This Should Be Your Healthcare Strategy In 2018. Will It Be?

There are some men who to feel like they are doing something by setying aside an entire month to grow a moustache—forgive me for being sexist, but most women cannot grow a moustache. Growing a moustache; a great idea in the 70s, when plaid, bell-bottom pants, long hair, and platform shoes spoke against Vietnam and Richard Nixon—tanned, rested and ready. (To those of you who grew up post-1975, the word Vietnam referred to a war. Now it refers to a country.) The moustache is not a great idea in 2016.

One thing about being a consultant is that we will talk to anyone about anything. At consulting school, you are encouraged to be a listener, and you are taught how to read upside down any material that may be sitting on the person’s desk with whom you are meeting—see how I avoided ending that sentence in a preposition? You are also made aware of the fact that many of your clients will want you to walk ten feet in front of them while shouting ‘unclean’ as you walk through their hallways.

Doesn’t that sound like fun?

For the longest of times I thought of myself as the Bill Murray of healthcare consulting. “Nothing prepared me for being this awesome. It’s kind of a shock to wake up each day and be bathed in this purple light.”

One thing that remains consistent in healthcare’s C-suite is that their business plans are closely aligned with what worked most recently. They are highly attuned to following what worked, not what needs to work. They are focused on staying in business—which requires making money; and that is not a bad thing. But, you don’t have to limit yourselves to making money the same way each year. This is where coloring outside of the lines comes into play. Grab a crayon.

The thing I try to bring to every meeting I attend is the notion, “This is not a rehearsal. Somewhere there is a score being kept, so you have an obligation to be as present as you can and to do as well as you can.” The thing is, when you give your best with others who are doing the same, you set the stage to accomplish great things. And that works every time, right up to the point when someone says, “That will never work here.” And maybe it won’t, but you’ll never know unless you try.

BYOK. Bring Your Own Khakis. If you understand what follows, if it makes the hairs on the back of your neck tingle with anticipation, you are capable of slamming a revolving door.

I begin 2016 by following up the apocalyptical moment that hit me over the head with a wilted asparagus two days ago, the be all end all of where the U.S. healthcare system will be three years from now. You can choose to play, or you can chose to watch. Love. Set. And Match.

If you are forced to attend a meeting this year that does not begin with the words, “What if,” or, “Imagine a World,” leave the meeting, pull out your knitting, or find someone in the meeting across the table from you willing to take you on in a game of Battleship on your tablet. Lead, follow, or get out of the way; and the Get-Out-Of-The-Way bus is full.

There are not many moments where you can watch the world change. Twenty years from now when your grandchildren ask, “What were you doing when this happened,” what if you could say that you were driving the bus? I’m not sure of the correct punctuation for the prior sentence, but I was a math major.

Lead. Be present. Think.

So perhaps I should stop rambling and tell you what I am thinking. At a New Year’s Eve party I am listening to my neighbor tell me about how impressed he is with his new best friend and personal concierge, Amazon Echo’s Alexa. I lasted long enough in the conversation to learn about paper towels. My neighbor said, “If I am running out of paper towels, I tell Alexa”—a cloud-based service that injects Apple’s Siri with a 2001 Space Odyssey intelligence—order paper towels.”

Alexa replies…”We have a 24-pack of paper towels that is on sale for 20% off. Shall I order them? Or, do you want to give me additional information to help me narrow down what you want?”

Now you and I both know that ninety percent of you just clicked out of my blog to go view Far Side cartoons—here’s a link to keep that group of you occupied ( You are thinking, I am a highly educated healthcare professional, and I am not going to waste my time reading what some healthcare consulting want-to-be has to say about equating the purchasing of paper towels to innovating healthcare.

To those who chose to continue playing along, hopefully what follows makes it worth you having spent another thirty seconds reading.

Just suppose, Alexa, or Siri, or Ask Google was your current healthcare wellness partner? Just suppose you could, through a device, have this conversation with your provider or payer or pharmacy? What would your loyalty be to that firm? How much more confidant would you be about the real-time status of your health? (The technology exists. The missing link is that nobody has yet to tie it to healthcare.

“Alexa, my knee hurts when I walk down a set of stairs.”

“Does your Achilles also hurt?”

“It does. What do you suggest?”

“I think you should see an orthopedist at Penn. Would you like me to schedule an appointment for you?”

“Yes, please.”

“Is there a specific doctor you wish to see? Or, do you want me to schedule an appointment for you to see whoever has the next available appointment?”

“I would like the next available appointment.”

“I scheduled you to see Dr. Winston, next Tuesday, at 10 A.M. Your copay will be ten dollars. Shall I send you a confirmation along with a copy of your receipt? You should park at the garage on 34th Street. Attached is a voucher to cover your parking.”

“Yes, please. I also realized I am out of paper towels. Can you also help me with that?”

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