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Fostering innovation through collaboration

Innovation is badly needed to redesign our nation’s health care system, according to speakers on a panel at AHIP’s Institute 2013, and they argue it’s already happening. In spaces big and small, from the halls of GE and the Mayo Clinic to the computer of a 15-year-old who is developing a diagnostic test for pancreatic cancer after seeing his friend die, people are identifying problems and finding solutions. And they want to engage with insurers. “We want to be your new best friends, in terms of how to create this care-to-cure continuum,” FasterCures Executive Director Margaret Anderson told health insurance leaders gathered for the talk. Innovation, they argued, is really about unexpected partnerships, and the new ideas they generate. Examples include collaboration between GE, the NFL and the Army, which partnered on brain injury research, according to Healthymagination CEO Susan Siegel, who runs the GE initiative. Or 15-year-old Jack Andraka and a Johns Hopkins University scientist who helped him translate his idea into a promising new test to diagnose pancreatic cancer. And Anderson argued another partnership is key: Patients and insurers. She discussed the passionate work done by patient groups to advance cures. The groups have much at stake but little understanding of how to engage with insurers on conversations about treatment and reimbursement. Siegel, discussing the diagnostics side, agreed, saying “there is a tremendous desire to work with payers in the innovation community.” She noted that some investors shy away from novel solutions they fear might not attain reimbursement. She called for a collective voice from payers on metrics, so medical innovators can approach their work in the right frame of mind. Innovators, she said “are thinking about affordability from the outset, but they want to know what payers want.” On the provider side, outgoing Mayo Clinic Center for Innovation Medical Director Nicholas LaRusso urged a new type of conversation between providers and payers to work toward broad consensus on metrics, reimbursement, regulatory obstacles and more. Anderson brought the conversation down to a personal level: Every 68 seconds someone is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Every 24 seconds, a cancer diagnosis. “Every second is urgent,” she said. “We’re all going to be patients or we [already] are.” And to insurers, she said “you have the power to drive this cure system.”