Healthcare helps drive our economy and changes so quickly that it can be hard to keep up. On February 14, the Boston Business Journal’s Power Breakfast on Health Care explored the complexity and dynamic nature of the industry. The panel event, moderated by BBJ Executive Editor Doug Banks, brought together four visionary leaders in the health care field for a conversation about trends, challenges and what the future of the industry may bring for Greater Boston.

The panel featured Tom Croswell, CEO Tufts Health Plan; Jennifer M. Joe, MD, Co-Founder & CEO of, Christopher D. Palmieri, President & CEO of Commonwealth Care Alliance (CCA), and Dr. Kevin Tabb, CEO of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. A few of us from SM& were there to hear their discussion, which covered health care industry consolidation, the potential of data sharing, the transformative role of technology, and ideas for improving access to high-quality, affordable care that can result in better outcomes for patients at overall lower costs.

Croswell told the audience that while health care is a business, it’s also mission-driven, meaning organizations should reinvest in patient health and satisfaction. The panelists shared how their organizations are working to deliver the health outcomes and affordability patients expect and deserve, but agreed that a different approach is needed to achieve real change. That means getting a more complete picture of the individuals they serve to understand how factors in their home environment and other potential challenges they face, including food insecurity, lack of reliable transportation and other social determinants might interfere with their ability to access health services. Tabb said hospitals need to move away from thinking that their business is putting “heads in beds” and move towards understanding they are primarily in the business of health delivery.

Innovation in thinking is only one part of the equation. Another important factor is how technology can be directly applied to data management and patient care. Palmieri and Joe see evidence that technology is already transforming health care. Palmieri described how CCA uses proactive voice-first technology systems to keep patient care on track, leveraging capabilities such as medication adherence and appointment reminders. The panelists talked about the importance of predictive analytics to anticipate future events in high-risk patients; data sharing and analysis to find patterns that lead to improved care at lower cost; and elimination of administrative barriers that can strengthen doctors’ relationships with their patients.

Despite their organizations’ varied roles in the healthcare field, the panelists see Boston as an innovation hub where real change can and will take place. Will it be delivered by major “disruptors” such as Amazon? Maybe not, they said; it may be driven by local mission-focused organizations with names already working to put patients first.