I recently returned from Medellin, Colombia where @I spoke at the Salud 2.0 conference organized by the Universidad EAFIT, one of the finest educational institutions in Colombia. I was asked to speak for a very simple reason— my entire career has been about reimagining healthcare delivery and what it could be if we designed it today with today’s capabilities for today’s savvy consumers. There are very few people in the world who are not only reimagining healthcare, but actually doing it. There are plenty of researchers trying to study healthcare delivery, but they’re theoretically tackling the issue in academic settings. There really is nobody else in the world who questioned why healthcare delivery is so broken and then designed an entirely new and fundamentally better process of delivering and receiving healthcare.
I’ve spoken about redesigning healthcare delivery on 6 continents… the second Antarctica invites me, I’m there. Healthcare delivery looks the same everywhere, even in countries where the government pays for healthcare for its people. Norway. Australia. Colombia. Britain. Spain. People are still waiting weeks to see a primary care doctor and forced to communicate with their doctors within the confines of a 10- or 15-minute exam room visit. Nobody in any of these countries stepped back and asked why. If they had, they’d discover that 70% of all of these exam room visits do not require a face-to-face visit. They can be handled best by asynchronous, online, secure communication with a physician at the time a patient thinks they need to access healthcare. Imagine if 70% of the world’s doctor office visits didn’t actually happen! What if those doctor visits could be replaced by more appropriate visits? What if patients didn’t need to take off work for 70% of America’s 1.5 billion office visits a year? That would eliminate just over 1 billion office visits and add 5 billion hours of productivity in America alone!
In order to truly change things, you’ve got to get your hands dirty and put your hypotheses into action, gather data, and use it to chase even more efficiency. That’s why I get to speak all over the world. Sherpaa was founded on asking one simple question— why? And we followed it up with another question— why not? Fortunately, here in America we have two distinct advantages that other countries don’t really have:
- The economic and political freedom to create new healthcare services and markets relatively independent of government approval
- Access to mature venture capital who can fund the creation of a new market
For example, in Britain, since the government is the sole payor for healthcare, anything new has to be approved by a very conservative government-funded healthcare agency. Getting approval takes years and years of academic rigor and pilot projects. Here in America, we can just do it if we find the market willing to pay. And once we’ve created it, if it’s successful, the market will grow and the service will improve in response to competition. American healthcare sure does have its faults. But the private infrastructure to innovate is what makes American healthcare so great.
One of the other speakers, Alejandro Jadad, a Colombian-Canadian physician academic who I’ve respected as an influential thought leader in healthcare for many years, pulled me aside at the beginning of the conference and said he wanted to thank me. He said, “you said something to me years ago that forever changed how I view my career.” I met Alex roughly 7 or 8 years ago at another conference and we had a conversation. I said “a technological solution to a political problem will fail 99% of the time.” He said he stopped looking at healthcare as an IT problem, and started thinking about how we can politically make the best tech happen in healthcare.
Alex lives in Canada where healthcare is even more of a political problem than America. It’s so political, asking why and then creating something better because, why not, doesn’t happen that easily. And that’s why I’m thankful to be in America. Because we can make things like Sherpaa. Things that are fundamentally different and fundamentally better. I love traveling and speaking in other countries about Sherpaa’s radically different healthcare delivery model. It truly blows their minds to see how healthcare can be reinvented. But towards the end of the talk, after I’ve shown them the vision and the data, I can see the audience go from excitement to a sad frustration when they start thinking to themselves that “we could never do that here.” And that’s when I have to leave. My job is to show them the future. It’s now their job to politically get their country to the future that Sherpaa has created.