Learn more on the future of health care.

Steven Shapiro, MD, is the Executive Vice President and Chief Medical and Scientific Officer at UPMC. Jeremy Abbate, the publisher of Scientific American, asked for his view on healthcare today and tomorrow, and how it will take some unconventional thinking to get us where we want to go.

Q: How would you describe the state of health care today?

A: We see this as both the best of times and worst of times for healthcare. The advances in science and technology are unbelievable. We’re doing things to improve patient care like never before. But, the price is too high and we need to work on affordability and access to care.

Q: How can you place a greater emphasis on affordability without sacrificing quality care?

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A: The two often go hand in hand. The higher quality often lowers the cost, but sometimes one pays for what they get. Our job is to know the difference. The incentives are largely misaligned, which is why the government has been working on other models of care. In the meantime, we’re unique in our structure, so as a payer-provider, we can start to deal with these things today. The total cost of care and quality is on us as a system.

Q: If you imagine the hospital of the future, what will it look like?

A: We can bring continuous physiologic monitoring to our patients in their homes. It’s a matter of really coordinating the care, keeping in contact. There will be a need, at least in the foreseeable future, for a brick-and-mortar hospital. But in that hospital, the patients will be sicker. It’ll almost be a big ICU.

Q: If you could change one thing about our healthcare system, in this country or even globally, what would that be?

A: I talked about affordability, which is big, but we could make the most difference if we focused on healthier lifestyles. A healthy diet, a little exercise, don’t smoke, and maybe sleep a little bit more. Changing behaviors could eliminate the majority of chronic diseases, improving health in our country tremendously.

Q: What’s the next frontier for UPMC?

A: We would like to continue on our payer-provider journey to interlock even more closely with our health plan to deliver higher quality care that’s more affordable for our patients. But with advances in science and technology, we also have the opportunity to develop new therapies that could really make a difference in treating intractable diseases, if not ultimately lead to a cure.


This article first appeared in Scientific American. 

About UPMC

Headquartered in Pittsburgh, UPMC is a world-renowned health care provider and insurer. We operate 40 hospitals and 800 doctors’ offices and outpatient centers, with locations throughout Pennsylvania, Maryland, New York, West Virginia, and internationally. We employ 4,900 physicians, and we are leaders in clinical care, groundbreaking research, and treatment breakthroughs. U.S. News & World Report consistently ranks UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside as one of the nation’s best hospitals in many specialties and ranks UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh on its Honor Roll of America’s Best Children’s Hospitals. We are dedicated to providing Life Changing Medicine to our communities.