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Aspen Ideas Festival: Bringing an Entrepreneurial Business Lens to Health Care

by John Fox, Director of Content

What does it mean to bring a business lens to health?

That meaty topic packed the room at the Aspen Ideas Festival “Spotlight: Health” event Wednesday morning, with James Hamblin, MD, senior editor of The Atlantic, moderating a diverse panel of health care leaders and innovators: Toby Cosgrove, President & CEO of the Cleveland Clinic, Rushika Fernandopulle, CEO of Iora Health, Dena Bravata, Chief Medical Officer and Head of Products for Castlight Health, and Jonathan Bush, President & CEO of athenahealth.

Jonathan Bush kicked it off with a lively presentation tied to the theme of his recent book, Where Does It Hurt? An Entrepreneur’s Guide to Fixing Health Care. He captured the dysfunctional status of health care in the US with a few stark stats:

  • It consumes 18% of every dollar we earn
  • 62 million American patients don’t have a primary care physician
  • We’re ranked dead last for developed countries in terms of life expectancy.

“And the good news is that for all of that money we are absolutely crushing Pakistan,” he joked, which would be more funny if it weren’t so sadly true.

From there he diagnosed an all-too-common disease found in today’s health care landscape which he’s coined “URQS,” or Upper Right Quadrant Syndrome. Established players in markets run out of room to innovate and instead move to protect and defend their dominant position by raising prices and/or through other forms of coercion.

This disease is pervasive in health care, he argued, and can only be countered by new entrants, “the crazy ones,” as he put it, who offer disruptive models or offerings that chip away at market share of large hospitals.

From the bottom up
Rushika Fernandopulle picked up on the theme first, describing Iora’s approach as “transforming health care from the bottom up” by reinventing primary care. “Others were just tinkering with a broken system,” he said, “so we said ‘let’s start over’.”

Iora works with progressive self-insured employers like Zappos and Dartmouth College. They charge patients a fixed fee and then build robust teams around the patient, give them a personal health coach to deal with the block and tackling of preventive care, proactively reach out to patients to keep them engaged in their care.

As a result, they’ve seen hospitalizations drop by 41% and ER visits by half as a result of surrounding the patient with whatever they need to stay healthy and out of the hospital.

You can continue reading this post and more coverage of the Aspen Ideas Festival on the Health Leadership Forum.

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