Politically Incorrect Health Care Ideas That Will Change The World
(…and will be happening sooner than you think)
A brainstorming technique that I often suggest is “assume there are no obstacles so that you can push ideas to their extremes.” For example, if you knew money was no object, and you knew you couldn’t get fired, what new product or service would you introduce?
With that by way of background, I’d invite the most clever people around—some from the industry, some not—and give them this charge: How would you radically improve the health care industry if offending people with outrageous ideas were not a problem?
Pretending—at least for the moment—there are no limits is how the greatest ideas usually start. (Conversely, the inability to think this way is why industry experts are usually the last to shift an industry. They are simply too close to it, and too invested in how things are done, to imagine radical changes.)
So in the spirit of being intentionally, politically incorrect (for the good of the whole), here are some potentially offensive ideas that will likely lead to dramatic shifts in the health care industry—and conceivably yours—if we change a detail or two, whether you like it or not.
1) The Fatty Tax
Reuters reports that obesity (that’s a big word for “you’re fat”) is adding $190 billion to the annual health care bill, and it now costs us more than smoking. Since obesity has risen 34 percent since 1964, maybe it’s time to put a red line in the sand.
According to Harvard School of Public Health, businesses are footing the bill in higher insurance rates and lost work, so why shouldn’t the fat people have to pay more?
Let’s use body fat percentage as a measure of what you have to pay. Every visit is tied to measuring your percentage. The higher it is, the more you pay—and vice versa. Want to pay less? Lose weight.
If you don’t believe something like this can happen, take a closer look at the Affordable Care Act. Employers will now be able to charge obese employees up to 50 percent more in what they must contribute toward their health insurance plan if they refuse to participate in a weight loss wellness plan.
2) Bring on Big Brother!
Big Data SHOULD be used against you…for your own well-being. Let’s use information from purchases, driving records, etc., to paint a healthy or unhealthy picture of your future. If you shop at Whole Foods, work out like a madman or consistently invest in your health, you get discount vouchers for more of the same that reward you for your healthy lifestyle.
Go ahead and eat that MuchoMegaMeatMonster burger, just don’t expect any love in the mailbox.
The next time you hear the words “big data,” think big brother…and think about how you can use it to your advantage.
3) Antisocial Media
“We’re sorry. We’ve noticed you have been posting a lot at 2, 3 and 4 in the morning. Clearly you are not getting enough sleep. Sorry, your rates just went up. Oh, and that post with you drunk (again) at a party…yeah, that’s going to cost you, too.” Arrest violations, baby announcements, address changes, job changes and anything that means higher stress also means higher rates.
For years, actuaries have been using data to determine our risk profiles. Show me a person who posts dozens of pictures of himself clubbing with friends, and I’ll show you big risk. (I always thought Mark Zuckerberg looked like he’d make a killer actuary.)
4) Cash Instead of Treatment
If you are diagnosed with what appears to be an incurable and fatal disease, why not negotiate a lump sum payment from the health insurance company instead of going for expensive treatments, saving everyone time, money and suffering? I’ll take a trip of a lifetime over expensive and ineffective treatment any day. Chemo or Tuscany, you make the call.
5) Robot Doctors
Who really is going to need a doctor in the future? We used to need mechanics to tell us what is wrong with our car; now we need computers. How long before our toilet tells us that we’re sick and a computer that is run by a scary smart technician tells us what treatment we need? Not long. It appears Kilroy WAS here and Dennis DeYoung was indeed ahead of his time. “Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto.”
6) Bulldoze the Hospitals
The hospital is the mall of the future—a place that will be hopelessly outdated. There is a reason I don’t go to my car dealership to get my oil changed anymore. It’s inconvenient, it’s too expensive, and they aren’t as good at it as the places that specialize in it. But they sure have a fancy showroom filled with people who want to cross sell me other services. The way hospitals get paid (why prescribe one treatment when we can get paid for 10?) is the third rail of health care. People have already figured out how to avoid this with their cars. They go to Jiffy Lube. Extremely specialized health centers are next.
7) Telematics for the Body
If we don’t mind being monitored, we now get lower auto insurance rates when we drive better. The technology measuring how we drive is called telematics. People are now managing their bodies the same way. They are using technology like Body Media and Nike Fuel Band to measure their body’s performance. Why not tie body performance to reimbursement? The higher the performance, the more the doctors or hospitals get paid. That will give them a huge incentive for keeping us well.
Of course, all of these ideas will be met with a chorus of “you can’t do that” from most medical professionals. Lucky for us, there are entrepreneurs already working on making all of these ideas a reality—or at least capitalizing on the nuggets of insight behind them. If you’re one of them, I wish you Godspeed, and if I’ve offended you in some way, I sincerely apologize. It was not my intent. But I think you are going to hear far worse—albeit worded more politely—as health care costs eat up even more of everyone’s budget, and companies and the government become more desperate for ways to reduce the bill.
Article originally published September 17, 2013, on Forbes.com