Fixing What Ails the Sickness Industry

Posted by Jay Parkinson

healthcareDoctor and HelloHealth founder Jay Parkinson lays out a vision for better health care in this first installment of a multipart series.

George Halvorson, the CEO of Kaiser Permanente says it best-the United States health-care system is "uncoordinated, unfocused, inconsistent, unmeasured, extremely inefficient, perversely incented, excessively expensive, and sometimes dangerous." We don't have a health-care system, we have a sickness industry. The word system means a set of connected things or parts forming a complex whole. We have a siloed series of small businesses that compose a $2.5 trillion a year market run on handwritten notes. It's the antithesis of intelligent design. We, as citizens of this great nation, didn't choose this for ourselves. No forward thinking professionals designed it like they designed our interstate highway system. The sickness industry just happened. It sprang up over the course of the last 100 years in segregated pockets based on delivery processes that have existed since the days of Hippocrates. As a result, 100,000 people die each year in the United States simply due to medical errors-the equivalent of 275-passenger jumbo jet  crashing every day. Not only is it alarmingly unsafe, it's bankrupting us.It currently costs each employer about $11,000 a year to provide health insurance for one employee. This is projected to rise about 160 percent in the next eight years. In 2019, health insurance will cost $28,500 per year per employee. Our nation's ability to sustain our economy and complete in a global market is at stake. Something must be done. Changing who pays for the same tired processes with health insurance through public options and mandates won't even matter in less than eight years. Only the wealthy will be able to afford today's version of health insurance and delivery. Most people will make the decision to skip the mandated $28,500 premiums and opt for the fine of 2.5 percent of income. And they'll be looking for alternative, affordable options to pursue health and wellness.I'd like to imagine a bona fide health system that, like Hippocrates said, first, does no harm. In fact, let's imagine one that leapfrogs our current mess and actually improves our nation's health and financial well-being. We don't have time for pilot projects and incremental improvements. We need a professionally designed true system. We need new communication, care delivery processes, and new ways to pay health professionals to keep us well, not profit off our sickness. We need to disrupt the current business model of the sickness industry. We need to stop everything and reboot with a totally new design.Of course, stopping everything sounds unrealistic. I'm not saying this will happen all at once, but I believe health care will look markedly different in 10 years because consumers will demand something more personal, more safe, and more affordable. We're a scrappy little nation. When consumers want something, they almost always get it. And when the main players in the industry get too fat and happy, they better beware of the guy in a garage. For the past few months, I've been imagining what this new legitimately consumer-centric health system would look like. It will be:
  • Transparent
  • Communicative
  • Efficient
  • Convenient
  • Safe
  • Sustainable
  • Affordable
  • Empowering
  • A platform
  • Social
  • Minimal
  • Decentralized
Over the next few posts, I'll focus on each and describe a new healt-care system that would mimic what we're used to as consumers-a pleasant experience that looks and feels more like buying AppleCare and fixing your computer at the Genius Bar.Jay Parkinson is a doctor living in Brooklyn and the founder of HelloHealth, a boutique medical practice combining old-fashioned house calls with web-based instant-message and video consultations.