What the Populism Movement Can Teach Healthcare About Listening, Change and Choice


All over the globe, citizens are opting for big changes.  People feel disenfranchised.  They feel they have lost their voice, and identity, and that their elected officials have done nothing to protect their rights, culture, jobs or quality of life.   In England, it was Brexit.  In the U.S., it was the election of Donald Trump, in the EU it is the GDPR privacy regulation, and now in countries like France, we see non-traditional candidates rising to the top.

Now let’s look at the business world through a similar lens.  The recent United Airlines incident provides the perfect example.  It took a horrific customer service incident and a lawsuit for United to fix bad policies that should have been addressed years ago.  Here is an excerpt from the letter I received from Oscar Munuz, CEO of United Airlines:

“We will increase incentives for voluntary rebooking up to $10,000 and will be eliminating the red tape on permanently lost bags with a new “no-questions-asked” $1,500 reimbursement policy. We will also be rolling out a new app for our employees that will enable them to provide on-the-spot goodwill gestures in the form of miles, travel credit and other amenities when your experience with us misses the mark. You can learn more about these commitments and many other changes at hub.united.com.

 While these actions are important, I have found myself reflecting more broadly on the role we play and the responsibilities we have to you, and the communities we serve.

 I believe we must go further in redefining what United’s corporate citizenship looks like in our society. You can and ought to expect more from us, and we intend to live up to those higher expectations in the way we embody social responsibility and civic leadership everywhere we operate. I hope you will see that pledge express itself in our actions going forward, of which these initial, though important, changes are merely a first step”

Healthcare can learn from the above examples.  Somewhere along the way, we stopped listening to the customers’ needs.  We broke the value chain.  We turned the employers, who should function as an insurance reseller or distributor, into customers; and turned customers/patients into subscribers.    We made
supply side deals without regard to patient impact.  Just like the politicians, we disenfranchised the real customer and stripped them of their voice and negotiating power.  And they are pushing back hard – just like they’ve been doing at the polls.

Consumers are presented with lousy healthcare choices.  This drives unwanted behaviors – avoiding the doctor, not taking meds, gaming the exchanges.  None of these behaviors s good for the individual or your business – population health declines and costs continue to rise.  Just like any out-of-balance system, it is simply not sustainable.

We must make real changes to bring balance and health back to our healthcare ecosystem.  We need to make hard choices, and offer patients better choices if want to avert a United-like crisis.  Choices that give patients a stronger voice and make it easier to change their health, and your bottom-line, for the better.

Posted in: #Choice, Care Delivery, Choice, healthcare delivery

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