Q&A with David Bjork on the Healthcare Summit at Jackson Hole

Q&A with David Bjork on the Healthcare Summit at Jackson Hole

By Brad Dodge on January 21st, 2013

For the next several weeks, we'll be featuring interviews with healthcare executives who participate in the Healthcare Summit at Jackson Hole, an invitation-only event in its third year that's designed to be light on formal educational content and heavy on relationship development. Our first interview is with David Bjork, founder of the Healthcare Summit at Jackson Hole and president of Telcare.

Dodge: The third annual Healthcare Summit at Jackson Hole will take place on March 14-17. We wanted to get your observations on how the event is progressing and what kind of contributions it’s making to the greater good of healthcare.

David Bjork headshotBjork: The things that we set out to do initially and that we are accomplishing is connecting people that are in influential positions inside important and influential healthcare organizations with one another that would not otherwise have met one another. It’s about enabling those people to meet each other and get a sense for one another without it being a formal presentation or trying to decipher what an organization or the people that run an organization are all about through normal business channels. The result of that actually, and I don’t find out about this formally of course, but the result of that is I’m learning that there are business relationships that have been established—clearly there are personal relationships that have been established—but there are business relationships that have spun out of those personal relationships that have become very meaningful. When we said we wanted to do something different and we wanted to create a unique environment for executives that are all prominently in the healthcare space to have a chance to meet one another in an environment that was not the traditional environment. It’s working, and it’s also evidenced by the fact that we’re growing. We started with 15 people and last year we grew a little bit. This year we may end up with nearly 30 people this year and I think that’s really cool.

Dodge: Is it a requirement that these people that get invited are skiers? Is it all centered around skiing?

Bjork: That’s a good question. With the fact that we’re running this venue at Jackson Hole at the base of the Jackson Hole ski area—it’s renowned as one of the best and more challenging ski venues in North America—it would tend to make people think that. But we’ve had a number of people, and I think a growing number of people, that are not avid ski enthusiasts. But I will also say that there are some that would otherwise potentially participate that have chosen not to participate because of the implications—or at least the perception of the implications—with the venue. I think what we do end up with is we end up with people that have some common interest in being outdoors and in the vibrancy of the outdoors. In my view, that’s not a bad thing, that’s a good thing.

Dodge: Thanks for that overview. Let’s switch topics to your company Telcare. What role is Telcare playing in the industry and how do you see Telcare’s future being shaped by what’s going on in healthcare?

Bjork: I love that question because I think the answer is interesting. First of all, it’s important to understand that Telcare is a business that’s in the mobile health arena, delivering a unique diabetes management solution that is centered around a cellular-enabled medical device, the blood glucose meter. But the power of the platform is really more in everything that happens after that device does what it does, which is deliver data on a person that is doing self-management of their disease and facilitating a venue through which we can deliver messaging directly back to that individual at the moment during their busy day when they’ve stopped to do something about their health.

So with that understanding, the industry is moving in very interesting and different ways right now that are fueled by legislation. Everything is happening within the context of healthcare reform. I’ll say a few things about the way I observe the winds blowing or the momentum moving inside healthcare, kind of broadly. One is that you’ve got a movement toward physicians having their incentives more aligned with the financial risk of healthcare and the quality of healthcare that’s delivered to the patients they serve. So, a more pay-for-value kind of approach as opposed to a fee-for-service approach.  That’s evidenced by the prevalence of patients that are in medical homes, the ACO movement, the various designs of healthcare delivery systems that are embracing physicians in that manner. It’s pretty ubiquitous.

Also, patients are being asked to become more accountable for their own healthcare and the manner in which they manage their own healthcare. Examples would be an individual being asked to step up to a medical exam that the employer sponsors and—presuming that there’s no evidence that they’re using tobacco or doing other things that would be negatively influencing how healthy they’re going to be—they would get a discount on their healthcare. They’re enrolling in a wellness program of sorts and getting a discounted premium.  On the other hand, if they exhibit less-than-best self-management behavior, then their premiums are more expensive. That’s probably the most hard evidence of what I think is a much more prevalent and general trend of saying, “Hey, patients. You need to be more accountable for your own care.”

Look at things like iTriage and CarePass and OptimizeMe, those are three of the biggest healthcare payors in the country that are all delivering on mobile applications that are all intended to support patient accountability and patients being more informed and responsible for their own healthcare. That’s point #2, and point #3 is that you have a technology environment that is now at an inflection point that it’s never been before. The prevalence of EMRs and the ability for healthcare information to be exchanged across the healthcare delivery networks—that is at a place it’s never been before, which accelerates and facilitates those first two things.

Our ability to measure, monitor, encourage and enforce the physicians taking a more aligned role in delivering care and patients being asked to step up to a more accountable for their own healthcare role. Those are the general trends inside healthcare and I think that our organization just happens to be at the right place at the right time delivering on a solution for 10 percent of the population that spends 25 percent of the healthcare dollar, which is those people living with diabetes. We happen to be delivering on something that facilitates more accountability to the patient and enables the healthcare system to observe and encourage and facilitate physicians playing a more active role in a patient’s care between office visits. That fits with all of the trends in healthcare. I’m not sure how Telcare is going to influence general healthcare trends, we certainly fit within the things that I observe happening. That’s helping to accelerate our growth.

Dodge: Thanks, Dave. We wish you the best success with your business and also with the Healthcare Summit at Jackson Hole.