Gist Healthcare president at ATA: Why 2018 is the year of the disruptor in healthcare

At the American Telemedicine Association conference, Gist Healthcare cofounder and president Dr. Lisa Bielamowicz discussed how industry disruptors like Walmart are reframing how the healthcare industry looks at consumer value.

At this year’s American Telemedicine Association conference in Chicago, Gist Healthcare cofounder and president Dr. Lisa Bielamowicz touched on one of the buzzwords in the healthcare industry: disruption.

Her Washington, D.C.-based company, which launched at the beginning of this year, is a consulting firm that does exactly what it sounds like — it gives organizations the “gist” of what’s happening in the healthcare industry.

As Bielamowicz highlighted, the healthcare field adjusts based on everything from policy changes to the aging population.

“As the population ages, the kind of care patients need shifts as well,” she said during an April 30 keynote session, adding that the baby boomer population is moving from a “repair and replace” era of their lives to a “maintain and decline” era.

Then there’s the disruption piece of the equation.

“If we were to define 2018 so far, it would be the year of the disruptor,” Bielamowicz said.

From the Optum-DaVita deal to the Humana-Kindred deal, organizations are looking at M&A action as a way to improve their business. CVS’ plans to acquire Aetna, for example, would make an impact in the pharmacy, health insurance and retail clinic sectors.

Then there’s the “big kahuna,” as Bielamowicz put it: Walmart and Humana. The average Walmart consumer, she said, is a 51-year-old female who makes $51,000 a year. The retail giant fears this customer is spending too much money on healthcare and not enough money at Walmart. The acquisition of Humana would potentially mean that healthcare spend isn’t gobbling up Walmart spend.

The deal would also appeal to patients because of the retailer’s expertise in customers. Walmart “understand[s] what value means to consumers,” Bielamowicz said.

“Our industry is still in about 1860 when it comes to understanding what value means to consumers,” she added.

William Stanley Jevons, a 19th century British economist and logician, brought about the concept of marginal utility, which defines how we think of the value of products. The idea applies across various industries today. For instance, we don’t frame the value of an iPhone based on the price of its parts and how much it cost to make. Instead, its value is determined by what the phone means to the consumer. We’re willing to pay nearly $1,000 for a new iPhone when it likely only costs a fraction of that amount to manufacture.

The same perspective around consumer value can be applied to healthcare. Value in the medical industry is defined by the entire package of benefits a patient receives, which includes convenience and customer service. Disruptors like Walmart are primed to drive this change.

Photo: phototechno, Getty Images