By Erin Cristales, Vizient
Vizient CEO Byron Jobe leaned into the theme of the 2023 Vizient Connections Summit — “Together We Will Soar” — by emphasizing the importance of collaboration among healthcare stakeholders. “Partnership isn’t just an option,” he told the crowd. “Sometimes it’s the best path forward.”
At an event focused on exploring the latest and greatest in healthcare, it might seem surprising that the opening session kicked off with a 120-year-old anecdote.
Vizient CEO Byron Jobe indeed began his remarks at the 2023 Vizient Connections Summit — themed "Together We Will Soar" — by recounting the success story of "first in flight" brothers Orville and Wilbur Wright, complete with a twist to the oft-told tale.
There's a third name, he said, that's lesser known yet equally important: Charlie Taylor.
Taylor was a stove and bicycle mechanic who partnered with the Wrights after dozens of machine shops balked at the brothers' proposal to create an eight-horsepower engine to sustain their aircraft. In just six weeks, he developed a 16-horsepower engine that weighed 80 pounds less than expected.
The rest, as they say, is history.
It was a prime example, and a potent reminder, for the more than 4,000 provider, supplier and Vizient attendees of how the past informs the future. Again and again, cross-industry collaboration has ignited innovation — and there's no time like the present for healthcare to harness the power of partnerships.
After all, Jobe noted, the industry is already witnessing innovative connections such as progressive payer-provider relationships, joint ventures with outpatient specialists to increase inpatient capacity, and more sustainable collaborations between suppliers and providers that help solve for issues like workforce shortages and health inequities.
"Partnership isn't just an option — sometimes it's the best path forward," Jobe told the crowd. "I'm willing to bet each of you has that one big challenge in the back of your mind that you know you can't solve by yourself."
This just might be the week, he said, that you meet your Charlie Taylor.
Technological innovations take center stage (literally)
Following Jobe's remarks, Stanford Health Care President and CEO David Entwistle kept the creativity conversation front and center in an unexpectedly literal sense during his keynote address. Though he was the only person physically present onstage, Entwistle was joined by his Stanford Health Care colleagues Nigam Shah and Helen Wilmot via Proto, a life-sized holographic communications platform (and winner of the 2022 "Innovation in Connecting People" award at SXSW).
Entwistle and Shah — Stanford Health Care's inaugural chief data scientist who is leading an effort to advance the use of artificial intelligence in patient care and hospital administration — discussed four questions surrounding AI:
"There has never been a more exciting time in healthcare than this very moment," Entwistle said. "One reason is the promise of artificial intelligence to transform our work. AI isn't a robot that's going to replace us — it's a tool that can create efficiencies and free up time for us to spend with patients."
For many attendees, Entwistle's keynote gave voice to the enhanced consumer experience they had seen, or hoped to see, from technological innovations. Several providers and Vizient experts led power huddles on topics including large-scale virtual nursing programs, home hospitals and digital solutions such as ShareMD.
A team from University of Chicago Medicine delved into a digital and population health-based remote patient monitoring (RPM) solution they deployed to address uncontrolled hypertension. The RPM program uses existing technology — including Bluetooth-connected BP cuffs and smartphones — to help patients improve blood pressure control.
"In order to address a major chronic disease like hypertension, it was really important that we engaged our patients, providers, pharmacy team, nurses and physician assistants," said Tameka Wilson, assistant director, ambulatory nursing, at UChicago Medicine. "In healthcare, you have to be creative and make sure you bring everyone together in the treatment decision. We piloted our RPM program in our primary care clinic, and everyone was a part of that process."
No matter the topic, each presenter echoed the theme expressed by Jobe and Entwistle in the opening session: Real change never happens in a silo.
"More than half of U.S. hospitals are breaking even or losing money," Entwistle said. "After all we've gone through, we're still scrambling to catch up in so many ways. So, how do we go from being stuck on the tarmac to soaring in the air? There's only one way to do that — and it's together."
Piloting deeper relationships
Of course, the future of innovation rests on more than simple cooperation — it's about creating substantive and differentiated collaborations. That's exactly why Vizient has strived to create a healthier exchange of value between suppliers and providers through long-term relationships that leverage data, analytics and market insights to drive a more proactive approach to value positioning.
The commitment to a two-sided marketplace was on full display at Summit, which included a member/supplier connect that encouraged networking between suppliers and providers, as well as supplier education sessions on redefining possibilities for national account professionals; the future of the pharmacy landscape; Vizient's new strategic supplier process; and successful customer segmentation.
Supplier attendees also had the chance to hear from, and ask questions of, Vizient leaders, providers and fellow suppliers in meetings focused on assurance, environmental sustainability, supplier diversity, capital solutions, food services, and facilities and construction.
"As our strategy has evolved to improve healthcare providers' total cost of care, it's given us a dynamic opportunity to work with suppliers very differently," said Bryan Grossman, Vizient senior vice president, strategic supplier performance and category management, during supplier orientation. "Our approach has enabled Vizient to work with our industry partners as a true convener to create and implement sustainable solutions to address the most pressing challenges that our providers face. The opportunity we have together as partners has never been more powerful."
Building more collaborative connections with Vizient and provider organizations is what drew many suppliers to the event. John Tullbane, senior national account executive, healthcare, at General Mills, said Vizient's role as a convener provides an avenue for suppliers to better understand what the major challenges in healthcare are, and where they can step in to fill the gaps.
"For me, it's about exploring all these opportunities and identifying the areas where I can bring value to providers," he said. "Collaboration is just so paramount. This conference is a great example of where you can talk to a lot of people to really get a pulse on what's needed overall and then bring something to the table that meets most, if not all, of those needs."
Great work for a common good
By the time the closing session arrived, Summit had played host to 47 power huddles and panels; nine peer-to-peer meetings that included more than 2,000 attendees and three user forums with over 1,500 attendees; 12 interprofessional executive forums; 65 poster presentations; and a Volunteer Village event supporting Three Square Food Bank during which attendees packed more than 4,000 snack bags for kids.
And then it was time for one last powerful call to action provided by Roberta Schwartz, executive vice president and chief innovation officer at Houston Methodist Hospital. She spoke prior to the awarding of the 2023 Norman Borlaug Humanitarian Award to Lydia's House, a St. Louis-based nonprofit providing domestic violence survivors and their children the opportunity for better lives.
Bettering lives is, of course, a mission shared by healthcare, and the entire conference revolved around ensuring the best possible outcome for each and every patient who walks through a provider's doors. To do that, Schwartz said, is to remember that each patient is a person, not just a visit — and that innovating for the greater good must be an integral part of the industry.
It's something that healthcare's best and brightest minds have always understood, as Schwartz too turned to history — and more specifically, Florence Nightingale — to illustrate her point. The founder of modern nursing, Nightingale led a team of volunteers to care for soldiers injured in the Crimean War, created holistic environments that improved hygiene and reduced mortality, and made health data more accessible, which inspired new standards of treatment.
Most importantly, Schwartz said, Nightingale understood that healthcare can, and must, strive to be better.
"Failure is not the opposite of success; complacency is," Schwartz said. "If we want to continue to be relevant, we need true innovation and transformation. We need to create new solutions that no one knew they needed — and that they don't want to live without.
"Collectively," she said, "it is us who will make a difference for the future of healthcare."
- Vizient recognizes 22 suppliers and distributors for service excellence
- Vizient announces top performers in clinical quality, supplier diversity and environmentally preferred sourcing excellence
- Visit the 2023 Connections Summit webpage to access nearly 140 recorded, posters, panels and power huddle sessions, peer-to-peer meetings and interprofessional executive forum sessions. Most on-demand sessions offer accredited continuing education. A Vizient login and password is required to access all Summit educational content.