Health care is the opposite of the airline industry

By Robin Suchan
October 12, 2018

The Digital Health Innovation Summit is an annual gathering in Boston of digital health investors, innovators and reporters. It’s a bite-sized conference: packed into a single-day with attendance capped at 300. The intimate setting provides a chance to talk to fellow health care geeks and dig into the most pressing topics of the day. Speakers analyze deals of the year, emerging trends and get real about what needs fixing. And we can all agree that health care is ripe for fixing.

During one of the panels, Florian Otto from Cedar shared that he thinks health care is the opposite of the airline industry. The in-person health care experience is great, but everything that happens before and after the experience of care is at best frustrating. From trying to get a hold of your doctor with follow-up questions to attempting to interpret and pay the bills that follow. The metaphor stuck with me and I would soon find out, the insight was spot on.

As I sat in the audience, Hurricane Michael was raging through Florida. Boston was hit heavy enough to disrupt travel. I suddenly noticed everyone around me logging on to their United Airlines apps. Alerts were going off left and right. Flights delayed. Flights cancelled. I rescheduled my flight with a few clicks not once but twice in the hours that followed. I had information on the status of incoming flights and expected delays in real time and revised my itinerary instantaneously. The 6.5-hour in-flight experience left much to be desired: the plane had no food, there was no in-flight entertainment and I ended up on a red-eye with a tight layover in order to get home.

What is the equivalent in health care? What information would consumers value in order to make better decisions about whether and where they receive care? And how do we ensure that as we move to tech-enabled services, that we never sacrifice the sanctity of the in-person doctor and patient relationship?

During Andy Slavitt’s opening remarks, he called on each of us to “follow the problem, not the money” to change health care for the better. I like this as a true north for health care transformation. At Grand Rounds, one of our core values is put patients first. It’s one way we put each challenge into perspective and ensure we’re following the problem, not the money.

If you missed the conference, check out the #DHIS2018 Twitter stream for the highlights. If you attended the Digital Health Innovation Summit, what topics resonated with you? Looking forward to seeing you all next year!

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Robin Suchan

Robin Suchan

Robin is Director of Corporate Relations at Grand Rounds. Prior to Grand Rounds, she spent seven years leading communications for global health care companies in the SF Bay Area and London. Robin holds an MSc in Social Policy from the London School of Economics and a BA in Communications from Pepperdine University.