Healthcare Reimagined | Part 1

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“Nanotechnology experts are developing a bionic immune system composed of millions of nano-robots, who would inhabit our bodies, open blocked blood vessels, fight viruses and bacteria, eliminate cancerous cells and even reverse aging processes. A few serious scholars suggest that by 2050, some humans will become a-mortal (not immortal, because they could still die of some accident, but a-mortal, meaning that in the absence of fatal trauma their lives could be extended indefinitely).”

-Excerpt from Sapiens by Noah Yuval Harari

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Back when I decided to change my career path (the first time) and shift academically from exercise science to finance my initial intent was to go into healthcare management. I’ve always had an inkling to be close to the field, business or general discipline of health in some way. Lately I’ve been really pondering the concept of human enhancement; particularly the notion being popularized by companies like HVMN (pronounced “human”) who are advocating for the humans as a platform movement.

When you think about the discipline of engineering – whether it’s specializing in software, electrical or industrial – it’s all about understanding foundational truths and then researching and analyzing the most logical inputs that will (to some degree of probability) achieve a desired output (within a certain margin of error). The concepts that get designed are constantly refined and reengineered for optimal performance. The easiest way to draw a parallel is to think about software engineers and computer scientists who are constantly reassessing and rewriting lines of code to operate faster, more efficiently, require less processing power, etc. to ultimately achieve higher performance.

The human body is not only the most fascinating and nearly perfectly engineered set of systems out there but it’s also the most complex. Although science, medicine and technology have come a long way the belief is that there is still so much more ground to break! Today there is a cohort of people who you’ve heard referred to as “bio-hackers” (I personally dislike the term because it gives off a connotation that one can beat not only “the system” but your own damn system) that are really pushing boundaries when it comes to viewing humans as the next platform…

I’m a huge proponent of this movement because it’s paving the way for innovation in health & performance as a whole. Quite possibly even more important, it’s getting more people to consider thinking with a “First Principles Approach” which basically means starting any logic based approach with the basic facts and truths and reasoning upward from there. Why is First Principles important? Well, you can check in with the homie Elon Musk here: How Elon Musk Thinks.

So the other day I was pondering whether or not, if I had the money, I would install a continuous blood glucose monitor. I had doubled back to an old video or article about folks doing this who were engaged in intermittent fasting and the ketogenic diet for optimal performance and it triggered a real trip down memory lane for me. Before I left EY, I was making a big push to move from advising financial institutions to getting into healthcare consulting. I had a number of conversations with experts in the space and read a ton of industry-specific research that really got the wheels turning. What I’m about to share is a collection of ideas or thoughts that are 100% my own which I’ve been mulling over for some time and recently unearthed a few weeks ago when reading Sapiens. It’s highly likely that individual components of what I’m going to be share are already major topics of discussion elsewhere and areas that are far outside of my expertise. Nonetheless, in the series of posts to come I plan to lay out my own thought process and how it’s developed, and ultimately tie it back to health & performance while sparking some conversation with those who are smarter than me: you guys.

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Probably the most profound realization I had when consulting for financial institutions was as I began to truly understand the competitive landscape our clientele did business in…and I say this not because it was life-changing but because it provided grounds to form opinions on other industries and other examples of competitive dynamics. If you’ve read any Michael Porter you may very well think what I’m about to say is obvious – but it’s worth noting for the parallel I want to draw to the current state of how healthcare is delivered. At first glance the competitors in any given industry have a few distinct advantages or disadvantages unlesss it’s purely a blue ocean (very few competitors) or red ocean (a lot of sharks in the water). Over time spent in financial services I really began to see that the massive incumbents (think Morgan Stanley, J.P. Morgan, Bank of America, etc.) were like massive freightliners in choppy, maybe even iceberg-laden waters. Very difficult to change course…

So who does everyone pay attention to in an industry with a competitive dynamic as boring as a bunch of big freightliners lurching around? For many years the only exciting aspect to finance was mergers and acquisitions and sales & trading. Enter the cigarette boats of financial services: fin-tech disruptors and startups like robo-advisors (Betterment, WealthFront), peer to peer services (lending, fund-raising, transfers) and groundbreaking technology like machine learning and distributed ledger with a laundry list of use cases. Startup companies are inherently more nimble, more agile and more innovative so they have a unique ability to move quickly and capitalize on technological advancements. Eventually, even the most dominant incumbent players with massive “moats” surrounding their competitive advantages start to take notice and begin of the slow process of course-correction and promoting “agents of change”.

What I realized very quickly was that technology (“gift and the curse”) is the great equalizer when thinking about consumer:provider dynamics in business or economics. Innovation helps companies do things more efficiently and effectively internally and produce amazing products and services. But it also drives the development of increasingly sophisticated customers. The more sophisticated a customer, the less cookie-cutter the product & service offering can be, and ultimately, the more the power (elasticity of demand) goes back to the customer. So the customers of my clients demanded the same world-class, industry leading experiences that they were getting with products & services far removed from financial services: the experiences defined by the Apples, Googles and Amazons of the world.

Considering how long and how much (2008 financial crisis) it took for financial services to consider changing, what industry will be next? When I look at the construct of healthcare from a “user:servicer” or “patient”provider” perspective, I can’t help but wonder when, and at what pace, will healthcare start to respond to the world class experiences, accessibility and self-service that you and I expect (or will very soon) as sophisticated consumers? I think I can answer the first part and remind everyone that it already has started, but I do believe it’s very early on…

Now I’ll reiterate this again: I’m not even remotely close to an expert in the healthcare industry. Quite frankly there is a lot of politics and legislative considerations that I’m hardly interested in but that I do believe create a bit more complexity as far as how quickly and how much the experiences will change. I do however, strongly believe that it’s an area we must pay attention to at Perform True because some of the underlying change we’re trying to preach here is going to drive change in healthcare…maybe not by us, but by some of the many other disruptors that are out there…

For now, I’m going to leave you to enjoy a sensational picasso of a whiteboard brain dump from yours truly. As part of the coming posts in the Health Reimagined series, I’m going to provide a detailed explanation of the visual below, some thoughts on how embedded chips (nanotechnology) and wearables can facilitate the depicted experience, whether or not this is even possible and if it is (which I do believe it is), how far off are we? And of course, how does this impact how we think about health & performance now and in the future.

So stay tuned, bromigos, over and out…