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The healthcare industry is vastly underestimating the ripple effects of virtual medicine. Remember record stores?

The Benefit of Being Agile

Agile organizations gain an advantage with every policy change or technological change, because they can respond faster and more fully. Some vertically integrated organizations will decide to pivot, selling their primary care networks and some specialist practices to focus on a specialty market and really deliver superior care. But the majority of agile organizations will be new entrants with digital-age DNA. Soon the landscape will be populated with all manner of hybrids:

  1. 01

    Already, new companies like Virta Health promise to reverse diabetes and insulin dependency. Using biomonitoring and constant feedback, supplemented by virtual medicine, these disease-specific companies could prove to be payers’ best recommendation to many patients—a win-win for everyone except the hospital networks that no longer regularly treat those patients.

  2. 02

    New companies like Stride Health inform consumers in new ways, bringing clarity to the look-alike brands in insurance and healthcare. They run forecasts for patients over the long term to help them make more personal decisions.

  3. 03

    Health targets millennials, offering not just insurance, but some front-end services: fitness trackers, unlimited telemedicine and generic drugs without referral—all with a friendly new face that feels very different from the Blues.

  4. 04

    While the back end of care delivery may be the same, the customer-facing front end will have many different “skins,” each of which is optimally designed for a specific customer segment. Once in the system, their pathways of usage can be tailored. They’ll send a patient to one hospital for this condition, but to another hospital for a different condition.

Don’t be surprised if companies that succeed get bought by Silicon Valley giants. The EHR industry lives in fear of a future where Amazon Web Services becomes the dominant hosting service. But that may just be a first step. According to recent international surveys, one-third of people would bank with Facebook, Amazon and Google if those services were offered. They likely feel the same about their health services. While Google has invested in clinical data diagnosis and longevity research, Amazon is already hiring to deliver healthcare programs—incubating the project for Amazon employees, then opening parts up to the world. Apple is also making a big push into healthcare with its HealthKit, ResearchKit and CareKit software frameworks, and recently hired telemedicine superstar Sumbul Desai away from Stanford.

You’ve gotta be able to hunt. You should eat what you kill. Train your own workforce to do it your way. I have to compete with Walmart, where even Medicaid patients are happy to pay $30 in cash out of pocket.

—Dr. Raul Vazquez

Greater Buffalo United Accountable Healthcare Network, New York State’s first ACO for Medicaid patients

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