By SUSAN KIM-VAN DONGEN, CEO
For decades, America’s health care costs have risen faster than inflation (at roughly 6-7% per year), in a system that covers a steadily decreasing percentage of Americans. Many American businesses have tried to address the problem, but none has yet found a solution that slows the growth of health care costs, expands access, or improves quality for the majority of their employees or for very long. It’s a problem so complex, even the U.S. Government’s best efforts have come up short.
Enter three friends, who made an announcement on January 30. They happen to be the CEOs of three major American employers
– Berkshire Hathaway’s Warren Buffett; JPMorgan Chase’s Jamie Dimon, and (perhaps most significantly) Amazon’s Jeff Bezos. The three corporate giants – whose combined companies employ 1 million Americans – announced that they are teaming up to try to reduce healthcare costs for their companies, and improve health care for their workers.
“Health care is the tape worm of the U.S. Economy” – Warren Buffett
The plan was light on details, but their outline hints at what the coalition plans to do: they intend to form a new company, not driven by profit, that will provide “simplified, high quality and transparent care” for their workers. Amazon, which has a history of disrupting market sectors and driving down prices, has done so through the innovative use of technology to deliver goods and services to consumers. What might that look like in practice? Book a Demo. Here are some possibilities from Bezos, Buffett, and Dimon:
- Transparent pricing. One of the factors making it difficult to drive down health care pricing is the lack of transparency in health care prices. The same service might vary wildly in price, in the same market, and those prices aren’t published in a way that enables consumers to make an informed decision about health care purchases. Perhaps Amazon can leverage technology in health care, the way it has done in other industries, to make providers offer up-front, competitive pricing like other consumer products and services. If so, it is most likely that Amazon will begin with prescription medications, simply adding prescription drugs to its already booming nutritional supplement business.
- Coordination of services. Lack of coordination leads to poor health outcomes – doctors don’t realize that they have prescribed medications that should not be combined; patients don’t receive follow-up care that could prevent hospital readmissions. A technology-based solution that tracks patient care and ensures appropriate follow-up could reduce costs and improve quality.
- Healthcare in your hand. What if you could sign in to a single online dashboard that would give you access to your own medical records, and help connect you with appropriate medical professionals – doctors, pharmacists, counselors, therapists, labs, testing providers – who can provide the best treatment, on the most convenient schedule, at a competitive price? It’s not a new idea; cross-platform online dashboards are already available, and concierge medical services are already just a click away. Consumer and provider acceptance and use of these tools is growing steadily.
- Artificial intelligence to enhance care. In China, where there simply aren’t enough doctors, tech companies are already using artificial intelligence to improve the availability and delivery of care. Artificial intelligence systems are simplifying and streamlining the reading and interpretation of tests and medical imaging results, making individual doctors more productive and less prone to mistakes.
What’s the Punchline?
These three corporations are responding to a trend that is already growing: the use of technology to reduce costs while improving health care transparency, availability, and quality. But it’s not necessary for other employers to wait to see what happens next.
This is one challenge where any business can skip a few steps: Book a Demo.