Blogging for the Harvard Business Review, Simon Stevens (chairman of the UnitedHealth Center for Health Reform & Modernization) seeks to explain why the field of health care is so agonizingly slow to adopt innovation, whether it be 15 years and counting for e-mail communication or several generations for scurvy-preventing limes. Without spoiling Stevens well-chosen analogies and explanations, I can say he makes a case that it comes down to three factors:
- The labor intensive nature of health care
- Failure to spread organizational innovation
- Barriers to new entrants in care delivery
To Stevens’ way of thinking, there is one group positioned to overcome those barriers and push the system forward: Health plans. UnitedHealth and its competitors have the data, platforms and connections to become major change agents in the field of health care delivery, as well as the incentive to put it all to work improving outcomes and decreasing costs.