Return to News

A conversation on healthcare’s market dynamics with Together Health Network’s President and CEO Dr. Scott Eathorne

A slew of corporate actions aimed at reconfiguring healthcare in the U.S. are underway now that Apple, Amazon and Berkshire Hathaway are entering the healthcare market to improve patient access and cost. Companies like Google and Uber have professed interest in getting involved as well. What do these companies have in common? All are successful consumer-facing solutions that have disrupted consumer access to services and changed consumer and industry behaviors.

Q: Amazon is now the fourth most valuable corporation in the world. It sees the 18% of U.S. GDP dedicated to healthcare as fertile ground for expansion. Do you think Amazon can be successful at helping to transform health and care?

Scott E: Yes, they have been very successful at transforming the consumer experience for buying a variety of goods and have amassed a wealth of consumer data that can be applied to the selection and purchase of health and care services. It will be interesting to see how quickly they develop these capabilities and which segments they focus on. This is an industry where the relationship between patient and provider hold more weight than in others. So, the competition between those vying for the relationship will be fierce with consumers having to decide who they trust more: their providers (doctors, hospitals), third parties helping to pay for the service (employers/payers) or navigators/brokers of the service (Amazon, others). However this plays out, disruptors like Amazon will influence a transformation of health and care.

Q: Kaiser Family Foundation calculates that employers contributed $12,865 per covered worker for choosing a family health plan in 2016—an expenditure that’s up 58% since 2006. Will these new competitive entries help to impact the spiraling costs in healthcare?

Scott E: The stated goal for many healthcare disruptors is to lower the per capita cost of care, while maintaining or improving quality and creating a better consumer experience, also called access to care. However, if the inefficiencies in the system aren’t addressed and care isn’t coordinated more effectively and consistently, the first component of the triple aim may not be realized.

Q: One thing that Amazon, JP Morgan Chase, Berkshire Hathaway, Apple, Uber and Google all have in common is a history of disrupting existing business models. What are the opportunities for disruption in healthcare?

Scott E: Healthcare is a complex industry with multiple stakeholders, life-and-death consequences for poor service and products, and unsustainable costs. All these entities (Amazon, Apple, Uber, etc.) have experience rethinking how their products or services provide value to the consumer and have been willing to take risks in developing solutions. Opportunities for disruption in healthcare include but are not limited to:

  • More effective engagement of consumers in managing their health and care
  • Transparency in cost and quality of services
  • Alternatives to traditional access to care
  • Bringing evidence and artificial intelligence to the point of care
  • Personalizing care in the context of the social determinants and rapidly advancing science

Q: In many ways, these high-profile new tech entries are very similar to Together Health Network’s framework of information-supported care services. What are the advantages that Together Health Network provides for patients and providers versus the influx of non-health service companies trying to break into the healthcare market?

Scott E: As a comprehensive provider network with broad geographic presence and a history of high performance of our members, Together Health Network continues to create value for those we serve. We do it through improvements in coordinating care across the continuum, improving access to care, better integrating information to support decision-making, and using enabling technologies to improve both patient and caregiver experience. Working with health plans and employer groups, we strive to develop relationships that deliver value to patients in a sustainable way and deliver on the triple aim. As trusted care providers in our communities, we have a unique relationship with consumers and their families that allow us to work together to design new models for delivering outstanding care.