[An apology to my regular and long time readers:  this has been the longest time I have ever gone between columns.  I have been starting work on my next book and have allowed that to take top priority during my writing time every day.  Now that it is well underway, I am back with another column on the New Health Age.  Thank you for your patience!]

In my last column I wrote about  the New Health Age, the new age of health care and medicine that we have entered.  The coming changes in the health care landscape in the United States and the incredible medical miracles rapidly coming will define this new age.

As written in the last column, the national conversation about health care reform in the United States has been largely driven by fear, misinformation and politics.  This means that it is a stupid conversation, largely defined by what your special interest is, whether you are Republican or Democrat, conservative or liberal.  How sad and embarrassing.  One of the reasons to write “The New Health Age: The Future of Health Care in America” with my co-author Jonathan Fleece was to bring intelligence to this national conversation.

As I speak to audiences across this country and on radio interview programs, I attempt to provide easy ways to think about what is about to happen to the landscape of health care, regardless of what the Supreme Court will rule on the current law of the land.  Here is perhaps the easiest way to think about what is about to happen.

The entire health care sector represents about 18% of the GDP of the United States.  Round that number up to 20%.  Now, let’s think about how you experience and act in the 80% of our economy that is not health care or medicine.  Here are some questions for you to answer:

-Do you expect to find information when you want it – 24/7?

-Are most of your documents kept electronically, in electronic files for access anytime you want them?

-Do you keep information, pictures or any type of content – such as your Facebook account – online or in the cloud?

-Do you have easy access to all your personal information?

-Do you conduct business online from wherever you are, such as online banking or online shopping?

-Do you communicate with important people in your life via text messaging or e-mails?

-Have you experienced an ever-lowering of the cost of technology and the connectivity that connects us to it?

I would think that you answered as least some of these questions in the affirmative.  Okay, now go back to these questions and think about your current experience when dealing with today’s health care system.  Ask yourself:

-Do you expect to find your medical information when you want it -24/7?

-Do you have easy access to all your personal medical information?

-Do you communicate with your health care provider via text messaging or e-mails?

-Have you experienced an ever-lowering of the cost of technology and connectivity relative to your health care?

Simply stated, the realities you now accept, and in fact insist on in the 80% of our economy that is not health care, are not  readily available in the 20% that is.

Think about the possibility that a family member or a friend is diagnosed with cancer.  Can you go online and compare the “past performance” of successful treatments from the cancer centers where you live?  You can with mutual funds.  Why not with cancer?  You will be able to in the New Health Age.

Think about the reality that 100,000 people die every year due to mistakes in hospitals, largely from preventable infections.  Wouldn’t you like to know which hospitals make the most mistakes before you decide where to go?  You will be able to in the New Health Age.

Do you demand a reality of being able to make a choice by price comparison and past performance?  Of course you do!  Do you ask for a warranty on parts and labor?  Of course you do!  Can you do this with the current health care system?  No you can’t.

So, health care reform in the United States in this New Health Age is largely about bringing the connectivity, transparency, digitization, and the competitive market to the health care sector of the United States economy.

Granted this is a simple high level look at what is about to happen with health care in the New Health Age, but it is going to happen.  Any questions?

Please check out some recent reviews of “The New Health Age: The Future of Health Care in America” here and here

5 Responses to “The Easiest Way to Understand Health Care Reform”

  1. John in TX Says:

    I certainly would welcome a more efficient health industry in terms of the items you list above.

    Unfortunately, the Health Care act is about much more than that. Turning this over to the government and unaccountable bureaucracies is not the answer.

  2. david Says:

    The health care reform law is not about government taking over health care. It is about the government setting the direction of health care. As FDR did with the TVA and hydro-electric and as Dwight Eisenhower did with the Interstate highway bill. Set the direction but then let the private sector compete and make money.

  3. Jack Altschuler Says:

    A CEO I coached a while back ran s company that was a best practices data warehouse for premature babies. They had data to show which hospitals were getting the best results, which docs were tops for various premie issues, which meds and procedures produced best health and weight gain, and so on.

    Strangely, the medical establishment was not only not interested, but was hostile to them. Hospitals didn’t like them because their information resulted in fewer patient days and lower billings. Docs didn’t like them because they felt challenged (ego stuff) and because their fees were reduced due to elimination of unnecessary attention and fewer patient visits. Even the medical insurance companies didn’t like them, although I no longer remember why.

    The access to information that you talk about makes complete sense. The challenge will be dealing with the push-back from entrenched interests who are making lots of money from our currently dysfunctional system.

  4. Sean T. OMara, MD, JD Says:

    Mr. Houle provides one of the better analysis of the future of healthcare that I have come across. Permit me to contribute his excellent points by pointing out the astounding silence concerning the influence from the internet and wireless technology right now and the near future defining how care is provided. A migration in the imminent future will occur within healthcare from traditional facilities (hospitals, physician offices and other medical facilities) to individuals’ homes. Eventually the majority of care now provided in a hospital or physician office will occur at home or wherever a person may or need to be. Radical as it may sound conventional healthcare is a dinosaur and currently few realize it.

    I avoid the term “patient” because it defines people in a hospital or physician practice. These are people, individuals and their care must be re-thought of as extending way beyond the limited and confining approach of a hospital or physician practice.
    Care now done in the hospital rife with infection and costly ineffeciencies can be done better, more safely and more affordably at home. Enlightening thought leaders for informed discussions challenging conventional approaches for improved alternatives will get us there faster. Just as the internet has influenced the home entertainment industry by Netflix, Amazon and other download services outperforming the old Blockbuster and Hollywood Video model so will telemedicine and what I now call “Smart Healthcare” will do the same to the conventional model of care in a hospital or physician office. Medicine is one of the last bastions to submit itself to the advantages of the information highway but submit it must and the consumer must be a compelling voice to influence how it occurs. “Thank you Doctor but…I want something better”

  5. David Says:

    You’re absolutely right. The law does facilitate the changes you’ve highlighted. The individuals that think simplistically about this and repeat verbatim spoon fed erroneous information, will eventually benefit as well, but they will most likely not take advantage of the transition because they don’t acknowledge it. Word to the wise.

    Which of the changes you identified do you anticipate having the most impact?