Thoughts from the Road

Using Infrastructure to Pave the Way for Innovation

I just spent a few days in Vegas. To my wife’s relief, I didn’t get into trouble—no tigers in the suite or Mike Tyson punching out me or anyone else. Instead, I spent my days meeting and listening to healthcare innovators in the MGM Grand Convention Center. The presentations were great, but I found that while listening to discussions about the future, I started thinking about high-efficiency boilers, AC compressors, new roofs, and asphalt.

To explain, I was at HLTH—a two-year-old healthcare innovation conference. It’s a great event with attendees from across the healthcare spectrum, each discussing the latest trends and strategies. The conference also offers a packed exhibit hall with rows of vendors promising to make a difference. I saw some leading edge, perhaps occasionally bleeding (no pun intended) edge, clinical solutions that generated great buzz.

That’s when I started thinking about homes and home improvement. It’s fun and “sexy” (maybe I need to get out more) to think about building a new kitchen or bathroom, or a man cave/she shed. Perhaps a new pool. But here’s the question: Where do you invest to get the best bang for your buck? Is it a high-efficiency boiler? A more efficient AC system? Or a sump pump, gutters, or a new roof? Without these home basics, we all know it’s difficult to maintain your home and control operating costs. But who gets excited about these investments?

So back to healthcare. Perhaps this is a reasonable analogy to our industry. Where should our focus be? There are so many innovative ideas and strategies that have potentially huge game-changing implications—SDoH, value-based care, personalized medicine, AI chatbots, just to name a few. But are we ignoring the infrastructure—those nuts and bolts that are required to keep the trains running smoothly? Are we neglecting the basics that will lower administrative costs and enable all that innovation?

All the great ideas discussed at HLTH are important to the overall well-being of healthcare. And they are paving the way for the future. But if we ignore the need to invest in infrastructure, how is all the innovation going to work?

So how about we do this—let’s figure out how to spend one dollar on the leading edge and an equal dollar on infrastructure improvements. Let’s make the guts of what we do better, faster, and more efficient by embracing that administrative ROI that sets the foundation for innovation.