It can be tempting to look at the healthcare industry – with its high costs, lack of transparency, high medical error rates…you name it – and wonder whether we can ever achieve the kind of transformation other industries have seen. As I’ve scanned recent news and publications, however, I’ve seen some trends that give me hope that healthcare is moving toward – and is capable of – significant transformation.
For one, the industry is starting to change its language. Consumerism is mentioned in article after article. As I’ve argued before, I think healthcare consumerism is real, and it’s only a matter of time before it takes hold in a more substantial way. There’s no reason to believe that consumers won’t continue push their expectations from retail and online experiences onto the healthcare arena. They’ve experienced big change in other seemingly entrenched industries, so why shouldn’t they expect the same in healthcare?
And healthcare leaders are increasingly paying attention to transformation and disruption in other industries, citing examples such as:
- Apple/Streaming Services – changing the way we access and consume music
- Amazon – redefining the way we buy things
- Uber and Zipcar – redrawing the local transportation landscape and even removing the need for some to own a car
- Online Banking – redefining how we manage and secure our money
Industry leaders would be remiss to ignore the cautionary tale implicit in these examples. Legacy, tradition, and complexity aren’t viable excuses for not transforming to meet consumer needs. It didn’t work for the other industries mentioned, and if healthcare leaders want to be part of the inevitable transformation, they’ll need to figure out a way to pivot and play.
As Steve Case points out in his new book, “The Third Wave: An Entrepreneur’s Vision of the Future,” transformation will require some new skills and strategies. He calls these the “3 Ps”: Partnership, Policy, and Perseverance, and they are highly relevant to transformation in the healthcare industry.
- Given all the pieces that need to come together to create something game-changing and consumer-centric, it’s clear that partnership is needed. No one entity can – or should – do it all. The winners will be those who can assemble the key components required to meet consumer needs, in a seamless, efficient and elegant way. A recent Oliver Wyman report looks at how new partnerships could have a positive impact on a number of aspects of healthcare.
- There’s no question that healthcare is full of regulation and compliance requirements which can’t – and in most cases, shouldn’t – be avoided. The ability to understand policy will be key to implementing sustainable change.
- We all know healthcare is complicated. It’s not easy to pivot in an industry that makes up 17% of the GDP. Perseverance will be a critical success factor. As the saying goes, “the only way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time”. It may take small steps – such as getting consumers to exercise their retail shopping skills in more routine/minor care situations – to start implementing change. We shouldn’t overlook the potential of small changes to lead to bigger ones.
In addition to laying out a vision for the next phase of transformation in an internet-fueled world, Steve Case’s book was a fun trip down memory lane, and a powerful reminder of how far we’ve come since the advent of the internet. Many of the things we take for granted now were unimaginable 20-30 years ago. I wouldn’t be surprised if we look back at healthcare 20 years from now and feel a similar sense of disbelief at how far we’ve come. I, for one, am optimistic.