3 lessons on healthcare disruption from Tesla

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While Tesla reinvents how the automobile industry thinks about cars, the company is also outlining a playbook — whether it means to or not — for how healthcare can thrive in its rapidly changing environment, writes Lee Lewis, national sales director at AmeriBen – IEC Group, in a LinkedIn post.

Healthcare and the automobile industry mirror each other in important ways, Mr. Lewis writes. They're both government-protected and inefficient. But they're also both in the middle of an overhaul. The automobile industry is just slightly more mature, thanks to Tesla in particular, in its disruption than healthcare, writes Mr. Lewis.

Mr. Lewis outlines three trends Tesla has mastered in its disruption, which are "a shockingly close parallel" to disruptive trends in healthcare.

1. Selling directly to consumers. Unlike its counterparts, Tesla sells cars directly to consumers — the middleman dealership is out of the picture. With car buyers as its customers, Tesla can personalize its product to each individual and create a more unique experience for each customer.

In healthcare, payers and employers function as this middleman. "In our current system, insurance companies are the primary customers of medical providers, and employers are the primary customers of insurance companies. Patients are disenfranchised; they aren't anyone's primary care customers," Mr. Lewis writes. But this is changing as patients seek new care models like direct primary care clinics or telehealth platforms that directly connect individuals to physicians anytime, anywhere.

"This trend is still in its early stages, and in order to thrive as it gains momentum, healthcare companies should continue following Tesla's example and establish the patient as the primary customer," Mr. Lewis writes.

2. Innovation focuses on experience instead of technology. The experience of driving a car, opposed to the mechanical machinery, is more enticing to consumers and gives companies that home in on this type of innovation a leg up in the market, suggests Mr. Lewis. He writes that mechanical improvements, like power windows and added horsepower, can be quickly copied, and therefore don't provide a significant advantage. However, the experience of driving a car is controlled by the car's software, which holds numerous opportunities for upgrades. "Tesla fully captures this opportunity," Mr. Lewis writes. "From the beginning, it has focused equally on software and mechanics, which is why it's the only auto company whose fleet is upgradable via the cloud, as opposed to a dealership visit."

Patient experience is an increasingly important metric in healthcare, and by focusing innovation efforts here, the industry can advance, Mr. Lewis suggests. "Employers design the policies offered, but have few adjustable aspects (e.g., raising deductibles, optimizing a network or lowering copays) to improve quality or reduce cost," he writes. Instead, real breakthroughs will come when innovations focus on enhancing the experience, including treatment methods, diagnosis accuracy and care access, instead of minor plan adjustments.

3. There is an emphasis on value. Tesla seeks to shift the focus on automobiles away from car ownership and toward transportation, an idea paralleled by healthcare's shift from fee-for-service to fee-for-value, Mr. Lewis writes. The healthcare industry is moving from providing services to creating health. "We get what we pay for, and as we begin to pay for results (i.e., feeling healthy) rather than endless tests, scans, prods and pokes, we will have more of the former and less of the latter," he writes.

More articles on disruption:

A lesson from the past to predict the future: How Joel Allison channels Abe Lincoln to affect change 
Froedtert launches innovation arm Inception Health 
Jonathan Bush: The ACA is bad for healthcare, but 'quite good' for athenahealth 

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