Back in January, on a rather frosty morning I remember sitting at our kitchen table, habitually scrolling through the online business pages. It was whilst on the BBC news feed, sifting through the usual stories of pending doom and gloom, I came across the breaking report that Mr. Buffett, Bezos and Dimon were grouping together to find a better way to service the healthcare needs of their collective 1.1 million employees.
A rare occurrence, given the generally depressing state of current affairs, but on reading this news story I genuinely felt a rush of optimism run through my body. The feeling (I’d imagine) probably equal and opposite to that experienced by most of the major players in the US health care system, who’s share prices plummeted during the immediate fall-out.
Why did this news have such an effect on a sometimes cynical, middle-aged soul like mine? I think it’s all about the potential of changing the human experience, or lack of, that you instantly linked with health care. Moreover, the simple fact that three individuals with enough collective clout are prepared to challenge a system which is fundamentally flawed.
No matter how titanic the challenge is. It somehow gives a point of hope – in a world where increasingly it seems the lunatics have long over-run the asylum.
I am under no illusion that the original motivation for these three healthcare musketeers was cost reduction, however in recent interviews, Mr. Buffett has also talked about the importance of trying to change the way people actually feel about the healthcare they receive, as well as the quality of the healthcare itself. For me, this speaks volumes.
Since the first fledgling healthcare systems were established in the US back in the 1800s, to cover union members working in the steel mills of the industrial revolution, many systems have come and gone. The US is of course not alone in having a less than perfect healthcare system. Being a Brit I know the challenges and frustrations associated with the NHS, but the numbers don’t lie and at almost 20% of US GDP Mr. Buffett nailed it when he described healthcare in the US as ‘a parasite on the US economy’.
As with any development process it’s always good to look back and establish what went wrong with the original system. For me the absolute epicenter of all that is wrong with healthcare systems in general is the fact that we, you, us as humans, are- under the existing construct- probably the last consideration points within the system. This is perhaps not the most stable of places to start from.
The human factor has all but been removed in relation to how people should feel about their healthcare. Rather ironic really. It seems health care has become just another insurance commodity where most parties are out to make as much profit as possible, leaving humans unfortunately feeling like unavoidable distractions, instead of principal recipients.
So, what is the opportunity?
A big portion of the opportunity for Mr. Buffett and his health care reformists, is to unlock the potential of human experience within the healthcare sector, something that can only happen if time is taken to consider the most important people in the new system – those that should benefit from it the most.
Special attention must be payed to the service provided across multiple moments of interaction; from the passive paying of monthly premiums to the active need for treatment, it will be interesting to see how the emotional requirements of the people will be met.
Over the coming months and years, it’s a pretty sure bet that the team that Mr. Buffett, Bezos and Dimon will bring together will be an exceptionally smart group of people who will find better ways to construct, manage and deliver healthcare to its people.
I hope wholeheartedly that at some point during the ensuing process the team meets in an inspiring location and starts by writing the word ‘human’ on a white board and working outward from that point. See where that takes their thinking.