Updated: Nov 6, 2020
It’s common language now to say that we have one of the best health care systems in the world, but some of the worst access to care. In my mind this is true, but it’s missing the point. In thinking about healthcare as a business saying that we have poor access to care is basically saying we have a great product, but our potential customers due to various reasons can’t figure out how to use it.
We take a passive approach when we start placing the burden of our failing system on access to care alone. Our model is complacent with the concept that the patient will come to us. We commonly accept the idea that our patient’s will negotiate their own insurance, co-pays, and the myriad of other complexities involved in acquiring and utilizing healthcare. In short, we have the potential to offer a brilliant product, but we over rely on our customer to do all of the work to reach what we are selling, and often through a web of tangled bureaucracy.
Our access to care is indeed terrible, but poor delivery is equal to blame. What are we doing as a medical community to offer new innovative ways that would allow our patients not only quicker and more efficient care, but a delivery mechanism that takes the burden of procuring healthcare off patient and more on the infrastructure?
The answer unfortunately is not much, indeed the case can even be made that as the Affordable Care Act trips and stumbles out the gate we are making our delivery to access even more complex and burdensome for the patient. Inside the walls of the clinic all is well. Our patients are examined, diagnosed, charted, and tracked with all the advances in care that the latest evidence based guidelines and protocols can muster. But, what about outside those clinic walls? Where are the evidence based guidelines that show us ways to better reach a growingly frustrated population outside of the brick walls of the clinic? The problem is there are no real guidelines, and we need a new way of thinking, but without the proper medical authority backing every move innovation in the medical industry comes to very cautious and litigious halt. It’s true that the red tape of our payment system is a burden, however I think the fear of reprisal for trying new untested mechanisms of care is a far greater driving factor for our general ineptitude in innovating new methods of healthcare delivery.
So what can be done? I don’t think we necessarily have to reinvent the wheel here. We only have to take a look, and draw lessons from other industries. Let’s take two well known websites for example, match.com, and amazon.com. Match.com and online dating as a whole function on a simple principal. Two different parties want something, but they don’t want to have to go through the hassle, and uncertainty of dating complete strangers whom they know nothing about to find it. So match.com functions as a medium. It is essentially marketing the product of relationships through innovative transparent people cataloging and networking. Amazon.com of course is king of hassle free product distribution. With Amazon prime I can easily click my mouse and two days later free of shipping are my shinny new shoes on my doorstep. Amazon is now even starting to predict what you will order next based on what you are looking at and will begin moving those anticipated purchases to distribution centers closer to your house before you even decide to buy. There are even talks now of amazon using ariel drones in major cities to fly your purchase to your doorstep within a matter of hours after ordering. Why battle LA traffic to go to the store when amazon can deliver the product to you faster than you can drive to the store?
So can we as a healthcare industry figure out a way to match patients and providers as well as match.com matches potential mates, or can we figure out a way to creatively deliver the product of medicine as efficiently and hassle free as amazon.com? But, the bigger question is, can we afford not to?