At AHIP Institute, collaboration is the name of the game

Many relationships in healthcare can best be described as adversarial.

Patients often distrust payers and don't understand how the healthcare system or their own provider organization works. Providers constantly clash with payers and vice versa. And everybody's regard for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and other government bodies can perhaps be measured in varying levels of disdain.

If the message of America's Health Insurance Plans AHIP Institute is any indication, though, these relationships may finally be changing. Nearly every keynote, educational session and conversation featured some form of the word collaboration.

These examples--except, perhaps, for Romney's plea to send ships to defend the South China Sea--take a fairly conciliatory approach. Whether that lasts remains to be seen.

In a conversation with FierceHealthPayer, Gregory Scott, vice chairman and U.S. health plans leader at Deloitte, said that, right now, payers (and healthcare organizations in general) see value in collaboration. In due time, as the industry continues its march toward value-based care and pay-for-performance reimbursement, this will become an imperative to collaborate, if not partner or integrate outright.

Certainly, this offers opportunities; Scott specifically mentioned improvements to analytics and care coordination, echoing what other AHIP speakers said.

However, healthcare and integration don't always mix, as the decades-long struggle to get disparate EHR systems to share data illustrates all too painfully. Nor is there any guarantee that consumers, physicians, nurses or claims representatives will reap the same benefits from industry consolidation as executives or shareholders.

At any rate, collaboration is a start. It opens a door through high, thick walls that the healthcare industry has erected to separate its major players. In some cases, it even opens a window into how these entities operate and can learn from each other.

It will be a long time before the walls come down--and, even then, large piles of rubble will still stand between providers, patients, payers and government agencies. Then, though, it will be easier for everyone to see that their struggles are the same and that they need not view each other as adversaries. Brian (@Brian_Eastwood and @HealthPayer

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