Archive for June, 2010

Learning How to Nudge

Still exercisingIn a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, a Ms. Ruthanne Lowe from San Jose, CA reported that three years after her participation in a Stanford University study on behavioral change, she is still exercising. The study showed that even just a gentle nudge can have a positive effect on motivation.

The issue of how to support patients with chronic illnesses is back on the healthcare front page. Studies show that even if a patient sees a doctor, gets diagnosed, and receives a care plan, whether a drug or a regimen like diet and exercise, up to 50% of those patients will elect not to follow through. The prescription won’t be filled or the healthy life choices won’t be followed. So even if 32 million new consumers in our new health care world get access to a physician, half of them likely won’t take their meds as prescribed.

That’s a big problem.

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Opening salvo

Obama signing healthcare reform billRegardless of your point of view on healthcare reform or the much-discussed legislation, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) is now the law of the land in the United States. Our friends in every corner of the healthcare sector are scrambling to understand what reform means for them and how to take advantage of new opportunities or mitigate new risks to their business.

Any time there is a significant change in the business rules of engagement, whether it’s tax policy or new regulations, company executives look for loopholes or workarounds to maintain their competitive positioning and avoid additional burdens. With the passing of the healthcare reform bill, general counsels and consultants everywhere are looking for ways to avoid complying with the new law.

Don’t do it.

The right response is not to dodge, hide or obfuscate. At this point, with healthcare costs projected to rise to nearly 25 percent of GDP in the next 15 years if we don’t intervene, we need to rethink the industry. Like the industrial revolution that laid the first transcontinental railroad, created the auto industry and put a man on the moon, we need a healthcare revolution. We need an innovation revolution.

The only way out of the healthcare morass in the United States is through innovation.

An incremental approach to insurance reform and consumer access will have a commensurate incremental effect on the cost curve. What we need is to dramatically rethink how to prevent and diagnose disease, how to treat chronic illness and how to compensate physicians. We need to apply technology in new ways to bring targeted therapies to market quicker and to package the latest in behavioral change theory to create wellness programs that become part of our pop culture. And we need to understand how even little nudges and informal social support can have a big impact.

Every sector in healthcare has a role to play, from providers and health insurers, medical device and pharma companies, large employers and government agencies, teaching hospitals and research institutes to entrepreneurs and venture capital firms.

This blog, The Difference Makers, is my personal journey to find those entrepreneurs who are applying innovation to health and healthcare. I want to see if big problems require big solutions or small solutions. I’m curious about whether the diffusion of innovation in healthcare follows the same curve as it does in technology, and whether the market economy, the public economy or a combination does a better job of meeting the needs of the patient. And I’m curious about what it means to put the means of health production in the hands of the consumer.

Innovation + Entrepreneurialism meets a Big Challenge. It’s worked before. Let’s see what happens this time.

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