Healthcare Or The Economy? It’s Healthcare And The Economy!

Bill Schmarzo

We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to address one of modern society’s biggest challenges – the choice between healthcare or the economy. For the past several decades, we have treated this as an “either/or” choice between one or the other; that to improve the economy, we must reduce healthcare spending, or to improve healthcare, we must sacrifice the economy. To that sort of thinking, I say BULL!

The coronavirus COVID-19 situation is showing us a very important lesson – that healthcare and the economy are tightly linked; that it can’t be an “either/or” choice. As a society – as a world – we must start thinking more holistically about the healthcare-or-economy challenge and reframe our approach from a scarcity (“either/or”) mentality to an abundance (”and”) mentality.

But how do we do that? Where can we look to draw historical lessons that can guide us in what may be the ultimate societal transformation? The good news is that the automobile industry went through a similar challenge. Let’s see what we can learn from the trials and tribulations of its transformational journey.

Automobile industry challenge: mileage efficiency or power

The Arab Oil Embargo of 1973 and 1974 drove the U.S. government to mandate that, by 1985, the automobile industry achieve an average 27.5 MPG across the fleet of cars that they sold. The economic realities meant that automobile manufacturers started to manufacture cars that traded off horsepower for fuel-efficiency. The result was a distinct Economic Value Curve reflecting the nature of the power versus fuel-efficiency tradeoff.

Lesson learned: A global shock to the existing economic system forced companies and consumers to make an “either/or” tradeoff decision between power and fuel efficiency. Both companies and consumers had to confront a tradeoff that pleased no one, given the existing economic value curve.

Automobile industry transformation: period of turmoil

Then, in the mid-1980s, with government and societal pressure for even more improved fuel efficiency, the industry went through a period of exploration, testing, turmoil, failure (remember the Wankel engine?), and learning. This culminated in new energy legislation signed by George Bush in 1985 that mandated automotive mileage of 35 mpg by 2020.

Automobile manufacturers embraced the challenge and ended up increasing both fuel mileage and horsepower. However, this transformation wasn’t due to one big cure-all (a vaccine). Instead, it was driven by a multitude of smaller product designs, development, and manufacturing innovations.

These innovations included:

  • Use of lighter-weight alloys to reduce weight
  • Use of turbo-charging and super-charging
  • Use of small displacement, high-compression engines
  • Advancements in diesel engines
  • More valves per cylinder
  • Cylinder deactivation
  • Improved aerodynamics

Lesson learned: It wasn’t one big cure-all development that drove the automobile industry transformation. It was through a series of smaller product, design, and manufacturing improvements that compounded to drive the transformation.

Remember, a 1% improvement compounded 365 times yields a 37.78x (times) improvement!

Automobile industry transformation: the new economic value curve

By 2007, the automobile industry had achieved something that no one could have even imagined, the ability to provide both power and fuel efficiency.  The automobile industry looked at what many automobile executives thought to be a “death sentence” mandate and emerged a stronger, more viable, and more relevant industry. And in the process, it transformed the very nature of the automobile industry’s economic value curve.

Lesson learned: Don’t count out the power of human innovative thinking driven by collaboration and a mentality that all ideas are worthy of consideration.

Summary

Now is not the time to run scared.

Now is not the time to just hunker down and wait this out.

Now is the time to act and to take advantage of the COVID-19 crisis to challenge the scarcity mentality that forces us into a healthcare-versus-economy tradeoff. Now is time to take the lessons learned from the automobile industry and start exploring, testing, failing, and learning about how we can deliver world-class healthcare AND drive robust economic growth.

And it won’t be a one-cure-all vaccine that fixes this problem, because the next COVID-19-type problem is just around the healthcare corner. It will be through a multitude of small, 1% improvements that will drive us to that 37x improvement in both healthcare and economic growth. It will be little improvements in remote testing, universal diagnostics, universal data-sharing and transparency, personal hygiene, healthy lifestyle choices, healthcare education, and the sharing of analytic insights.

Let’s do this today:

  • Embrace, not avoid, diversity of ideas and perspectives
  • Understand that all ideas are worthy of consideration, maybe even from the most unlikely sources
  • Nurture the power of collaborative thinking and the power of standing on each other’s shoulders
  • Don’t wait for the big-bang solution (vaccine), but instead make a series of marginal improvements that gradually evolve the supporting infrastructure and ecosystem
  • And finally, exploit the magic of compounding: a 1% improvement compounded 365 times yields a 38x (times) improvement

I’m up to the challenge.  How about you?

Learn more about Weathering A Pandemic And Preparing For The Next Outbreak: Getting UK Hospitals Ready.

This article originally appeared on LinkedIn and is republished by permission.


Bill Schmarzo

About Bill Schmarzo

Bill Schmarzo is CTO, IoT and Analytics at Hitachi Vantara. Bill drives Hitachi Vantara’s “co-creation” efforts with select customers to leverage IoT and analytics to power digital business transformations. Bill is an avid blogger and frequent speaker on the application of big data and advanced analytics to drive an organization’s key business initiatives. Bill authored a series of articles on analytic applications, and is on the faculty of TDWI teaching a course on "Thinking Like A Data Scientist." Bill is the author of “Big Data: Understanding How Data Powers Big Business” and "Big Data MBA: Driving Business Strategies with Data Science." Bill is also an Executive Fellow at the University of San Francisco School of Management, and Honorary Professor at NUI Galway at NUI Galway J.E. Cairnes School of Business & Economics.