The Brightest Minds Speak Up

Jacob Reider, MD is CEO of the Alliance for Better Health, created by the state of New York to develop innovative solutions that incentivize overall health and wellness for upstate NY Medicaid members and uninsured individuals – including a goal to reduce avoidable emergency department visits and hospital stays by 25% over a five-year period. Dr. Reider’s greatest passion is helping people become healthier. He laughs at his wife’s comment that he has “career ADD,” with his history of diverse roles including family physician, medical director, coordinator of health IT for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, entrepreneur, health reform advocate and usability fanatic. We caught up with Dr. Reider while he was walking the streets of San Francisco…

HIMSS:  What do you see as the most important new innovations in digital health?

Jacob: I am most excited about the consumerization of health information transfer. We’re approaching the tipping point in “consumer directed exchange” – where the patient or the patient’s advocate has access to health information and can view, download or transmit it to a third party. Now, telecommunication companies are “catching” this information and you can suck it all into your mobile phone. Consumers are being empowered to share data where they choose. Their health information is no longer trapped inside some manila folder. The challenge is that all the players in healthcare delivery have conflicting interests. Few business incentives align with information-sharing.

HIMSS:  What about the most pressing needs on the healthcare horizon?

Jacob: I think the most pressing need is to align business models with the best interest of individuals. We’ve seen generations of inappropriate care in this country, with business models aligned to more care and potentially less health. If I'm a surgeon or a hospital with a growing cardiovascular surgery program, the more people who eat burgers and donuts and don't exercise, the better for me and my business. That's crazy! In an industry that purports to be advocating for people, 90 percent of models are misaligned.  We are migrating very slowly toward alignment.  My organization, Alliance for Better Health, is an example of the government doing its best to align. It's really hard, with a lot of resistance – because many people are happy as it is. Health IT is a massive economy, a trillion-dollar business with extraordinary margins in both health technology and healthcare delivery organizations. People are making a lot of money and the unhealthier our nation is, the more money they’re going to make. Something doesn’t compute.  So that’s the pressing need. We need to align business models with what’s best for the individual. I f we do that, information-sharing will become self-evident and tools to empower people will become better and our nation will care about getting healthy.

HIMSS:  What’s the value of being on the HIMSS Innovation Committee?

Jacob: To be provocative. Committee members try to “think different,” to be a virus that infects the industry by questioning assumptions about what’s possible. Innovation is not just about having crazy thoughts. It’s about having good, repeatable processes. In my organization, we talk about creating pull -- rather than pushing things. If I work for a large hospital system, do I roll a boulder uphill and try to push change? Or do I create pull -- so my organization asks me to do something I want it to do? Provocateurs ask questions that are unsettling enough to cause the organization to ask for help. Until an organization wants to change – it won’t. The value of HIMSS is to share best practices and help institutions migrate toward their new tomorrow.

HIMSS:  Why do you have a passion for advancing health innovation?

Jacob: It’s all about helping people be successful. My very first job was teaching kids to sail. They learned to go places all by themselves, with just the wind. Pretty cool. They got skill, freedom, autonomy, confidence. In each iteration of my career, it’s been about helping others be successful. As a primary care doctor, it’s being there for people, understanding what they want and helping them achieve it. I saw opportunities to help my colleagues with the inefficiencies with paper and trying to remember all the drug interactions and treatment options.  So I started using computers really early in my career. A colleague said to me, “But then patients will know that we don’t know everything!” Yeah! There’s been an evolution in healthcare. There’s a humility there, a servant leadership.  We’re not perfect, we’re just here to serve the people who are more important than we are.

HIMSS:  Anything else on your mind?

Jacob: HIMSS members have an extraordinary opportunity to do extraordinarily good things for people worldwide. What an honor it is. We need to hold ourselves accountable to serving others, and not be tempted by fame or fortune or personal gain because sometimes this happens in health or health IT. Yes, I believe people should earn a fair wage. But if you’re serving others, the rest will fall into place.