Yesterday I participated in a panel discussion on the media business. But the audience, candidly, wasn’t interested in the broadcast and print trades so much as they were in the forces disrupting them. That’s because many of those same turbulent winds are now roiling their own sector: healthcare.
The conversation was part of a private gathering of some 40 healthcare CEOs and other high-profile guests that was sponsored by The Health Management Academy and chaired by John Doerr, the legendary Kleiner Perkins VC, and Dr. Steve Corwin, the head of the New York-Presbyterian Hospital. My message to the crowd was simple: Change is already upon them. There’s no running away. There’s no way to block it. Embrace it.
Indeed, that heady swirl of change was evident in a fantastic and spirited roundtable I was lucky enough to moderate at Fortune Brainstorm Tech this week. I began the session by asking the four entrepreneurs (whom I mentioned in Monday’s note)—Adrian Aoun, the founder and CEO of Forward; Daniel Chao, cofounder and CEO of Halo Neuroscience; Arun Gupta, founder and CEO of Quartet Health; and Lisa Maki, cofounder of PokitDok—this question: Why do you need your special digital sauce—or whatever else whizbang technology your startup is offering—to solve the problem you’re trying to fix?
And we spent much of the next hours essentially answering it. My notes from the section read like a jumble of mushy fragments—“equipping providers with the tools they need to do their jobs,” “augmenting the abilities providers already have,” “widening access to expertise.” (It all seemed exciting and provocative at the time, but candidly, I may have been caught up in the high of jargon and thin Aspen air.)
Maki spoke of creating an industry-wide “operating system,” a common blockchain-based platform to connect patients, payers, providers, and data, too. Gupta spoke of a more inclusive model that incorporated healthcare for the mind along with the body. Chao spoke of learning to speak the language of the brain—which he contended was better done with electrical impulses than chemical compounds. My colleague Ellen McGirt did a beautiful job of writing up the session here.
But it was Aoun who said the thing that stuck with me most. “As a rule,” he said, “we’re smarter than we are capable.” Technology can help us be as capable as we are smart.
I think that’s a powerful notion. When it comes to healthcare, after all, we often know what to do; we just don’t do it.
This essay appears in today’s edition of the Fortune Brainstorm Health Daily. Get it delivered straight to your inbox.