In our recent white paper, “Industrial Strength,” I mention one of the most interesting and powerful players in the global healthcare landscape, Devi Shetty. In that white paper, we examine the causes of the pre-industrial state of the U.S. healthcare industry, and discuss how we can most effectively repair it.
One of the biggest factors hindering us is a seeming misunderstanding over the role of innovation, particularly in terms of technology. I’ve talked to so many people who believe that there must be some sort of magic bullet—be it a new platform, new software, or new way of understanding data—that technology will develop to solve all of our problems. I argue that this is the wrong way to think about innovation, and the wrong place to focus our efforts. Technology is a tool that should be used to improve healthcare, but it’s not the solution to fixing the system. As Devi Shetty has proven, investing in innovative process and workflow changes and improvements can much more effectively improve quality while reducing costs.
Consider what Dr. Shetty has accomplished: In India, roughly 2 million people need some form of cardiac surgery every year, yet only 100,000 to 120,000 of the people in need actually receive that care. This is in part due to issues of affordability, and in part to do with capacity. Shetty argues that neither of these issues are an excuse for this care delivery gap. Instead, he leverages the lessons learned by other industries in terms of efficiency and economies of scale to drive transformation. He has been able to cut the price of artery-clearing coronary bypass surgery to 95,000 rupees (roughly $1,583 in U.S. dollars)—half of what it cost in India 20 years ago; the same procedure costs $106,385 at the Cleveland Clinic, according to CMS.
“If the solution is not affordable, it’s not a solution” –Devi Shetty
How has Dr. Shetty been able to accomplish this? By innovating the way he delivers care, and using technology as a tool to support that innovation. Here are a few key elements of his model:
- Attract and retain optimistic doctors who are seeking to improve their skills quickly
- Develop and continually update treatment protocols to reduce errors.
- Promote innovation that suits local conditions
- Shift tasks to appropriately match the skill level of staff with the demands of certain tasks
Of course, Dr. Shetty has been able to accomplish this in a much different market than the U.S. healthcare system—but that’s no excuse to not try and make these ideas work stateside. Despite the innovation we’ve seen in medications, devices, equipment, and technology, we’re still lagging behind the rest of the world. It’s time to match our investment in process innovation to these levels. The only way we’re going to improve is if we embrace the lessons other industries learned decades ago. For more insights on driving positive change through industrialization, be sure to download our newest white paper, “Industrial Strength.”
Don McDaniel, CEO
As Chief Executive Officer, Don oversees Continuum's strategic plan and vision. Over his professional career, Don has played leadership roles in a number of health care, insurance, and technology organizations, and is recognized as a thought leader, sought-after speaker, and strong executive manager. Don has expertise in the areas of health economics and markets, innovation, entrepreneurship, business and strategic planning, and the strategic deployment of health information technology.