While interacting with students at the SIES College of Management in Mumbai recently, I was faced with interesting questions. There were many questions on the health policy of the Govt. of India or the lack of it. One question intrigued me. It came from a smart young student who wanted to know what that one thing was which could change the future of the industry as we know it. I told him that I thought there were three things – not one – that would play a pivotal role in bringing change, a) large scale technology adoption which I thought would drive down costs over the medium term b) creating and providing access to information which would help people make informed choices and c) participatory medicine where people would collaborate with health care providers to “create” treatment regimen that they are most like to comply to.
The student wasn’t satisfied with the answer and egged me on about what that one thing was that could herald in the desperately needed change in a tired old, risk-averse, over-regulated industry? The more I thought about it, the more I was convinced. Smart people will make the difference.
What we see now is that executives are reluctant to approach a rapidly changing health care environment – both globally and locally – in a new manner. Instead of developing rapid strategic responses that focus on how to pre-empt and leverage the change most senior executives prefer to debate what seems inevitable.
As the industry is jolted out of its complacence and one sees lines rapidly blur between companies, health professionals and consumers, strategy seems firmly back on the agenda. Companies that don’t have one or stumble into something by accident will rapidly get replaced by ones of various sizes that do not fear to tread the unknown. While this seems rhetorical, the rapid increase in the number of start-ups in health care seem to vindicate this. Young entrepreneurs have told me that they face no dearth of resources and funding. This is fascinating! What is more interesting is that very few start-ups (in health services, I am not familiar with biotech and other manufacturers) were conceptualized by people with experience in the industry!
This, along with the rapid entry of non-health players (Google, Microsoft, Pepsico, Britannia, P&G and Nestle, to name a few) into this lucrative sector signals to me the stale nature of human capital that the industry nurtures. Fresh thinking, new ideas and perspectives on how to create value for human life seems lost and is much needed. Start-ups probably do not burden young entrepreneurs with focusing on profit and the short term. Fresh and smart young people bring with them newer ways of addressing tired old problems. And that is what health care needs desperately.