Garrett talks partnerships at HLTH conference

Robert Garrett, co-CEO of Hackensack Meridian Health. – Hackensack Meridian Health

Innovation and technology and their role in health care is a key focus of the first HTLH: The Future of Healthcare conference in Las Vegas this week.

Hackensack Meridian Health co-CEO Robert Garrett was on a panel Tuesday discussing the health system’s partnerships with some of the most recognizable health and tech companies, as well as locally in New Jersey.

“To be successful in the future … you really need the key strategic partners,” Garrett told ROI-NJ prior to his panel.

The health system, the largest in New Jersey, has been outpacing others in the state with bringing brand names under its umbrella or associating with them in ways that benefit the overall population it serves.

Based on projected 2018 revenue, the company recently surpassed RWJBarnabas Health to claim the title of the largest system. It has in the past two years created partnerships with New Jersey Institute of Technology for an innovation center, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey for bundled payments, Memorial Sloan Kettering for cancer, Carrier Clinic for behavioral health, Uber for providing rides to patients, as well as IBM Watson, through its relationship with COTA, to provide an artificial intelligence-based plan of care.

“Before we partner with any of these technology companies, we want to make sure it meets our strategic objectives,” Garrett said

That includes determining if it contributes to the population health mission or patient experience mission, or determining if it adds value to the system, by improving the quality of care or improving the patient experience. The system also determines if a partnership makes health care more affordable by reducing variations and reducing cost, and if it can provide an economic (return on investment).

“So, in the care transformation, as we create the bundles of care and partner with insurers, we believe there will be a long-term ROI,” he said.

Some of the partnerships are newer than others, and some have made more progress than others.

The partnership with IBM Watson, which works alongside COTA, the company founded by Chief Innovation Officer Dr. Andrew Pecora, has been successful in reducing the cost of care in breast cancer.

The next step will be diabetes and behavioral health patients, Garrett said.

The health system also has a number of tech-based partnerships such as Pandora, with which it launched its own channel, and NRC Health, to obtain real-time patient satisfaction while patients are still in the hospital, and Wambi to allow patients to rate their caregivers and log any complaints or problems.

There is also a partnership with Shwa, a New Jersey-based startup that helps Hackensack Meridian Health identify food insecure patients and community members.

“It’s become such a big issue. We see it in almost every one of our acute care hospitals. But we also see it on the outpatient basis in clinics and physician’s offices and urgent care and retail health care settings,” Garrett said. “One of my themes is going to be we couldn’t do this without our key partners. You need a partner that focuses on and that develops the right data tools and softwares that identifies that kinds of patients.”

And Garrett is keeping his eyes peeled at the conference, which had more than 3,500 confirmed attendees and ballooned to more than three times that size.

“That just shows you the power and interest in innovation and technology in health care,” Garrett said. “It just attracts people across the health care continuum. You’ve got insurers out here, policymakers, delivery systems, disruptive startup companies, existing companies — it’s just a lot of different folks representing different elements,” he said.

Garrett said he attended the conference because there is more pressure than ever for health organizations to be current and invest in new technologies.

“As a CEO, I have to stay close to it and keep abreast of it, and also I rely on key people like Andrew Pecora and Jim Blazar and his team for strategic planning,” he said. “We participate in a lot of national and international meetings. It’s a lot at one time and, right now, there is so much disruption going on in the market and technology is moving really quickly. You have to really stay current in terms of what is going on with respect to innovation and the disruptors out there.”