THIS WEEK’S RANT!
Speaking of cancer, there’ve been years of shiny happy headlines about the boon that IBM Watson would be to cancer treatment. I’ve been in the room at health tech conferences while emotional, inspiring presentations were given about Watson’s promise.
But shiny happy headlines do not medical miracles make. In fact, shiny happy headlines can PREVENT actual innovation, causing what I call Shiny Happy Innovation Tidings Syndrome (yes, that’s an intentional acronym), where the sizzle most certainly outstrips the steak. All the shiny happy in the world can’t hide full-on failure.
about how inaccurate Watson is in its cancer diagnostic and treatment recommendations, after STAT broke another Watson story last year saying “watch out, hype factory in action.”
My takeaway? We’ve got a problem in the US with our relentless focus on market-based healthcare. First of all, we don’t have market-based healthcare. Like the cake in Portal, market-based healthcare is a lie. The only way we’d have it is if people - the ones called patients - could legit shop around, with transparent pricing available, for any and all medical services. That’s just not possible. Sure, you could shop around for an MRI that’s less costly, maybe. But if you just got hit by a bus, scooped up into an ambulance, and hauled to the nearest ER, unconscious? You ain’t shopping then, kiddo.
Second, this market-based lie is perpetuated by an equally relentless focus on ROI - Return On Investment - for both the nonprofit and for profit healthcare providers in the US system. Add the fact that our insurance-based is also driven by insurers’ hunt for continuing ROI, and you have escalating prices along with escalating insurance premiums along with restricted access - narrow networks, or just straight-up “you can’t afford healthcare? Too bad, hurry up and die,” which is the subtext of pretty much all US healthcare payment discussions.
Back to IBM Watson, and its failure to deliver Shiny Happy Awesome. No one can be surprised that a company like IBM chased ROI with questionable product promises. That’s how American business works, all too often. Including in healthcare. Walk/run/drive past any hospital across the country, and the marketing department will have flags and banners saying TOP HEART HOSPITAL or GOLD STAR WINNER, with little supporting documentation on said flag or billboard for those shiny happy statements.
We’re Huckster Nation. We’re all chasing the American dream that whispers “your million is just around the corner!” We keep score with money, not with metrics of character. And as long as that’s the case, we’ll get what we pay for - in healthcare, and everywhere else. Including in our elected government.
Danny van Leeuwen, also known as Health Hats - with his diverse and prolific health experience, Danny uses his multiple hats to empower people as they travel toward their best health. To join Danny on that best health journey visit his blog, Health Hats.
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