sidelines risk becoming obsolete as they get left out of narrow networks and other value-based care models. A health system should first drill down to its greatest areas of need, whether it be aggregation, utilization management, chronic care tracking, risk stratification, or other analytics functions. We advise our customers to create a yearly plan to maximize the fee-for-service visits that align to the quality initiative in your contracts, such as preventive visits.

An essential step to your value-based care journey is pivoting from reactive sick care to one designed to deliver proactive well care, achieved through true patient engagement and activation. To provide such patient-centered care, health systems need to connect with patients where they live, and support them in better managing their complex conditions. For example, many patients over the age of 65 have trouble keeping up with their treatment plans, and their medication regimen can be overwhelming to manage on their own. Virtual care solutions, which allow physicians to interact with patients in their homes or other post-acute care facilities, help patients adhere to their care plans by leveraging retrospective, current and prospective insights – ultimately empowering patients to take control of their health and wellbeing.

With increased communication and access between patients and providers, virtual care programs enable shared decision-making via actionable workflows that fit into patients’ and providers’ daily routines. By combining patient reported outcomes and other relevant outcome indicators like cost, patient experience and clinical data, third party platforms like Philips Wellcentive can be integrated within an existing IT infrastructure to manage value-based care outcomes measurement and reporting requirements.

2.     What are some of your thoughts on the continued debate about healthcare reform? Is the flux hindering innovation, as businesses wait for Congress to decide on next steps?

There are a lot of moving parts when it comes to healthcare reform heading into 2019, such as the end of cost-sharing reductions (CSR) payments to insurers, and determining how consumers will react to the short-term limited duration (SLTDs) and the associated health plans (AHPs) offered by the federal government.

However, while the tides keep turning, patient-consumer healthcare needs can’t sit on the sidelines, and the healthcare IT industry will continue to adapt to maintain common ground. Policy won’t stop innovation where it’s needed most, namely bringing care into the patient’s home and advancing the use of data flow and analytics at the point of care. Population insights and care through remote monitoring, telehealth and other virtual innovations will continue to impact cost and sustainability for all healthcare stakeholders as policy evolves.

The virtues of virtual care, and the expansion of these patient-centric care models are being recognized by healthcare and policy leaders, which will open the marketplace to further innovations. From there, we’ll see more growth in provider networks collaborating with payers on tailored or value-based health plans that encompass the patient, the payer, and the technology industry.

3.     Can you talk about your recent initiatives at Wellcentive? How can women in healthcare begin shifting this active discussion around gender equality into real change? Any advice for women in the field for overcoming inequality and supporting other women in the field?

One of my most recent initiatives at Philips Wellcentive has been pioneering open discussions about women’s leadership and starting a mentorship program. While the project is not off the ground just yet, I’ve worked to gain key stakeholder buy-in and am in the process of designing the details of the program. With the intent to align young female professional with a mentor at the senior, director or executive level, and allow them to build a relationship focused on mentoring, the program will drive monthly women’s group meetings to share exciting and empowering stories of women in healthcare and other industries.

Shifting the discussion around gender equality into real change starts at the top with an acknowledgement of the gender balance in leadership. If there is an imbalance, it’s up to the executive team to put active plans in place toward achieving equitable roles for women. Two years ago, Philips acknowledged such a gap across all levels of leadership, and now has an actionable agenda to ensure that there is equal distribution of women leaders, as well as a diverse leadership team. For example, Carla Kriwet is the Chief Business Leader of Philips Connected Care and Health Informatics, the business group under which Philip Wellcentive falls. She has exhibited an unwavering commitment to advancing female leadership and mentorship, both within Philips and in the communities we serve.

Philips has also undertaken extensive training around unconscious bias education to help employees understand that many times, we don’t even realize we are being biased in our hiring or promotion processes. As a business leader, I realized through my own education several years ago that our gender, our upbringing, our circumstances and our experiences cause us all to seek professional mentorship from those who are most similar to us. I once had a career advisor tell me that I could learn a lot more about my own blind spots if I asked leaders – especially those whose outlook doesn’t align with my own – how I could be more influential to a wider group of people. Today, involving those outside my immediate peer group is part of my regular feedback loop, when asking for feedback on what examples or messages I should convey in a presentation or written communications around business strategy.

4.     Given what’s going on in the media and politics today, in your opinion, what are some of the biggest challenges facing women today?

I am more confident than ever that we are on the right path to gender equality in the workplace. While there are industries that I’m sure the change is not as quick, I’m seeing more and more positive momentum and action taking place in healthcare IT now than at any other time in my career. The media is also portraying this shift toward gender equality as a positive one, unlike in earlier times in my career where it was often posed as a potential threat to business and the stability of the status quo.

The next challenge is whether we have enough women leaders with the skill set ready to step in and lead when presented with the opportunity. In healthcare, there is a tremendous push for the involvement of more members of a care team at the highest level of organizational management. Historically, the nursing field was predominately female, and although they oftentimes outnumbered physicians at their organizations, they were under represented on the executive time.

As we transition to value-based care and reimbursement strategies based on performance, more care team members are being asked to weigh in on the right organizational structure needed to succeed. This is bringing in more roles and points of view into the discussion, which is necessary if we are going to transform an industry that has practiced the same “sick care” rather than continuous health for over 200 years.

5.     Anything else you’d like to add to the conversation?

Generally, anytime we seek a transformation in business, we should all stick to the facts of approaching business. Any individual who wishes to be considered for a leadership position must be able to present facts as well as solutions, and be willing to take risks. You also need allies and others rooting for you, lending their support for your increased responsibilities.

I have team members who often come to me ahead of any major discussion for alignment and any potential disagreements that they should be prepared for. While this is a common-sense in any relationship building dynamic, is it under-utilized in professional and social arenas. Buying in and being prepared with facts and data to support a stance go a long way in achieving the support and belief that you are the right lead to own a team or drive a business goal, no matter your gender.

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