January 14, 2009
As a member of the Seattle Tech Startup community I subscribe to a great email distribution of local entrepreneurs. Today there was a lively debate about the recent news that the Obama administration idea of computerizing our nations health records. More details from this CNNMoney article - “Obama’s big idea: Digital health records”.
Since most members of the list are technologist, there was a huge debate about XML/HTTP and which technology standards would best be used to solve this problem. Being a technologist myself I would love to have jumped into that debate, just for the gear head thrill of it… but alas it misses the big point. So here was my decided non-technical reply to the group.
First of all, if any of you are really interested in exploring this issue/business deeply, I strongly recommend participating in the Health2.0 conference series. You can learn more about it here: http://health2con.com/
Last fall there was a great conference (3rd so far) where the primary focus was “User Generated Healthcare”… the conference was loaded with tons of great panels and keynotes. There was a great deal of discussion of the potential of an Obama administration (this was before the election) and the implications it would have on the health care industry moving forward.
There were many many “web” and “technology” companies presenting their various solutions for how to lower health care costs and more importantly how to “democratize health care” (I use the phrase very loosely).
The debates between technologists at the conference were not unlike the thread we’re having hear… in fact all the ideas discussed here are already being worked on by at least a half dozen companies in this space.
Which is a nice segue into the primary concern raised at the conference…. Peter’s email is introduces the concept nicely.
Date: Tue, 13 Jan 2009 10:28:36 -0800
From: Peter Denton
Subject: Re: [SeattleTech] Web app required. Budget: $100 Billion
Totally not trying to be naive here, but is there really incentive for the
hospitals, insurance companies, private practitioners, dentists, cosmetic
dermatologists to do this?
These companies not only lack incentive for progress… they actually have disincentives to make change. In fact, the argument made by most of the people in the trenches of Health 2.0 is that it is exactly _NOT_ in the interest of these entrenched companies to support this progress, and many of them are proactively taking steps to prevent progress.
Given there are countless examples of the federal
government truly showing its inability to create large, performing data
systems, is it going to convince the healthcare industry to work together
and create more risk in a risk-infested industry?
If only that were the biggest problem. Most of the companies in this space explicitly make money off of the inefficiencies in the market. Cleaning up those inefficiencies will negatively impact their bottom line, and they are therefore motivated to work against this progress.
I know that healthcare is a great national investment, as it is 99% a domestic product, but is this a good approach?
I’ll admit to being a bit cynical about this, but I’d almost be willing to bet that the whole idea of “standardized medical records” is a red herring intentionally suggested by the lobbyists to create a giant bureaucratic failure, in order to prevent real progress and reform.
Normally I’d argue for the free market approach, but the problem with health care today is that it is not a free market, but instead a market which is easily manipulated by the power brokers (in this case the insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, etc). Although I’m not necessarily a fan of socializing these types of programs, I suspect that the only way to really reform this system is to create a single public system for health care… (universal health care, single payer, etc…)
The end result of such an effort would be a great deal of business carnage in some huge names, massive loss of wealth of investors in these companies, a huge short term burden on the tax payers, but at the end of the tunnel, potential for much more cost effective and higher quality health care for all of us.
Note to all of us on this list: Our own companies would greatly benefit from a reduction in health care costs… as it is one of the largest expenses we face in growing our companies.