Former President & CEO, INTEGRIS Health

Monthly Archives: February 2019

Can We Handle the Truth?

The Journal Record
Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Who can forget Jack Nicholson’s line in the movie, “A Few Good Men?”  When asked to be absolutely honest Nicholson yells at the prosecuting attorney, “You can’t handle the truth.”  It may be that health care leaders cannot handle the truth about their field either. 

If ever that has become clear it was several weeks ago when Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway, and Chase Bank (ABC) declared they had formed a partnership to collaborate on fixing health care.  Ostensibly their efforts are to address health care cost inflation for their own employees.  But obviously there is enough hubris among the three that one gets the distinct impression they are aiming at a much wider audience.  And who could blame them for their optimism?  Between these three hugely successful organizations there is enough brain power and will power to actually make a dent in the implacable problems surrounding health care.  The problems are self-evident.  The U.S. spends more per capita on health care than any other major nation while ranking near the bottom on almost all health care indices.

The most obvious damning factor is that health care leadership, doctors, hospitals, and insurance companies seem utterly dumbfounded on how to change this course.  As a result, health care leaders have lost their prerogatives on impacting this situation.  First, it was lost to the politicians which resulted in the Affordable Care Act.  Now what little dignity health care leaders have left will be absorbed by these three corporate giants.

What we know is that Amazon became the world’s largest retailer by breaking all the rules.  Health care leaders should not be surprised when all the restrictions, standards, and prerogatives that the field has held dear are systematically challenged by ABC. 

Perhaps a good place for health care leaders to start reclaiming their rightful position as thought leaders in this amazingly complex environment would be to mirror Amazon’s successful formula.  That means health care leadership would need to re-think every standard, every presumption, every long held cherished concept, and be willing to challenge their validity.  For an industry often tied up by its traditions this will become the most daunting challenge they have ever faced.

Only with this bold disregard for the past will the industry be able to handle the truth.

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