Michael Wood of Insightin Health: 5 Things We Must Do To Improve the US Healthcare System
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into our interview, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Upon leaving school at 16, I joined the UK’s Civil Service, which provided me with an amazing opportunity to do a variety of roles, where I developed skills and techniques that I still use today to navigate challenges. During the later part of my time there, I was involved in public policy and strategic change projects, focused on modernizing and transforming the UK’s digital public services. At the time this was the largest digital transformation program in Europe and when it was completed I felt I needed a new challenge, outside of government, and one that still focused on transformational change.
It was then I moved into management consulting, focusing on change delivery and human change, which was a natural fit. I’ve always enjoyed the tornado of change, and that coupled with the psychology of change in people fascinated me then and still does now.
Fast forward to 2008, I had a big life change. I emigrated from the UK and found myself in the U.S. I spent the first year renovating our house, which gave me some time to manage my own change.
At that time, understanding the U.S. healthcare system was probably the single biggest challenge for me in my transition from the UK; I found it maddening that it was so fragmented, confusing and expensive. I knew these issues were fixable from my own experiences of designing and implementing solutions to create seamless experiences.
I was lucky enough to join Highmark Health where I led the Member Experience and Engagement programs within the government space. I gained firsthand experience of the challenges facing plans and achieved some great results. However, I knew that to truly change the industry it would require a multidimensional people-first approach that would only be achievable through innovation, technology and collaboration on a much wider scale.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
Before joining Insightin Health, I spent time in technology, government, and consulting, which are all very different. The skill set I learned throughout my career has lent itself into almost any industry. Being an expert in the way in which humans experience and interact with a specific industry is a strategic way of looking at things. It’s amazing how much transferability there is between industries.
My work within the UK government involved addressing the social barriers keeping citizens from being employed. Through our work, we found ways to remove these barriers, such as paying an individual to get their truck license so they can get a job as a driver. At Insightin Health, we’re doing the same exact thing, but in the healthcare space, where we’re working to address the social barriers to healthcare. Tackling the root cause of an issue sets our customers and their members up for success.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Well, this mistake is more recent than when I was first starting out, but when I emigrated to the U.S., there were times when presenting during a meeting, where I would use a UK colloquialism and then wonder why people were looking at each other confused. It led to some funny moments which made me realize that even though the English language is universal — it’s very different. It taught me to watch for those looks and make sure I explain myself!
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”?
Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” — Nelson Mandela
We’ve all had setbacks to overcome and I’m a firm believer that these challenges actually make us better, more well rounded and empathetic human beings. It’s ok to fail. Failure is an important part of the journey but getting up, dusting yourself off and heading back into the fray is something I definitely subscribe to.
How would you define an “excellent healthcare provider”?
A provider that knows me, not just my health, but beyond that. They make it easy to access care, take time to educate me, and don’t ask for the same information over and over again.
What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a better healthcare leader? Can you explain why you like them?
I’m a big fan of Simon Sinek’s work. He has written a few books, but one of my favorites is Find Your Why, which is a great leadership book about our behaviors and motivators.
Additionally, I listen to WSJ Future of Everything, Design Thinking 101, and The Lance Jay Show. These podcasts are not only fun to listen to but offer unique perspectives on timely topics and interesting stories.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Yes, we have a few exciting projects in the works. Currently, we’re enhancing our “Next Best Action’’engine to include more pathways. It is a constantly evolving landscape that I find very exciting. It’s so hard just to know what I (as a consumer) should do when it comes to my healthcare. Insightin Health’s InGAGE platform helps plans and providers by offering that Next Best Action, or step, for the consumer.
We’re also working to uncover and tackle local barriers to care through community understanding and connectivity. Understanding the person, their household and community is key to building lasting change and the best possible outcomes.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the main focus of our interview. According to this study cited by Newsweek, the US healthcare system is ranked as the worst among high-income nations. This seems shocking.
Can you share with us 3–5 reasons why you think the US is ranked so poorly?
True interoperability between providers, technology, systems, and healthcare information. This has historically been a major problem in the U.S. healthcare system as disparate vendors, health data exchange frameworks, and health IT standards have created barriers to deliver quality experiences and better outcomes for patients.
Lack of collective bargaining on drug prices. In the U.S., it’s every man for themselves. It’s similar to what we saw during the pandemic with states outbidding one another for PPE.
Pricing transparency. When a patient needs a procedure, as a consumer, they should be able to shop and compare options based on a number of factors, including price. This isn’t possible when prices aren’t publicly available and fluctuate widely for a similar or the same procedure.
A holistic approach to patient care. Right now, there’s a lot of attrition at practices due to lack of communication with the provider and a poor in-person experience. Healthcare goes beyond checking vitals.
Treatment over prevention. Most types of medicine focus on treating an illness or injury, rather than education to keep it from happening.
Trust. There isn’t a lot of trust in the healthcare system, which has caused a decrease in patient compliance and worse outcomes.
As a “healthcare insider”, If you had the power to make a change, can you share 5 changes that need to be made to improve the overall US healthcare system? Please share a story or example for each.
Pricing transparency — as a consumer, I’d want full transparency into how much a medical procedure will cost prior to treatment and I should be able to compare quality with cost to select the best option for me. This is unlike today where I have the procedure and then sweat on sorting out the bill with the insurance company.
Drug pricing control — during the pandemic, when PPE was in short supply we saw states betting against one another for key equipment. Not only was this disappointing, but it was counterproductive. If the U.S. negotiated as a block, like the NHS in the United Kingdom, drug prices could be controlled for the benefit of the consumer.
Tackling health inequalities and rising cases of chronic conditions — we need to look at health beyond the chart. Understanding people, where they are in life, and the challenges they face, is important. So is what we eat and there are many studies that demonstrate the important role food plays in our overall health.
Honesty — consumers are told we have the best healthcare in the world, which isn’t true. Lets start there because when we see something elsewhere that has proven results, we should want to explore the transferability of it, not just dismiss it due to arrogance or a lack of education and or politics.
Trust and advocacy — this will take time and be the result of many changes but this should be an industry goal. At the moment there is very little consumer trust in the healthcare system as a whole. If being the best in the world is the expectation, then health systems have to be better at earning the trust of their members and patients.
What concrete steps would have to be done to actually manifest these changes? What can a) individuals, b) corporations, c) communities and d) leaders do to help?
It starts with leadership, both collective and individual. From a political standpoint, leaders need to be bolder and to outline a real vision of how the U.S. can reach the top of the mountain. Same with education, we have to help people understand the importance of having a healthy population and how that can be just as much of a difference maker as say weaponry.
The industry can also do more, way more. Demanding interoperability as a standard, building a true consumer driven experience, helping members reduce costs (more proactively) and breaking down the silos would be an excellent start. Leaders at local levels should do more to build and encourage strong community ties and work closely to tackle barriers to access and care, as well as education.
Corporations can do more — increase the emphasis and resources in support staff so clinicians can get on with healthcare and patient engagement. Physicians and their teams are often over burdened and overworked, so make things simple for them. We must build solutions that help them, not add to the workflow.
From a community aspect, plans need to take the lead in building a true community health strategy that tackles some of the barriers to care, but also works hand in hand with schools to promote health from a young age. Over time this will help rebuild trust.
Individually we should all take some time to educate ourselves on the approach other countries take and why those may work better, or at least could improve what we have today. This would allow us to have a truly informed debate beyond rhetoric, to one based on merit and results.
The COVID-19 pandemic has put intense pressure on the American healthcare system, leaving some hospital systems at a complete loss as to how to handle this crisis. Can you share with us examples of where we’ve seen the U.S. healthcare system struggle? How do you think we can correct these issues moving forward?
Data transparency, fragmentation, and coordination (care) are some of the main challenges and pressures the American healthcare system is facing. Data transparency and fragmentation meant we were often left to speculate or assume and with a lack of consistency on top of that, telling the story was extremely difficult. Coordinating care across different entities often requires a form of screen hopping jujitsu;the more that happens locally the more it becomes a problem up the food chain.
So if you don’t really understand what is going on, how can you then be confident that the solution will work?
It’s worth mentioning there are some changes the pandemic has enabled. One example is telehealth. By allowing telehealth, for most people, access to care wasn’t impacted. The challenge now is how can we now build on this to ensure this channel is truly optimized and utilized in the right way going forward.
How do you think we can address the problem of physician shortages?
Physicians’ jobs are complex and multi-faceted. We must leave them to concentrate on care and invest in support services around them to reduce the administrative burden they face. Another way we can address this problem is through wider sponsorship and scholarship opportunities to attract new, diverse talent from around the world.
It’s a novel idea, but how about exploring health tourism for all? If I need a procedure but either have to wait or the cost locally is prohibitive, could I have an option to undergo the same procedure elsewhere, even in another country where it could be a)quicker b)cheaper and c) allow some down time for rehabilitation and relaxation.
How do you think we can address the issue of physician diversity?
First, our system needs to look beyond our own borders and offer physicians a fast track to immigration and licensing. Another way to address this issue is through promoting a career in healthcare to underrepresented communities earlier in the student lifecycle. Lastly, we can promote diversity among physicians through extending the Healthcare Hero concept; this would allow partnerships to be built locally between schools, colleges, and hospitals.
I’m interested in the interplay between the general healthcare system and the mental health system. Right now, we have two parallel tracks, mental/behavioral health and general health. What are your thoughts about this status quo? What would you suggest to improve this?
Mental health needs to be given parity with clinical health. If the pandemic is teaching us anything, it’s that mental wellness is underrepresented. Culturally, I think people are more open and educated about their mental health. But since stigmas still exist, education, access and awareness need more work. To me, a possible solution here may be for each person to have a care team, so the modern practice of the future would combine these specialities with general health.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
To accelerate the switch from fossil fuels so that all new buildings/housing would be built to be self-sustainable in terms of energy, power and water. The technology exists, the scale is there, but to really accelerate the switch, what is needed is for the market to change. It’s a very small change but you have to start somewhere!
Thank you so much for these insights! This was very inspirational and we wish you continued success in your great work.
About Insightin Health
Insightin Health delivers the industry’s only single platform which provides complete personalized member engagement for each step of the health care journey. The core platform inGAGE™ combines medical, clinical, cognitive, and social determinants of health to recommend the Next Best Action (NBA) for each person. Health plans can improve quality measurements, gain higher member satisfaction, and increase member retention. The simple integration and easy to use inGAGE™ creates an effective shift towards a healthier population for health plans. For more information, visit https://www.insightinhealth.com.