Our nation’s healthcare system is not in great shape. That’s a pretty obvious fact. Every day we read news, stories and events that remind us of just how much restructuring and strategic changes our overall healthcare industry needs from drastic cost-cutting measures to overhauling healthcare operations to leveraging today’s innovative technologies.
Last week the Wall Street Journal ran a cover story on Pittsburgh insurer Highmark’s deal to acquire the region’s second-largest hospital chain, West Penn Allegheny Health System. The merger of insurers and hospital operators crosses a traditional healthcare divide. But the news just further signals the industry’s desperate need to cut costs. It’s certainly not the first time. The industry has seen some mixed results with past efforts of insurers taking over hospital operations, including Kaiser Permanente and Humana. This is just one example, as the system as a whole struggles to drastically cut costs and streamline operations.
As we all know, the main topic of conversation in Washington, and most certainly around dinner tables across the nation, is the sweeping healthcare reform bill. Government agencies and politicans will obviously play a major role in where healthcare is heading. The Health & Human Services (HHS) Department’s new project, “Community Health Data Initiative” (CHDI), part of the “Open Government” platform, is an excellent program to make healthcare data free and open. The premise is to release government health data to spur private and public businesses towards innovative solutions to help the system. Again, this is just one example of the government’s plan.
Technology will play a tremendous role in our nation’s healthcare success. Every day new and innovative solutions are introduced that promise to enhance the quality of healthcare while decreasing costs. My company, SoloHealth, along with Eliza and Teladoc, are a few examples of companies leveraging today’s latest technologies to provide consumers and the healthcare system with solutions to better our nation’s health.
All these government actions, business ideas and technological advancements individually won’t solve the problem. It will be an aggregated effort across the board. We certainly realize it’s not an easy fix. Overhaul of our current healthcare system involves sweeping changes to a massive, slow-moving system and the cooperation of healthcare operators, doctors, politicians, insurance companies and consumers, along with today’s current technology.
But at the core of all this “business” is our nation’s consumer. The people. And the people will play a vital role in how successful these aggregated changes will be. We must, as an industry, empower the people to care and take their healthcare in their own hands. The basic idea is that knowledge and education can empower citizens to action. That’s why the CDHI’s open data initiative is great. Make people aware of not only their health but how they compare to others in their town, state or region. The information might just inspire, guilt, or scare them into action. Whatever the reason we just want them aware and knowledgeable. And an empowered patient, together with renewed changes, will get us to a more healthy and efficient healthcare system.
At SoloHealth, we believe strongly in this philosophy. In fact, our entire business model is based around the simple consumer equation: Education + Awareness = Action. And there are many other businesses using the power of consumer data and knowledge to propel our industry.
Why do we believe so in the empowered patient philosophy? It’s a fact of human nature, and we see it every day in action…or in-action. Take, for example, our public education system. We can only throw so much money and policy changes at a school to result in beneficial changes. But to really make a difference you must have active parental involvement. A school with a strong PTA and parental involvement will not only hold the faculty and curriculum to higher standards but will support and push their kid’s education while at home. For many teachers, if the only education time comes in the classroom, with no support from empowered parents, then that school and student body will not reach its full potential. Empowered parents are aware and knowledgeable about their child’s education progress and the school…and that knowledge empowers them to action.
Our nation’s healthcare system is sick. As a whole, we are seeing some of the highest rates of poor health and disease, most notably with hypertension, obesity, diabetes and visual impairments, to name a few. As we continue our quest to improve our nation’s healthcare business, let’s not forget the power of the “empowered” patient. Provide consumers with their healthcare information and data. The basic idea is that knowledge and education can empower citizens to action. And we need activation across the board as we march towards a healthier America.