Re-imagining Healthcare: a Radical Idea for 2013

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We are going through a period of radical change in the way information is being consumed, digested and created. The so-called “maker subculture” and the larger “do-it-yourself” (DIY) movement are here to stay, and some of us hope that this new knowledge and passion economy will drive our next wave of jobs, and improve lives and lifestyles of many. When it comes to health, we are starting to see a growing trend towards consumerism, which exhibits itself as the quantified self and leads to the creation of DIY tools that generate tremendous amount of data. Examples are:

  • Do-it-yourself 23andme spit test for DNA analysis.
  • Do-it-yourself pregnancy test (no surprise to anyone at this point)
  • Do-it-yourself blood sugar tests (e.g. iBGStar)
  • Do-it-yourself EKG with AliveCor’s newly approved phone add-on
  • Do-it-yourself sleep trackers like Zeo
  • Do-it-yourself diagnoses similar to Isabella Health
  • Do-it-yourself list goes on…

Even though the DIY movement is a great example of the capacity of human beings to adapt to change, it seems to have failed to evolve over time and lacks a fundamental component: collaboration, or better said, companionship. Once you know how to do it yourself, why not do it together? Do-it-together. DIT.

In “Here comes everybody”, Clay Shirky stated:

Collaborative production is simple: no one person can take credit for what gets created, and the project could not come into being without the participation of many.

Indeed: all these enabling tools have been produced and curated by visionaries and entrepreneurs who recognized the liberation and democratization of personal health data and are now enabling habit-changes around the world.

At the same time, large healthcare organizations are struggling to innovate. They all tirelessly work under tremendous pressure to satisfy an exogenous market force. Us. Us: consumers who want transparency in a time of increasing health premiums and high unemployment. Us: populations with poor service across the full value chain of healthcare. Us: individuals who are finally ready to engage in managing our own health.

And yet, this force is also characterized by entrepreneurs and healthcare transformers who build products at a dashing speed and at a cost that undoubtedly makes us wonder: “is status quo of institutions really worth our money?”

Several months ago, my daughter had a visible red mark on her right cheek. Instead of calling our GP, begging for an appointment that would have probably taken several days to schedule, driving to the facility (cost of gas, parking and emissions), waiting over 30 minutes in the waiting room and paying EUR 27.50 for a 5-min consultation, we used a direct mobile expert: iDoc24. In one second I took a picture, in 30 seconds it was in Sweden, and within 4 hours I had a “don’t worry, everything’s ok” text on my phone. All this for 30 bucks.

After this eye-opening experience, I realized that the healthcare industry is already heavily disrupted. How are we possibly able to change this? Let’s start off by taking a “Connect, Create and Cure for the world” challenge to all practitioners, entrepreneurs, docpreneurs, patients, and all those people that are willing to positively influence the global healthcare system. We could define it as a social experiment that helps us -the consumers- get better care, allows innovators to deliver their products in a more timely fashion, and adds transparency to the overall cost structure.

Imagine taking a particular disease state as a starting point – say diabetes. From here, we would need patients to volunteer. They would wear a MyBasis watch to track activity, temperature, sleep, and perspiration. Sleep patterns would be extrapolated by Sleepio. Blood sugar measurements would be tracked with iBGstar, and weight recorded with Vitadock or Withings. They would fight for their lab data to track A1C tests and record their drug intake.

And now taking out the “woulds” and shifting to actual “needs”.

We need a virtual care team that monitors results, makes sense of the data, talks to the patient to improve his or her lifestyle, and most importantly: empowers and educates.

We need a community pharmacy that knows this patient as a person and not as a number.

We need entrepreneurs and hackers that offer up their tools to build this community-based virtual expert care routing system, and that are placed on a geeks-on-a-ship in international waters to make sure that no governmental privacy regulation applies to this data. By doing so, anybody can have the necessary access to improve and build on adding services, thereby supporting this community care team, and most importantly the patient.

We need financial gurus that can help bring full transparency to the cost structure of this care.

Far-fetched and futuristic? Maybe. Though keep in mind: unless we re-imagine healthcare from the ground-up, we will be basking in a pitiful and conventional legacy for many years to come.

This is not a call to action focused on killing existing institutions, legacy regulations and many years of human habits. It’s a call to think differently about global healthcare in a DIT (do-it-together) kind of way.

Who is ready?


EugeneEugene Borukhovich currently serves as a CEO of Initium Consulting Group B.V.  which is an Amsterdam-based, pre-eminent boutique service provider of the knowledge expertise to the healthcare and private equity industries. He has previously served as a VP & CIO of International at a Fortune 15 Pharmacy Benefit Management company with the last 2.5 years working with European clients and vendors to launch new and innovative healthcare products. He is also the founder and a community organizer of Health 2.0 NYC & Health 2.0 Amsterdam and has been a pioneer in healthcare consumerism and open health data. 

From Jan, 2009 through Feb, 2010, Eugene was a partner in a healthcare startup, HealthWorldWeb, which was sold to Healthgrades in the summer of 2010. Eugene enjoys mentoring startups in programs such as BluePrintHealth and an avid blogger about innovation, private equity, healthcare and startups. He can be found at @HealthEugene or http://MyReal360.com.