Friday, March 5, 2010

1 of our 5 Strategic Directions: Aggregator Models

Health care in the U.S. is famously fragmented. We’ve heard many times in the health care debate that this problem needs to be fixed so we can ensure that the health care system works to serve patients and not providers. In fact, these breakdowns are well-illustrated by the following video, “If air travel worked like health care,” which we’re showing in one of our breakout sessions.

It’s obvious to all involved that we have silos in health care, and need to find a way to work together to provide a continuum of care that works for everyone. This is what makes aggregators such an important part of the future direction of CHRISTUS.

Being an aggregator does not mean owning all parts of the continuum of care, but partnering and pulling in services from other providers. Websites like Expedia and Travelocity are good examples—they don’t operate airlines, but instead offer a central place where flights from many different airlines can be compared and purchased. In the same way, serving as an aggregator would mean that we would develop partnership models that allow us to generate new revenue, lower cost, improve customer service, etc.

Customer service still remains important in an aggregator model, so Service Quality, one of our directions on our Journey to Excellence, receives continued focus. An aggregator is not a shortcut to the customer—you still have to prove yourself in customer satisfaction every day. If we don’t have the tools in place to measure and track customer satisfaction to ensure high quality service, then providing this model has done nothing more than find a costlier way to provide care.


Lynn Nolte said...

Dr Tom-
I was very excited to read your blog post today. I was encouraged to hear how focused you are on Customer Service and Service Quality as one of the directions on the journey to excellence. In our work with other Major Healthcare Services Organizations we have found there have been great pay offs for organizations that do not lose that focus. I would be very interested to learn more about your thoughts and approach to this effort and more specificaly explore areas in which our organizaionts might have synergies that would provide opportunities for us to help you in these efforts. I would love to set up a time for an exploratory call if you or members of your executive team had interst.

Best Regards,
Lynn Nolte

Brandon said...

Dr. Royer,

Conceptually, I understand. Connecting all the fragmented healthcare pieces in an effort to create synergies and efficiencies is certainly a viable solution for healthcare’s fragmented system.

However, I’m going to have to respectfully disagree with the travel industry reference.

Practically speaking, I don’t think such a model is conceivable for healthcare.

The travel industry relies on large legacy backbone networks that enable their connectivity. Companies such as Apollo (founded by United Airlines) Amedeus, Worldspan and Sabre (created by American Airlines) operate large computerized reservation system which provide reservation services for airlines, hotel chains, rental car companies, trains, ferries, and cruises. Travelocity and Expedia for example, tap into these networks to provide travel services to consumers.

Although these computer reservations networks are very complex, in the US, they only interconnect 13 major airlines.

The healthcare field on the other hand, is far more fragmented. It is estimated that there are about 6,000 hospitals in the US. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, there are about 788,000 active doctors in the US. Imagine the amount of infrastructure required to operate an aggregator type network when you consider these numbers.

By the way, I sympathize with the video ( I also thought it was pretty funny). But I think those of us in health care need to be realistic and manage people expectations in terms of what the industry can actually deliver.

Brandon - aka PediatricInc

Dr. Tom said...

Thanks for your comment! I really enjoy open dialogue, and appreciate your thoughts.

In fact, I enjoyed them so much that I've decided to respond in a full blog post instead. Stay tuned--I'll get that posted by tomorrow!

Dr. Tom