Exploring Healthcare Platforms: Is There One Solution to Rule Them All?

Healthcare technology is undergoing a substantial transformation as it shifts from standalone applications to comprehensive healthcare platforms that can connect the entire ecosystem. However, is there one platform that can do it all? In a recent panel discussion during ViVE 2024, “The Platform: Who Will Get the Final Rose?” Industry experts dive into this critical question, illuminating the essence of healthcare platforms and their profound impact on the future of healthcare delivery. As industry leaders explore the intricacies of platform dynamics, partnerships, and cybersecurity, let’s unravel the potential and challenges of these platforms, shedding light on healthcare platforms and their role in shaping the future of healthcare.

Understanding Healthcare Platforms

Healthcare platforms serve as engines of integration and scalability. They are not merely aggregating various tools and solutions, but enabling seamless integration, mutual value exchange, and scalable growth. It’s this seamless orchestration of services, devices, data, and environments that distinguishes platforms from mere applications and point solutions.

Within health systems, platforms support efficient healthcare delivery— across electronic health records, analytics, telehealth, and more. They serve as the foundational backbone of healthcare operations.

“Platform success and strategy is all around how well things can integrate and scale. It’s about plugging things in, being able to unplug them and having growth and value that is returned from the connected services, devices, data, and environments that are all coming together. It’s all about integration engines, which is something that healthcare has been lacking for in so long.” – Kristen Valdes, CEO & Founder, b.well Connected Health

Scalability and openness are paramount in defining platforms. A platform’s ability to adapt and scale alongside organizational growth is essential. Moreover, an open architecture, coupled with collaborative engagement, is necessary for addressing real-world challenges within the healthcare industry. The platform is the long game, necessitating a collaborative approach that can solve for one use case right now but then support countless needs across all populations. Successful healthcare platforms rely on collaboration to remain relevant and impactful. Stakeholders like providers, vendors, and even competitors, need to work together towards common goals, such as consumer centricity and personalization.

From a user and stakeholder perspective, the value proposition of platforms lies in their ability to streamline workflows and enhance productivity. Healthcare platforms must seamlessly integrate into existing value chains, empowering users to navigate multiple tools and solutions effortlessly. 

In essence, platforms represent a paradigm shift—a move away from siloed applications towards interconnected ecosystems that drive innovation and efficiency in healthcare delivery. By fostering integration, scalability, and collaboration, platforms hold the key to overcoming the industry’s most pressing challenges and unlocking new opportunities for transformative change.

Trusted Platform vs. Point Solutions: A Strategic Dilemma

When it comes to healthcare technology, executives often grapple with the decision between leveraging trusted healthcare platforms or opting for the agility of point solutions. This choice isn’t just about speed; it’s about striking the right balance between immediate needs and long-term sustainability.

Health system executives recognize the value of making platforms “sweat” to extract maximum returns on investments. While point solutions may offer quicker fixes, relying solely on them risks duplicative efforts. Instead, industry experts advocate for a strategic approach, where healthcare platforms serve as the foundation for innovation, ensuring enduring solutions rather than temporary fixes.

“The question is, how should a platform think about what problems it is going to solve versus where it is going to partner? I always like to say that we’re moving out of a point solution fatigue type of environment, and as a platform company, you don’t want to come up with an off-the-shelf solution to a problem no one has, right? So when you’re thinking about platforming, the goal is really unification. It’s the unification of data, it’s the unification of services.” – Valdes

Even within standard healthcare platforms, friction persists. Providers seek to consolidate vendors while maintaining a commitment to innovation. This delicate balance underscores the importance of seamless integration. The goal is to minimize disruptions for users, keeping them within a unified interface while still harnessing the benefits of diverse solutions. Interoperability plays a crucial role here, while there are dual obstacles of data and solution fragmentation. It is imperative that solutions seamlessly meld with platforms to circumvent the formation of data silos. This emphasizes the shift towards open standard environments, fostering seamless communication among services. Such integration not only fuels innovation but also enhances the quality of patient care.

Recognizing the significance of long-term benefits, strategic investments in healthcare platforms take precedence over speed with point solutions. Prioritizing interoperability cultivates a unified ecosystem where data flows seamlessly, enabling innovation and ultimately improving patient outcomes. As healthcare continues to embrace technological advancements, finding the right balance between platforms and point solutions will be crucial for success.

Building Healthcare Platforms

Developing a platform is a challenging endeavor that demands strategic foresight and a deep understanding of market dynamics. It’s a process of continual evolution, centered around resolving pain points and broadening your influence.

One fundamental aspect is the significance of identifying and tackling the most pressing pain point effectively. For example, consider a company like Syntax Health, which concentrates on building a value-based care contracting platform. Rather than attempting to cover all bases at once, they began by addressing a single crucial issue and gradually expanded from there. This approach is rooted in a pragmatic commercial mindset—focusing on what’s saleable, valuable, and conducive to developing a minimum viable product (MVP).

Capital efficiency is another key principle stressed in this context. Rather than splurging vast sums on constructing a platform from the ground up, a gradual progression strategy is recommended. Start small, expand gradually, and solidify your position to become indispensable. This iterative process not only enhances business longevity but also erects barriers to entry, safeguarding your healthcare platform’s sustainability.

A similar perspective is shared by those at Symplr, who underscore the importance of addressing genuine healthcare challenges, particularly those related to workflow efficiency and administrative burdens. Through strategic acquisitions and a targeted approach to problem-solving, Symplr successfully transitioned into a platform. Their commitment to continually collaborating with other entities underscores their dedication to maximizing customer value.

In essence, building a platform is about strategic evolution, starting with a clear understanding of the pain points you’re addressing, and gradually expanding your capabilities to create value for your customers. It’s a journey that requires perseverance, adaptability, and a relentless focus on delivering meaningful solutions.

Platform Strategy: Unification Goals and Partnership Dynamics

As healthcare platforms strive to unify data and services, they navigate a landscape where deep collaborations and strategic partnerships are paramount. How should platforms approach the dual challenge of defining goals and cultivating partnerships, while emphasizing the importance of open standards, meaningful relationships, and flexibility in an ever-evolving ecosystem? 

Quality triumphs over quantity when it comes to partnerships. Deep collaborations, grounded in shared benefits and risks, require transparent discussions and alignment of goals. Long-term relationships drive continuous innovation and mutual growth. Platform companies face the challenge of unifying data and services across diverse ecosystems. Embracing open standards like FHIR (Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources) is crucial, moving away from standalone solutions to a cohesive approach, while alleviating the burden of intricate integrations.

Partnerships signify deep, mutually beneficial relationships rather than mere transactions. In healthcare, fewer but profound partnerships prove advantageous, enabling shared goals and risks. These collaborations drive meaningful innovation and leverage economies of scale.

To navigate the complex landscape of healthcare platforms, it’s crucial to consider how we can achieve seamless integration and collaboration:

Organic Evolution

One approach is the potential for organic evolution. Rather than solely relying on top-down directives, recognize that change can stem from grassroots movements. By adhering to fundamental principles, such as acknowledging the leverage of consumers, companies can be nudged towards collaboration. When consumers demand interoperability, organizations are compelled to adapt. This bottom-up pressure can lead to industry-wide standards and cooperative efforts among multiple stakeholders.

Economic Viability

However, any transformation must also be economically feasible. Scalability and cost-effectiveness are critical considerations. There is a need for simplicity and efficiency. With fewer moving parts, the maintenance burden decreases, paving the way for smoother operations. Yet, this simplicity cannot compromise the overarching goal of addressing the unsustainable costs plaguing the healthcare system. Balancing economic viability with the imperative for change remains a key challenge.

Staying Secure

The recent cybersecurity incident with Change Healthcare has highlighted the vulnerability of relying on single platforms in healthcare. This event emphasizes the necessity for redundancy in both data and healthcare platforms to ensure continuity and security. Cyber attacks are increasing, posing significant risks to the entire healthcare delivery system, impacting operations and cash flow. Diversifying platforms and investing in cybersecurity measures are crucial to mitigate these risks and ensure seamless connectivity. Internal Chief Information Security Officers (CISOs) are essential for prioritizing cybersecurity within organizations, while transitioning to cloud-based solutions offers enhanced security. 

Will There Be One Platform That Meets Everyone’s Needs?

Ultimately, the path forward involves a collaborative imperative. It’s clear that no single platform will emerge as the ultimate solution. Instead, the focus should be on creating an ecosystem where healthcare platforms seamlessly interact, driven by shared standards and mutual goals. This necessitates a shift in mindset among industry professionals, where the collective mission of improving healthcare outcomes takes precedence over individual gains. Stakeholders, including CIOs and health systems, must prioritize interoperability and actively advocate for collaborative efforts.

The vision of a one-size-fits-all platform remains distant amidst the intricacies of healthcare landscapes, where consumer health data is scattered across disparate sources. While aspirations for centralized management persist, the current infrastructure falls short. Nevertheless, the evolving regulatory climate and shifting consumer expectations mandate collective action among stakeholders. Platforms must adopt adaptable frameworks conducive to integration and interoperability. Deep partnerships address specific challenges, yet nurturing a broad ecosystem is imperative for innovation and adaptability. Rather than stifling innovation, emphasis should be on nurturing it, acknowledging that monopolization by a single platform is unrealistic.

While there may not be a definitive roadmap to selecting a singular platform, by embracing a concerted effort, economic pragmatism, and collaborative spirit, the healthcare industry can inch closer to the elusive goal of interoperability and cost reduction. It’s a journey characterized by incremental advancements and shared accountability, guided by the understanding that genuine transformation requires unity of purpose and collective endeavor.

Building the Future of Healthcare with Collaboration, Flexibility, and Open Standards 

To ensure the success of future healthcare platforms, vital changes in collaboration, flexibility, and open standards are imperative. In order for healthcare platforms to efficiently manage growing demands while controlling costs, there needs to be an emphasis on scalability and cost-effectiveness. Additionally, the importance of advocating for seamless integration and interoperability across systems and the significance of open standards. Fundamental collaboration relies on synergistic ecosystems to drive innovation and meet consumer needs.

In essence, we can envision a future where healthcare platforms are characterized by scalability, cost-efficiency, open architecture, flexibility, and collaboration. These attributes are essential for healthcare platforms to stay competitive and relevant in an increasingly dynamic digital landscape. At b.well, we are dedicated to driving innovation with the consumer needs at the heart of our vision. To be a part of the change, contact us today.

Join us on our mission to simplify healthcare, one person at a time.