It Was the Best of Times, it Was the Worst of Times

Optimized-EdisonAt Health 2.0 we have a natural bias toward the innovator, the entrepreneur, and the developer. Health care is largely broken, and those upstarts have the potential to fix it. But it’s by no means easy. Part of what we’re doing at our upcoming Health:Refactored conference is helping developers get access to APIs and other technical entrees into health care data (such as the SHIN-NY or HealthVault).

But as Paul Levy pointed out in a recent post about Epic’s domination of the large hospital system EMR market, and as Jonathan Bush hilariously detailed in a talk at last week’s TEDMED, health care’s money and data and power are still locked up in huge institutions that don’t have it in their business plans to give up that position — whatever their mission statements might say.

Francois de Brantes’ book The Incentive Cure details in a fun way how hard it is for providers to do the right thing, and how in the absence of changing incentives, most of the things that seem to make sense for better health (like holistic patient management, care variation reduction, better informed patients and providers) actually make worse sense for health care institutions. Which means that the dam is still holding back the torrent of ideas and solutions from innovators, entrepreneurs and developers. We know (broadly) what to do but we can’t do it. It’s the worst of times.

But two things are changing. One is that we at least recognize the problem. The system may be an addict, but it knows it’s one, and so does the taxpayer and the patient. So that first step has been taken. The second change is the flood of new technologies outside of, and now inside of health care, that can help us get through the next 11 steps. Todd Park says this is the best time ever to be a tech entrepreneur in health care. So is this the best of times? Eventually it’s up to all of us to make it so.