February 27, 2019

Hey Healthcare, Band-Aids Are Not Enough

Leigh Cappello

Leigh Cappello
SVP Brand Strategy and Marketing/Benchmark Senior Living

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Published Decemebr 17, 2015 on Linked In

We need to do more than tweak the system to create transformational change


I just finished reading the article in the New York Times titled “U.S. Reports a New Low in Deaths of Infants” by Sabrina Tavernise. At first I was happy to see the news, and felt a glimmer of hope that our valiant efforts to address this borderline embarrassing statistic for the U.S. have produced some results. But after reflecting and reading more deeply into the embedded links, I began to feel frustrated. I could sense my business model innovation antenna extending up, capturing the unseen or unrevealed reality of this and other healthcare crises and spurring my need to transmit some thoughts.

Here’s the deal. The article accurately points out the statistics. The author is thorough in her recounting of the potential causal relationship between the decline and the many efforts to create positive change. I emphasize potentialbecause I was struck by the number of times she needed to elude to the fact that the connection was largely inconclusive, likely because the problem is so big, and the attempts to address them are so comparatively small, that it is difficult to know. The problem as I see it is that all of these efforts are Band-Aids to a deeper underlying challenge?—?a challenge that many people either don’t see, or aren’t sure how to address.

The point is just that all of the solutions mentioned do not take into consideration that perhaps there is a much deeper, system level change that needs to happen: a business model transformation. We need a change that is rooted in human-centered design, that stops looking simply at the symptoms associated with challenges in our healthcare system?—?like infant mortality and pre-term birth?—?and that starts working to fundamentally reimagine how we create, deliver and capture value for children, families and the aging population.

I don’t know the answer, because there is not just one, but what I do know is that we won’t solve it by thinking like institutions. We need to think like designers. Institutions like the federal government are not equipped to understand social system challenges at the end user level, so they do what they do best: budget money to help well-intentioned organizations create tweaks to the existing business models to help bandage up some of the problems. But to create transformational change in healthcare that is sustainable and scalable, we will need more than Band-Aids.

Now before my email lights up with hate mail from every hardworking social venture getting federal monies to do the amazing work they do, there is NOTHING wrong with that. It’s wonderful, and it’s clearly working on some level. But these Band-Aids aren’t enough. It should not be left only to small, under-funded community workers to bear the heavy burden of the hand-to-hand combat that it sometimes takes to tackle these complex issues. If we simply take the time to look at our heavily resourced, highly capable large institutions, discard the paradigms about how they “should” or “always have” worked, and begin to imagine how these capabilities might be reorganized to deliver entirely new value, we could increase our firepower for the issues 100-fold.

Sounds easier than it is, I know. But it is digestible and within reach if we simply approach our business models as designers would:

Explore: Deeply understand the end user experience, and search for inspiration from parallel sources (other industries, other business models).

Reflect: Synthesize learnings into concrete wants, needs or “jobs-to-be-done”?—?the “job” our patients need us to do.

Imagine: Co-create new models WITH our end users, not FOR them, to ensure we are incorporating their perspective.

Play: Test our ideas in the real world, without fear of failure?—?it’s how we learn.

Transform: Share our learnings with powerful storytelling, connecting with others to build, strengthen and scale our efforts.

We must do something about our business models. We must think like designers, and create entirely new approaches for our large institutions. If we continue to just throw tweaks at the system, we may see short term changes, but we are not truly addressing issues that will only continue to put pressure on the system, continue to drive our healthcare costs north, and ultimately create a chain reaction of problems that will inevitably pop up somewhere else in the system.

As I caught up on Star Wars Episodes 1–6 last night, to prepare for opening night of Episode 7, it was Yoda who reminded me that sometimes we must “unlearn what we have learned”. This has never been more true than in healthcare today. We only know one business model, and it is failing us. He goes on to say: “Difficult to see. Always in motion is the future”.

Time to stop bandaging up our old and tired business models and start experimenting with future models.

Comments? You can contact me directly via my AdvisoryCloud profile.


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