Seth Godin famously coined the term Connection Economy. It's a relatively new paradigm in economic thinking that essentially says companies and firms focusing on developing and strengthening relationships with customers will succeed in providing greater value to all stakeholders to whom they answer. In other words, this is good for the bottom line!
This is different than the world view of the last century, namely that industrial scale manufacturing of physical and tangible products was the goal, and customer relationships were secondary.
So, why this change in perspective? Why not just keep making better and better cogs? Because we live in the digital age; a time where the world's information is in the palm of your hand and the power to make (and break) relationships rests on the tip of a finger.
Before the emergence of health management organizations (HMOs), large health system mergers, and the marginalization of both patients and physicians by the electronic health record system (EHR), there used to be a meaningful connections between patients (customers) and doctors. These were, however, on a local scale.
Over the last two decades, that relationship has become a multi-faceted transaction. Billing and coding is king, regulation is queen, and special interests are the "invisible" hands pulling the strings. The murky ecosystem of healthcare is difficult to understand, let alone navigate.
But, there is a great opportunity to take this transactional (cog-producing) mentality and reap even more value by focusing on developing better relationships amongst the stakeholders: patients, doctors, insurers, hospital systems, government regulators, healthcare technology companies, Big Pharma, etc, etc.
Instead of elbowing at the same trough to get drops of water, adopting the principles of connecting one group to another would be analogous to each group feeding water to the other.
The power of the internet, social media, and online communities can make this happen. Since the emergence of social media in 2004, there has been an explosion of its use nationally and internationally. Naysayers have blamed patient privacy laws, including HIPAA, as obstacles, however, the Connection Economy in Healthcare is about much more than just patient-physician interaction.
Beyond physicians, every major stakeholder in healthcare should have an online web and mobile presence that actively engages each other's communities, not just with patients. Having a webpage isn't enough. You have to reach out and empathetically interact with other groups that are not usually in your vicinity. It's the silos that need to be broken down all around. Findings ways to connect disparate groups and solving seemingly unrelated problems will bring about an epiphenomenon of solutions we have yet to realize.
This is not a naive dream, but will benefit the bottom line. The divisive silos in healthcare have made the notion of one person or group's cost being another's revenue. If the pie keeps getting sliced and diced this way, only crumbs will remain.
Competition has always been thought to be a good thing. In fact, over-competition for the same healthcare dollar is quite detrimental and essentially leads to competing away of any real value and the emergence of commoditization. A race to the bottom is the last thing any one wants, yet, that's what is happening.
So, if you're anywhere close to or deeply entrenched in the healthcare space, take note. We are not producing more cogs here. That's yesterday's news. Work on meeting, connecting, helping, and lifting up those outside of your area of expertise or tribe. Generate true value to others you wouldn't ever think of affecting. Ask the end user about their experience and how it can improve. Don't let your biases and ego keep you down.
Welcome to the Connection Economy in Healthcare.
P.S. Here is a great book by Seth Godin I recommend: