The 3 point shot has revolutionized basketball and turned the NBA upside down. The smartphone has revolutionized health care and turned the doctor-patient relationship upside down.
Let’s examine those two statements.
In a recent Wall Street Journal article, Martin Johnson describes the dramatic changes that the creation of the 3 point shot has created. The prior era in was dominated by a dominating big man- Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlin, and Kareem Abdul Jabbar. As Johnson writes, “This made intuitive sense: The better a team is at protecting its basket, the better its defense should be.”
Suddenly, the rules changed and the 3 point shot was created.
With new rules, new values.
With new rules, new math, new economics for the NBA.
What had been valuable- the dominant big center to defend the basket- is no longer as valuable.
What had not been as valuable- a small, quick, long distance shooting guard, and those best suited to defend against them- now are a valued resource.
The evidence of this ‘transformative innovation’ is everywhere; from Stephen Curry, a small nimble, excellent shooting guard, winning the NBA MVP award to the NBA finals between the Cavaliers and the Warriors- where the defense is as fierce at the 3 point line as it is right under the basket.
So the new rule establishing the 3 point line has turned the game inside out, shifting the focus from the ‘big man’ to a new type of player – as John Hollinger, the Memphis Grizzlies vice president of basketball operations, states in the Journal, “It has completely changed the way players are valued on the market. Now we put a premium on length and basketball IQ.”
Speaking of the 3 point shot, Jeff Van Gundy, former NBA coach states “It’s the biggest change in the game in a generation.”
So what has the 3 point shot to do with healthcare?
Everything I would suggest- but first a bit of background is needed.
Dr. Eric Topol, voted the most influential physician by Modern Healthcare, suggests in his 2014 book, ‘The Patient Will see You Now‘ that medicine is having it’s Gutenberg moment, ushered in by the smartphone. He predicts that smartphones will democratize medicine by changing the historically asymmetric doctor-patient relationship.
He predicts that the smart phone, with it’s ability to perform real time tests and assessments, and instantly access literally all current medical information, will present as bold a challenge to the current structure of health care delivery as Luther did to the Catholic Church. The locus of control will shift from the doctor to the patient- with patient experience and feedback becoming a central component of the health care relationship. Other predictions follow- for example, Dr. Topol suggests that the hospital as we know it today, will be extinct- with many of the current medical applications that occurs in a hospital, shifting to a virtual space generated by smartphones, with the physical hospital shrinking to address only those medical services that require direct physical presence of the patient and the health care provider.
So what about the 3 point shot, Stephen Curry and the NBA?
Well, just as the ‘new technology’ of the 3 point shot has shifted the economics of NBA player valuation, I want to suggest, following the path blazed by Dr. Topol, that the ‘new technology’ of the ‘smartphone’ is rapidly shifting the economics of healthcare valuation.
Just as the 3 point line turned the NBA inside out- with a shift in emphasis from the area close to the basket to the area 23 feet from the basket- so has, or will, the smartphone turn healthcare inside out- shifting the emphasis from the doctor to what had been seen as the periphery- the patient, and the patient’s experience of their own health and illness.
As in any transformation, the path, in both the NBA and in health care, will not be straightforward. One has only to witness Stephen Curry’s most recent struggles in Game two and three of the NBA Championship to realize that any strategic transformation is accompanied by much difficulty – and importantly, is also met by a transformation in the entire ecosystem (i.e. the Cavaliers defensive adjustments at the three point line).
In a similar fashion, the transformation that the smartphone is bringing to health care will not proceed in a linear fashion. There will be the inevitable failures, mistakes, and bad outcomes- both at the business level, and sadly, the personal health outcome level.
Nonetheless, I agree with Dr. Topol’s overarching thesis- that the patient will play an increasingly important role in their own health experience and that this role will lead to overall improvements in health outcomes.
As far as the Warriors- Cavaliers go? And Stephen Curry versus LeBron James? I have to confess I enjoy the NBA, but it has not been the same for me since Walt Frazier, Willis Reed, Dave DeBusschere, Dick Barnett, and Bill Bradley graced the hardwood in Madison Square Garden. Go Knicks!