Why this campaign represents healthcare's greatest opportunity yet
This is a guest post from Jonathan Bush, CEO & president at athenahealth.
Great day for the peeps!
No matter who wins today, this election represents the single greatest opportunity for us as a people, bar none. Why? Because the next President, regardless who takes the helm, will struggle to claim a true popular mandate. Translation: Very little will get done.
Polls show us more than half of registered voters dislike Clinton and Trump. In fact, never before have two competing candidates incited such ire. For many Americans the choice comes down to the least unfavorable candidate. Beyond the populous, Trump lacks the full support of his own party’s Speaker of the House. And Hillary faces a House of Representatives held by the other party. Gridlock ahead!
Furthermore, due to the “personal nature” of the campaign, neither candidate was able to put forward or debate, let alone build popular support behind…anything. I suppose a “wall” is an idea but its absurdity as an idea makes this point even more.
So why is this an opportunity you ask? While federal mandates of past administrations will carryover no matter who takes office, it will take close to a miracle for more mandates to squeak out. This means we can become masters of the current federal minutia – which we’re well on our way to doing in healthcare – and rush the greenfield where opportunity calls. While government sits still and bickers, we must raise well above the bars that federal government has inadvertently over-architected and/or set too low.
In my world (healthcare), innovation has been paralyzed by a six-year-long race to comply with mandates from Washington. As importantly, because they were mandates, all of the other companies in my space were working on the same things. Competitive advantage – and the thousand incredible, esoteric inventions we might have produced to accomplish it – was neutralized. The same is true of health insurance companies who were mandated to sell the exact same set of benefits as one another. In fact, as I think about it, from energy to education to religion to sexuality, one giant voice in all of our communities has been our federal government. But aren’t we more interesting than that? More diverse? Is driving everyone by force to some centrally-defined least common denominator really the best use of our collective energy? Aren’t we a nation capable of many right answers? Isn’t biodiversity – of economies and social orders as well as lakes and forests – essential to long term survival? If so, this is our chance!
It’s just us now! It’s our states and cities which will make the laws for a while. It’s our churches and community groups and businesses which get to have a chance to lead, to try things to shape society not by dint of force but by doing things so well that people will follow willingly. For our part, we at athenahealth are going to take our post-federal energies to build a unified patient portal that works at every doctor office and hospital in the nation…even if it’s served by our competitors. We are going to help our clients follow patients and engage with them more easily and consistently than through old-school office visits. We are going to help them hire care managers that don’t have medical degrees, but can affordably be deployed to home and work. We will hack API level connections to companies like Uber and Pillpack so that these innovators can participate more fully in healthcare—whether it’s getting the chronically ill in for an appointment or ensuring that prescriptions are not just filled, but taken. Most of all, we will allow our product managers to come up with THEIR OWN IDEAS AND DO THEM. We are going to help our clients shoot for a spot on Apple’s “crazy ones” wall.
Improving healthcare is about making better decisions as patients and care teams. It’s about expecting technology to delight us while improving our access to one another, to information and the results we desire. It’s about the best in healthcare doing well, and the worse ceasing to exist. It’s about knowledge-sharing. It’s about being proud of what we spend on healthcare and how efficient we can be, not embarrassed by how much we spend or profiting through glut. It’s about volunteers donating their time in free clinics to serve the thousands of Americans who still fall through the cracks, or spending time with a wounded veteran dealing with PTSD. Fixing healthcare shouldn't be a political issue, and it's not something that's going to happen because of the perfect government mandate, or the lack of one.
We started this gig as a nation of, by, and for the people and have been lazily ceding that achievement – that miraculous gift – to more and more isolated and overwhelmed elites. Now it can be ours again. For my part, I CAN NOT WAIT. What will you work on?