Health Care Doesn't Need Innovation -- It Needs Transformation

Technology has undoubtedly transformed our daily lives. We stream Netflix shows, read The New York Times and Forbes online, order Uber to chauffeur us around and rely on our iPhones for almost everything. Many of us spend more time than we care to admit on Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat. In fact, 65% of Americans now use one or more social networking platforms; only 7% did so in 2005. Compared with what it was just 10 or 20 years ago, the world really has changed.

But the closer you look, the clearer it becomes that this dramatic transformation is often superficial. Pieces of the business model have evolved, but at its core, many businesses remain the same. Sure, they are accompanied by cool, easy-to-use interfaces, logistics, and product improvements, but the pig has just put on a new shade of lipstick.

Take travel. Technology has reinvented how we make airline and hotel reservations by essentially transferring control from the travel agent to us. Now, we may book the flights and choose our in-air meals, but the experience of flying on a plane is remarkably similar to the way it was 50 years ago. We still wait in line for a prioritized boarding experience, check our second bag and receive free water and soft drinks in coach.

In some industries, people are questioning the conventional wisdom that technology will change everything. Nowhere is this more apparent, nor is there a better example, than in health care today. In the last 10 years, with a $20 billion stimulus from the federal government, health care moved from warehouses of paper files and prescriptions that were illegible, simply wrong and often dangerous to a more efficient and safer system of electronic prescribing and electronic health records. Today, more than 80% of health-care providers use electronic health records, and 70% of doctors e-prescribe using an EHR.

But that’s where the revolution stalled. I should know – I was there.

We laid the foundation with electronic health records. We created electronic-data repositories with the hope that they would become information systems that make physicians and everyone else smarter about the care they deliver or need. But we have not yet leveraged these data repositories to deliver safer, more informed, comprehensive care. Electronic health records have not yet fundamentally changed how the health-care system delivers care. EHRs provide data that are necessary for changing how we deliver care, but they’re not sufficient on their own. We need vision, leadership, and innovation to complete the task.

Let me give you an example in which technology has transformed the entire business model: media. Computers made it easier to access music, films and news (no more going to a record store, for example), but they also changed every other aspect of how we experience media: the delivery model (anytime, anywhere), the payment model (who pays and ways to pay) and the personalization (providers suggest music, videos and news based on your topics of interest).

According to the Pew Research Center’s 2016 State of the News Media report, 2015 was the worst year for newspapers since the Great Depression. Added to newspaper ad revenue losses and newsroom staffing cuts, the report says, this decline “suggests the industry may be past its point of no return.” The core business models underlying the news and advertising industries have been revolutionized so thoroughly that going back is no longer an option. In the same year, however, digital ad revenue increased by 20%, according to the Interactive Advertising Bureau.

So what would health care look like if we applied these same principles: Change the delivery model (where and when we want it), the payment model (how we pay for it) and the personalization (what is and what will become most relevant to me)? What if health care used technology to empower people (we used to call them patients) in the center of the equation as “intelligent connected health consumers?”

Let me give you another example: If you are like me, you love Doctor On Demand because you can complete a virtual visit at home (no exposure to other sick people), save time (no drive to the doctor’s office or wait times) and access a qualified physician (makes living in Timbuktu a real option). However, it’s fundamentally still the same 15 minutes with a physician.

Compare that to a world where the doctor’s office, using sophisticated computers, monitors you and notifies you when something is amiss. Imagine receiving a suggestion on your smartphone that your doctor would like to see you to determine whether that nagging cough is seasonal asthma or an exacerbation of your congestive heart failure. She even orders your labs ahead of time so that the results can inform your conversation when you are together.

Defenders of the status quo must realize what we’re doing today simply isn’t working.

I talk to lots of entrepreneurs every month, and I’m often surprised at how many of them are stuck in first-level thinking about how software and technology can eat health care. Would-be innovators limit their innovation right away by refusing to challenge assumptions about health care and staying healthy; instead, they just pick at the edges. The real innovation (and money) is in fundamental changes that will forever alter the industry. Uber knew this, Netflix knew this, Facebook knew this, and if we’re going to change health care, we have to know this too.

So my response is always the same: Think big. Jettison the incremental and embrace the transformational. Don’t assume you’re going to play in the exact same business model – in fact, start with the assumption you can’t. Yes, it’s hard. And if you are looking for new friends, that might not be the place to look. But that’s where the opportunity is. The first technology revolution is ending. My advice: Either embrace the second health-care technology revolution or be left behind. Entrepreneurs like to talk about changing the world – now it’s our time to actually do it.

 

This article was written by Glen Tullman from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.