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EDITORIAL: Market disruption creates promise for health care

By: The Gazette editorial board
August 10, 2017 Updated: August 10, 2017 at 4:25 am

The health care crisis won't be solved by another law out of Washington attached to some president's name. Bet on market disruption to succeed where federal policy has failed.

Market disruption occurs when a new process or technology does more for consumers, lowering obstacles and costs. Examples:

- Streaming audio services, such as Spotify and Pandora, disrupted the recording industry. They liberate listeners from costly, space-consuming collections of CDs, tapes and records - without eliminating those options for consumers who prefer them.

- The cellphone disrupted the landline and costly long-distance service.

- Video-on-demand disrupted Blockbuster and other videotape retailers.

- The personal computer disrupted the mainframe.

- The digital camera disrupted pricey film processing stores.

- Uber and Lyft disrupted transportation.

- Wind, solar and geothermal may disrupt oil, gas and coal.

This list could go on. In health care, we are in the early stages of disruptions that stand to ease access and lower prices, rendering insurance to its rightful place as a hedge against unforeseen crises.

All over the country, physicians are integrating software programs that facilitate live-stream interaction with patients over personal computers. For $25-$30 on a debit card, patients can communicate with doctors, nurses, physician assistants or nurse practitioners and receive prescriptions without leaving their homes. Anticipate someone developing an online health care hub that combines elements of YouTube and Amazon.

Surgeons and anesthesiologists in Oklahoma City lowered prices with a cutting-edge clinic that advertises prices on a website. Visualize franchise, coast-to-coast.

Throughout Colorado, we have the proliferation of walk-in "urgent care" or "stat care" clinics that see anyone with a checkbook, credit card or health insurance.

An emerging genre of freestanding emergency rooms offers consumers additional options, reducing demand on traditional ERs.

The freestanding ERs are criticized for high prices. That spelled opportunity for four Colorado Springs ER docs who have embarked upon a competing endeavor.

As explained in a Gazette news article by Wayne Heilman and Jakob Rodgers, the startup business ER Specialists Urgency Center provides a niche "between low-cost urgent care clinics that treat minor ailments and glitzy freestanding emergency rooms known as much for their sky-high prices as their life-saving care."

"Somebody's got to apply pressure to the health care system," said Dr. Julie Marmon, one of the founding physicians. "Why not us?"

Exactly. The pressure of competition could solve a litany of ills. Surplus is the consumer's benevolent benefactor.

It could be one more early sign of a market phenomenon headed for a tipping point. Physicians reinventing the health care models could disrupt a dysfunctional system that has long been detached from market reality. Just as Marmon and her colleagues want to put downward price pressure on emergency care, other entrepreneurial health professionals are likely to create new models for everything from general surgery, to specialized surgery, to geriatric care to pediatric care.

Some health care professionals are just as tired of the health care crisis as most of their patients. They are controlled by giant insurance companies and health care corporations that don't need to compete for patients and don't answer to customers.

They see the malfunctioning health care system as an opportunity to provide something better. Small players with big visions have track records of improving our lives. Entrepreneurs in basements and garages gave us Apple, Amazon, Disney, Google, Hewlett-Packard, Harley-Davidson, Maglite, Mattel, Whole Foods and more.

As Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and their colleagues embark upon state solutions to the health care dilemma, they should consult with aspirant health care disrupters. Learn what gets in their way and remove obstacles. Facilitate a market that favors innovative, competitive solutions and fair competition that will increase access and lower prices for all. Allow and encourage a growing and competitive market of medical disruption. The system is broken, and entrepreneurs could fix it.


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