Five Ideas for Rethinking Healthcare Systems

New Jaime Grego Chair of Healthcare Management

28/11/2014 Barcelona

Núria Mas
Núria Mas, Professor of Economics at IESE and holder of the Jaime Grego Chair of Healthcare Management / Photo: Edu Ferrer

“Science and management working together at the service of the patient and of society.”

For Jaime Grego, president of Laboratorios Leti, this is the path to follow to guarantee the future of healthcare. It’s also the aim of the Jaime Grego Chair of Healthcare Management, presented at IESE in Barcelona yesterday. The chair will carry out research projects in pursuit of its mission to help transform the healthcare industry by providing a new, integrated framework for healthcare innovation and management.

“Healthcare management is increasingly complex and I believe it needs to undergo a radical transformation,” said Grego.

Three Challenges

Núria Mas, Professor of Economics at IESE and holder of the chair, described what she called the “triple challenge” to healthcare systems: 

  • Financial pressure. The debt crisis in advanced economies, combined with aging populations and the resultant rise in expected healthcare spending, is putting pressure on public healthcare systems and compromising their future viability. All of this adds to the pressure to make the best-possible use of the limited resources available.

  • Illnesses becoming more chronic. Existing health systems were initially conceived and designed to deal with acute conditions. Today, however, the reality is that between 70-80% of health spending in advanced economies goes on patients with at least one chronic condition. These conditions are almost always related to at least one of four big risk factors: unhealthy diet, lack of exercise, smoking or stress. 

  • Complexity of information. Medical research and technological innovations are making rapid advances; it has been calculated that between 50-70% of the increase in healthcare spending will be accounted for by new technologies and clinical procedures. Although they are not always expensive innovations, it can be assumed that the healthcare bill will continue to rise at the same rate as advances in research.

The Five-Step Solution

Mas said the solution to these challenges “is not to cut spending but to spend well, making sure that limited resources are put in the best possible place.” She set out a five-step program to achieve this:

  1. Measure, measure, measure. It’s impossible to improve what isn’t known. Therefore, the first step must be to encourage transparency and the exchange of information to establish measures and comparisons between different clinical procedures, hospitals and geographical areas. 

  2. Identify and understand success stories. Use the measurements and data to identify successful cases and understand why they have worked in order to replicate them with the same results. 

  3. Encourage value in healthcare. Prioritize treatments and processes that really contribute to improving the patient’s health. Put the patient at the center of the process and involve them to make them understand that the best thing for them, and for the system, is that they receive the right treatment in the right place at the right time. 

  4. Align incentives. Priorities must be established in a consistent way. This will ensure that decision-making aligns with the motives and needs of the people involved and that it takes into account the measurements of the results obtained. 

  5. Promote a culture of health. Ongoing education is required to encourage the adoption of habits that improve health (prevention, control, adhering to prescribed treatments) and to increase public awareness of the medical, clinical, process, management and finance innovations that can contribute to better-functioning healthcare systems.

Helping healthcare systems to meet the challenges they face is an important part of the Jaime Grego Chair of Healthcare Management's mission. As well as disseminating knowledge in the industry and academic community, it will aim to breach the gap between science, policy making and society by bringing together researchers and stakeholders.

The chair will focus its research on:

  • Understanding what works, and why, in healthcare through studying different systems around the world. 

  • Identifying the decisive success factors after adopting healthcare technology.

  • Understanding the impact of incentives on health insurance. 

  • Identifying and assessing key success factors in developing integrated healthcare.

  • Studying the preventative factors and processes required to encourage a healthy lifestyle. 

  • Identifying best practices in the sector.