The Impact Effect: Three Days at Health Evolution Summit


At HES, discussion around long-term "impact" was everywhere. Let's get moving.

Sam Glick

7 min read

Editor's Note: Oliver Wyman was a content partner at this year’s Health Evolution Summit. Here’s what most inspired Oliver Wyman’s Sam Glick during his time there.

At 7AM on a Wednesday, nearly 30 healthcare executives filled a small conference room at this year’s Health Evolution Summit (HES) to talk about behavioral health. Not technological innovations. Not regulatory changes. Not mergers and acquisitions. Yep, behavioral health!

Moreover, the first question one of those executives asked was, “What can we do in this discussion to act rather than just have a ‘good conversation?’”

This scene would have been completely different a decade ago. We would have been lucky to have half the number of people in the room, most who’d have been behavioral health specialists, not decision makers. And we’d have mostly focused on identifying challenges, not challenging each other to devise solutions. This time around, the stakes are too high, the pressure’s too acute, and the consumers are more demanding than ever. Impact’s time has come.

Impact was indeed a key theme of this year’s event. In fact, the day before, my colleagues Terry Stone and Helen Leis joined over 100 other women (and a few bold men) to connect meaningfully with others about creating an industry where female leaders flourish.

On Thursday, Julie Murchinson, CEO, Health Evolution, chatted with Seema Verma, Administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, where Seema shared her vision – not for more regulation, but for more innovation, more competition, and more speed.

Oliver Wyman hosted a discussion where Ash Gupta, former President, Global Credit Risk and Information Management at American Express, taught over 20 healthcare CEOs how to transform a business using artificial intelligence (AI). At the end of this discussion, the CEOs agreed they just couldn’t wait another year to tackle AI – and even started planning how to improve their own “AI IQ” as senior executives.

Yes, HES reliably delivers great conversations, but this year was different. The impetus for impact was palpable. So, why now?

1)    Passions have become priorities: The most interesting conversations at HES happen outside of formal meetings – in hallways, over meals, and at the bar. During these discussions, executives talk about what’s meaningful to them personally. For many years, those personal passions were things like behavioral health, substance abuse, food insecurity, end-of-life care, and weight loss – often inspired by personal experiences. This year, these topics went from being “passion projects” discussed in the after hours to being corporate priorities highlighted on stage. Why? Value-based care means incentives are aligning, and stigmas aren’t what they used to be.

2)    The competition has changed: Not long ago, healthcare companies’ biggest competitors were other healthcare companies. Impact was just about being the best among the mediocre. Now consumer companies are getting into healthcare in a serious way, and traditional healthcare companies look slow and bureaucratic by comparison.  This year’s HES was about household names laying claim in healthcare. Walgreens was a sponsor, Google was on stage, and Amazon popped up in nearly every conversation. CEOs are rightfully nervous – and that’s good for accelerating impact.

3)    Diversity is starting to change the conversation: As Oliver Wyman’s research shows, we have a long way to go in diversifying healthcare leadership. Edelman recently showed women trust the health system less than men do. Yet every year, we see a few more people from different backgrounds at HES. More women. More people of color. More out-of-industry executives. And this means more empathy and less patience for the status quo. After all, who knows how poorly the system serves single mothers than someone who’s been one herself? Or how messy Medicaid access really is like an executive raised on Medicaid?

4)    We’re running out of time: The demographic threat to the healthcare industry is finally in sight. By 2030, the US will have more people over age of 65 than under age of 18. The senior population is growing at several times the rate of the commercially-insured population – and this makes the current system’s Robin Hood economics unsustainable. For healthcare executives, making the system dramatically more affordable isn’t just a way to deliver on a mission, or to improve profitability. It’s the only way to stay in business.

Impact is here to stay, and I for one am delighted. From boardrooms to exam rooms – and even at our own Oliver Wyman Health Innovation Summit – impact is at the top of the agenda.  Let’s get moving.

  • Sam Glick