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Transforming Healthcare –Lessons Learned from the Apple Store

October 27, 2011

By Fauzia Khan, MD, FCAP

A recent article in the New England Journal of Medicine caught our attention this week. The article, “Rethinking Health Care Labor,” explores the consequences of recent laws and labor constraints. We are increasing the demand by expanding health insurance coverage while reducing the supply as cost cutting measures are increasingly put in place.

Meanwhile, productivity in health care is not rising. Health care is different from other industries where the introduction of new technologies has led to increased productivity. The health care industry is much more rigid and fragmented with intangible products such as quality of care, and difficult-to-measure outcomes. Also, the patient is not the buyer in this scenario; but it is instead the doctor, in a relationship with the payor, who determines what the best course of action is. In the past, there was a strong doctor-patient relationship, but this trust has eroded significantly in recent years.

It is imperative for new technologies to bring all three parties; the patient, the payor and the doctor to the table and allow them to communicate freely about cost and quality. The health care delivery model must evolve to be less like a fragmented marketplace with little context or advice on the product that is being provided.

Perhaps we in healthcare can learn something from the “Geniuses” at an Apple Store, where you can actually discuss the merits and limitations of different technologies and their impact, as well as their cost. This is indeed an imperfect analogy, but we as an industry need to rethink our approach and improve it through both new technologies and an open mindset in healthcare.

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