This 7-part series is based on what I learned at a Healthcare Conference in Baltimore, MD, sponsored by an organization called Planetree that is seeking to dramatically improve the quality of patient care by offering up a comprehensive certification program to hospitals around the world.
The opening Keynote speaker, Jason Wells, Chief Strategy Officer for the Adventist Health system, jumped right into the thick of what’s wrong with healthcare today. Wells showed us pictures of a sign seen posted in some of his own medical reception areas that read: IF YOU HAVE BEEN WAITING FOR MORE THAN 30 MINUTES PAST YOUR SCHEDULED APPOINTMENT TIME, PLEASE COME TO THE WINDOW FOR FURTHER ASSISTANCE.
Besides the long waits, Wells continued, there’s filling out endless forms you suspect no one reads, and once you finally get into the examining room, there’s an assistant and then a doctor who are trained to interrupt you within 8 seconds if your answers to their questions are too long. These two people have on average, less than ten minutes combined to get to know you, figure out what’s wrong with you and then offer up a solution. Now, even if you are in for a minor procedure, or an annual checkup, you may be asked to submit to what Mr. Wells considers to be the ultimate form of humiliation: Putting on a hospital gown.
Then, when you finally get the bill, you realize you are paying for everything ala carte: The Primary Care Physician, the specialist, the hospital, the pharmacy, the blood work, and the anesthesiologist! As Wells explained, that would be like going out to dinner and having to pay the Maître De, the waiter, the cook, the valet, the bus person and the restaurant itself, all separately. As Wells so painfully had to admit, this is what healthcare calls: STANDARD OPERATING PROCEEDURE!
That’s when he started talking about marketplace “disrupters” like Netflix, Uber, and Amazon. All of these companies saw opportunity where other companies, whose market share these disrupters were cutting into, just saw it as the way they’d always done business. Wells described the OPPORTUNITY that Uber saw by quite accurately recalling the ordeal he had to go through when flagging down a yellow cab in the NY City.
Once you are finally in the cab and the driver presses down the lever on the meter, you quickly realize to your dismay, that this diabolical machine is charging you for BOTH the miles you travel and the minutes you spend in the car. And, of course, you have NO IDEA when it’s going to get there or how much it will be or even if the driver is taking the fastest route. If the traffic is bad enough, you may have racked up $5 on the counter, before you’ve even traveled one block. Just like healthcare, this was a business RIPE for disruption.
That’s when UBER came along and changed everything. While this level of disruption (i.e., change for the better) hasn’t happened quite yet in healthcare, it happens all the time in other industries: Netflix came along and put Blockbuster out of business. Apple has nearly put Motorola and Blackberry (who were formerly major players in the cell-phone market) out of business. Then Amazon came along and started offering same day and free two-day shipping and has put innumerable online competitors out of business as well.
So, who does Wells see coming along to disrupt healthcare in the same way, and how will they do it? We’ll talk about that in the next installment.