Art vs Industrialized Medical Complex

This weekend there was a Forbes article titled: “The Future of Hospitals Operations Resembles Air Traffic Control.” (thank you @EMRAnswers for sharing)

There is a misalignment between what the business leaders in the C-Suite of healthcare systems and hospitals are trying to build versus what the people, who at times are patients, are seeking.

The reality is that we, the people, living our daily lives outside of the industrialized medical complex, live in the “connection economy.”

The connection economy as explained by Seth Godin means that the internet is a connection machine. Today, anywhere in the world, a person with access to a phone or laptop and the internet can connect with anyone else in the world.

The physical barriers of land, sea, time, or language no longer exist. The disparity between the have and have-not’s in the world have been flattened by the access to information.

The harsh reality is that the connection economy enables endless choice, endless shelf space. It places a premium on attention and trust, both of which are not endless.

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Healthcare is an industry built on monetizing competency.

Build a factory, fill it with competent workers that can follow directions and orders, and produce average widgets. In healthcare terms:

Build hospitals, clinics, and networks. Fill them with highly trained doctors, nurses, and other clinicians, along with expensive medical technology, and produce a lot of average care.

Healthcare loves to scale mediocrity.

Healthcare has done its best to keep all of that information, data, and expertise behind the 4 walls. Whether an EMR, EHR, PACS, CPT Codes, ICD-10, Claims Forms, or peer reviewed journal articles, healthcare has worked to ensure barriers are in place to control information.

Control the information and competency and monetize.

What healthcare doesn’t understand is that the competency they monetize is flattening. It is becoming readily accessible. A prime example of the flattening of competency is the recent leakage of more than 18,000 academic papers from the journal of Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. (article here) The flattening of information is only accelerating.

Today people have an endless choice in competent care providers and networks.

There is endless shelf space because people are no longer confined by time and distance to seek competent medical advice. A smart phone or laptop plus the internet allows people to connect to competent medical personnel instantaneously all over the globe.

No longer is competency something that the masses, the people, find valuable.

What people value is art.

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Humans want to connect with other people.

We want to know that we are not alone in the world. Even though we may want our choices to be delivered at the N of 1, we desire our stories to be heard, felt, and shared with other individuals.

We have a desire for things that are meaningful, important, and new. We seek the edges. We want to know that if we give you our time and attention that you will care enough to listen first, repeat second, and explain our options third.

Spend the TIME to earn our TRUST. Once we TRUST one another we can have a TRANSPARENT dialogue and you can help manage my TRANSITIONS throughout my life’s journey.

While healthcare leaders want to improve their revenues, operating plans, and margins for their industrial medical complexes by utilizing manufacturing methodologies, it only becomes a race to the bottom.

The problem with the race to the bottom is that you may win.

Healthcare leadership needs to focus on one simple imperative:

Address the needs of the people you serve to enable their wants

The healthcare leader(s) that deliver the above wins in the connection economy.

A hospital cockpit may bring more efficiency to scale more mediocrity; it doesn’t produce more art for the people you serve.

People want art. People will buy art.

When healthcare produces art in the form of health and care, people will give you their time and attention.

Connection is the win for us all.

As always you can feel free to email me at or follow me on Twitter @cancergeek



7 responses to “Art vs Industrialized Medical Complex

  1. You said it so well: healthcare sees variability as a problem and and standardization as a goal. We are going to be wildly successful at achieving mediocrity – if we are lucky.

    Most of us do not particularly want an average airline pilot, an average neurosurgeon or an average relationship with a spouse.

    • Thanks! As we move to more and more understanding of our individual genetic make up the more we will need to understand personalized care….it’s never meant to be a one size fits all.

  2. “Healthcare loves to scale mediocrity”

    I think of “EMR, EHR, PACS, CPT Codes, ICD-10, and Claims Forms” as attempts to standardize the mechanisms and information coding schemes that are absolutely necessary to ‘industrialize’ and ‘scale’ healthcare. Whether these are the ‘best’ mechanisms or not, they are needed in order to provide the most value to the most people; healthcare MUST be ‘commoditized’ so as to remove variance and to promote consistency of quality and cost.

    So, in my opinion, there’s no value in preserving the delivery of healthcare services as a form of art. Art is open to interpretation. The value of ‘art’ is in the eye of the beholder. Your art may be my trash. I don’t want to have to pay an artist (read doctor) to let him practice his ‘art’ on me. Art that may in fact, suck and art that does not scale.

    So if you want to buy art, go ahead. Just don’t complain if you pay a whole lot of money for something that is ultimately worthless and that no one else wants. Don’t force your ideals of what constitutes art on me.

    • We see the world from different ends of the spectrum. I’m okay with that.

      Perhaps it’s my time spent looking families in the eyes as they are being told, “you have cancer.”

      I do know that many of those people felt the benefit and survived from the art of healthcare and not the mediocrity of scale.

      Again, care is delivered at the N of 1.


  3. “…healthcare MUST be ‘commoditized’ so as to remove variance and to promote consistency of quality and cost…”

    Think this through. Until people are identical and illnesses are identical, variance is essential to safe, high-quality, patient-centered care. What needs to be eliminated is NOT variance, but variance that is not in service to the patient.

    • AGREED!! Your comment is spot on in my opinion! It’s the difference between checking the box for care and actually caring for people.

      Thanks for adding!!


  4. @pheski I understand the idea that certain indications and certain cases require ‘special treatment.’ I am not saying that variance will ever go away nor require deviance from “the happy path.” My point is that the “Medical Complex” needs to develop – to the greatest extent possible – standardized treatment approaches that scale.

    @cancergeek I know all about cancer – both personally, and in my immediate family and in my parents and grandparents and uncles and aunts. To me, inserting emotion into the mix may be a ‘feel good’ thing for some people but ultimately it does little to improve the process for the masses.

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