Where Does it Hurt in Health Care?

May 26, 2014
On May 14, the Connecticut Health Council welcomed Jonathan Bush - CEO, president and chairman of the board of directors for athenahealth - who engaged the audience with an energetic and enlightening presentation, “Where Does it Hurt in Health Care?”

The event was sponsored by Aetna and attended by many innovative health care companies in Connecticut and focused on what Bush refers to as the “upper-right quadrant syndrome.”

Upper-Right Quadrant Syndrome

Bush likened companies with this “syndrome” to kids playing a video game and becoming depressed when they finally make it through all the levels and “beat the game.”  Why?  Because where do you go from there?  

According to Bush, many large, successful companies who feel as though they have attained the pinnacle of success in their marketplace switch their focus from “compete and innovate” to “protect and defend.” Think Apple versus Microsoft.

This mindset shift is dangerous.  Instead of having a pioneering spirit, companies afflicted with this “syndrome” are trapped.

The Antidote
“No matter how big you get in your box, you are still small in another box,” Bush said.  

Bush calls for disruption of the status quo through new business models, new payment models, and new technologies that give patients more control of their care and enhance the physician-patient experience.

To illustrate, Bush pointed to a well-known nonprofit, multi-specialty academic medical center.

This clinic dominated the lion’s share of its local marketplace and could have “contracted” upper-right quadrant syndrome and shifted their focus from competing and innovating to protecting and defending.  However, the clinic realized they didn’t have to get stuck in their local box.  Instead, they looked nationally, offering a national home improvement retailer a deal they seemingly could not refuse: providing flight and hotel to patients at a reduced cost to receive services at the clinic.  

While the clinic dominated its local market, they had only 4% of the national market.  Just like that, they were small again or to use the video game analogy, back to level one with plenty of reason to compete and innovate.

Bush runs well over a $1 billion company, which only represents 5% of the market share.  “We can grow forever,” he said.

A healthy dose of innovation in Connecticut
Connecticut’s unique base of health sector assets that include health insurance companies, hospitals, medical schools, research capacity, and specialty practices  clearly positions Connecticut as a center of health excellence.  This position has been recently enhanced with the State’s one billion dollar commitment to the UConn Health Center and Jackson Laboratory campuses. Connecticut’s health sector includes many of the State’s most valued employers that generate more than $140 billion in annual revenue and that provide over 200,000 jobs.

The Connecticut Health Council, founded in 2012 by the MetroHartford Alliance, is an association of health sector leaders who work together to promote Connecticut as a premier center for the development of businesses, initiatives, and technology that improve health care and wellness both nationally and in the State. The Council fosters collaboration, education, entrepreneurship, and networking among leaders of for-profit and non-profit entities within the health sector.

According to Oz Griebel, President & CEO of the MetroHartford Alliance, the Connecticut Health Council offers “opportunities and resources for those within the state’s health sector to grow.”

Bush echoed Griebel’s enthusiasm for Connecticut, remarking that Connecticut has all of the right raw material.