Is disruptive health care innovation 'the next oil' boom?

A new book argues 'yes'

Consumers are deeply frustrated by health care's inefficiencies—and that's created an unrivaled opportunity for entrepreneurs to reinvent the industry, Jonathan Bush argues in an interview with Forbes contributor and Leapfrog Group CEO Leah Binder.

Bush, the CEO and founder of athenaHealth, writes in his newly released book that consumer unhappiness with health care's long wait times, difficulties transferring records, and opaque costs will become increasingly important as the health care market becomes more consumer-focused. For example, Bush says the rise of high-deductible health plans will drive patients to evaluate their health care consumption in a new way.

As a result, Bush thinks entrepreneurs should view health care akin to "the new oil." In his interview with Binder, he identifies several potential targets for disruption, such as MRIs at academic medical centers. These scans often cost around $5,000—which is why a business focused on providing $99 MRIs, at significant volume, could be extremely profitable, Bush argues.

Bush acknowledges that health care's regulatory hurdles and fragmented landscape has frustrated many would-be innovators, but he suggests that the climate is changing. He notes that companies such as Walmart and Walgreens have found success providing primary-care-like services to consumers at in-store clinics, often by leveraging nurse practitioners to provide inexpensive care for basic needs. Within the payer space, insurance startups like Oscar in New York have generated significant buzz with a focus on technology and customer service.

Entrepreneurs now have an opportunity to "disrupt at the periphery" and focus on "things hospitals suck at," Bush says (Binder, Forbes, 7/30).

Are you ready to compete?

Walgreen isn't the only organization potentially pushing into care delivery. What about Walmart?

Whether or not drugstores or retailers become major players in the provider market, health systems need to fundamentally shift their growth strategy, because the basis for competition is about to radically change.


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