Post-apocalyptic life in American health care
Health care is notionally a profit-driven free market. This looks like an easy opportunity to make trillions of dollars by making the world better for everyone. Why doesn’t someone do that?
Capital Thinking • Issue #156 • View online
It’s like one those post-apocalyptic science fiction novels whose characters hunt wild boars with spears in the ruins of a modern city. Surrounded by machines no one understands any longer, they have reverted to primitive technology.
Except it’s in reverse. Hospitals can still operate modern material technologies (like an MRI) just fine. It’s social technologies that have broken down and reverted to a medieval level.
To ship a package by FedEx, you don’t need to call someone who knows someone who knows someone. You go to a web site, put in some numbers, it gives you back some numbers, you put them on the envelope, drop it in a box, and it appears at a farmhouse on an island in Lapland the next day.
If Amazon sends you the wrong type of cable adapter, you don’t have to call them up and try to act pathetic and virtuous in order to convince someone that you need and deserve a refund because your poor mother is so ill. You go to a web site and push a button.
FedEx and Amazon have systematic interfaces. They are transparent on the outside, and black boxes on the inside. You don’t have to know anything about how they operate in order to use them.
Health care organizations are—at best—the opposite. They may run on systems internally, but the interface is opaque. There’s no defined way to get them to do something.This is not their fault.
Read More about healthcare, donkeys, and post-apocalyptic life here:
It’s obvious how to fix health care.
Just make everything run systematically, like FedEx or Amazon. There are no technical or business obstacles to this. Anyone who understands IT and/or business can see how to do it.2
Back-of-envelope calculations say a working health care system would deliver dramatically better quality at 10-20% of the current cost.
Health care is notionally a profit-driven free market. This looks like an easy opportunity to make trillions of dollars by making the world better for everyone.
Why doesn’t someone do that?
*Feature post photo Paul Felberbauer on Unsplash