When was the last time you were satisfied with your health care?
For the majority of Americans, it seems to have been a while. A recent Associated Press survey found that most Americans think that health care in this country is handled poorly. Only 12% of respondents are extremely happy with the state of US health care. This is relatively unsurprising; between rising health care costs and comparatively poor health outcomes, it’s easy to understand people’s dissatisfaction.
Yet, despite the consensus that US health care is performing poorly, there is no similar consensus on how to make it better. Different factions believe in different strategies to solve the health care industry’s numerous problems. And amidst varying opinions, health care executives and policy makers struggle to make decisions that fit what patients actually want and need out of their care.
With such mixed feelings and thoughts on how to tackle this massive undertaking, the question remains, what can be done to shape health care into the helpful and hopeful service that it has the potential to be?
Our work provides key insights into some ways health care executives, politicians, and anyone looking to innovate in health care can make meaningful, productive change.
Innovators love to talk about disrupting the health care industry, and with good reason. Making a complex, expensive industry into one that is accessible, affordable, and easy to navigate is a noble goal. Disruptive innovations are meant to increase access to services previously too expensive or otherwise inaccessible—core complaints about the current system.
There are untapped resources that we can use to help make health care more accessible and affordable, and many of those are employed by new, innovative health solutions. We have seen several disruptive innovations across health care sectors, such as pharmaceutical and drug companies, primary care, and fertility care, to name just a few. Efforts such as these are making strides in creating a care environment that is both accessible and affordable to a broader population.
More widespread disruptive innovations have the potential to address health care’s cost and accessibility issues, and innovators should continue to explore disruption as a way to develop models of care that can better meet patients’ needs.
Addressing health equity
One of the most pressing issues in health care today is health inequities, and they are continuing to develop and expand. Satisfaction with the health system is particularly low with women and minority populations—and they are also the most at risk. COVID-19, in particular, showed the striking, disproportionate difference in negative health outcomes for communities of color. And Black patients routinely receive subpar care compared to white patients with the same medical concerns.
In reinventing health care systems, executives need to take care to be more open and inclusive to health concerns impacting particularly disadvantaged populations. One way to go about doing so is by addressing the drivers of health, the non-clinical factors and systems impacting a person’s health status. Investing in the drivers of health and helping to solve inequities in other, non-clinical aspects of life can help to alleviate health inequities as well.
Disruptive innovations and health equity efforts alone cannot solve the current health care crisis. As a whole, health care must fundamentally change its business models.
The current business models of health emphasize volume over value. With hospitals seen as the center of health care, the rest of the system serves to funnel patients into hospitals, rather than preventing the need to go to the hospital in the first place. Even with an increased focus on drivers of health and value-based payment models, these innovations are not widespread enough to fully transform our national health care system.
The business models of health care need to change in order to support the innovations and new developments that will enable health care to meet consumers’ needs, therefore making it more “satisfactory” overall. Many leaders know they need to make a change, but the biggest question is how to do it. In follow up to our last report, You Are What You Treat, our forthcoming report to be released later this fall will guide industry leaders and executives through this process.
As it stands, US health care is not satisfying the vast majority of people. But that’s not the end of the story. There are ways that the health care industry can be altered to alleviate these problems. Change in the health care system will need to be broad and multifaceted, but with these three guiding posts—disruptive innovations, drivers of health, and new business models—there is a possibility that health care can not only get a passing grade in the eyes of those it serves, but it can also meaningfully improve their lives.