This morning I had a revelation moment that briefly shifted my perspective on health innovation (in a minor but important way).
Over the last few months, my 2-year-old daughter has been in and out of several providers’ offices battling numerous infections resultant of her recent entry into school…an inevitable rite of passage as our young ones build their immune systems.
What I noticed was something interesting. Despite the fact that most of these offices were running old school systems (i.e. chart based systems, no email, no patient portals, no electronic scheduling, etc.), our services for routine child care was without complaint, and in fact, rather superb. We had received optimal care in a friendly environment by empathetic providers with the best of intentions.
So what’s all this hoopla and fuss over a broken health system? It got me thinking.
Much of our challenges with the health system are ‘under the hood’ issues. It’s the way our system documents, shares, archives, collects, analyzes, etc information. Not with the actual care itself (and I’m talking majority here that use our system for routine care and minor illnesses). The cost and inefficiencies of our health system can be attributed to the back-end of our system that accounts for 80% of our existing cost and quality issues. And we know through numerous research studies that 20% of health complaints (especially complicated, co-morbid patients) account for 80% of the causal-related issues that have afflicted our system. It’s in the 20% figure where innovation in interoperability, care coordination, hand offs, remote health, electronic access, etc have the greatest improvement impact.
As I sift through the recent innovations in the pipeline in healthcare, I can’t help but notice that most of our innovations are focused on addressing the 20% exceptions to the rule, and not the 80% majority. These ‘exception’ innovations, of course, are those that have the greatest upside potential to address our system’s ‘behind-the-hood’ problems…and are in dire need! However, what I see as problematic, is that we then take these innovations designed for the minority exception, and then try to apply them to the mass majority of our delivery system – which, for the most part, was functioning just fine for routine types of care. These good, routine experiences of care have now been turned into intolerable or unacceptable experiences of care – resulting in an iatrogenic outcome of trying to force fit our ‘exception-based’ innovations designed for the minority into the universal experience of the majority.
Now let me caveat by saying that I still firmly believe our entire health system needs a re-boot with a re-imagined delivery experience; however, as we continue to design solutions for the exception, and then try to force fit them to the majority experience, it’s no wonder the outcome results in a friction-filled system ridden with unsatisfied patients and disgruntled providers.
So why do I raise this?
Because, it is my belief, that just as we speak of delivering personalized care for patients, we also need to deliver personalized innovations for our health system and stop assuming a universal, one-size-fits-all approach will result in the optimal improvements that we all seek. What may apply to one exceptional scenario, may not similarly apply to another routine scenario.
My humble advice….as you map out your innovation strategy, make sure that you appropriately segment your user audience to accommodate these variances in care experiences and patient mixes. We are at a critical inflection point witnessing first hand the transformation of the entire health industry, and the last thing we want to do is make an already broken system into one with irreversible damage. Fix what’s broken, and leave the rest alone.