Healthcare Consumer Tsunami

I’m forecasting that a new healthcare company will emerge over the next few years that will become as big and impactful as Google or eBay. Or maybe we will simply call it a health company. Or maybe we will just call it technology.

Regardless, this new company will be as defining of the current era of healthcare transformation as Google and eBay were to their sectors. The hallmark of this company will be that it will leverage the power of the consumer in healthcare in a completely unprecedented – and probably currently unimaginable – way.

A recent survey by PwC showed that consumers would opt for new, more consumer-friendly models of care, such as home diagnostics or home cancer care, over traditional ones. In their estimate, this transformation would put at risk over $60 billion in current revenue streams for today’s providers.

CVS Caremark has been moving aggressively to provide new levels of care in novel and consumer-friendly ways. I, for one, prefer getting my flu shot while I’m shopping for routine things that I need in the drug store. It doesn’t take much imagination to think through the list of other medical services that can be conveniently provided at CVS.

Consumers have moved quickly to adopt fitness and wellness products and services. This market now exceeds $250 billion. Savvy consumers get that their diet and exercise habits are as much a part of their medical regimens as they are a way of life – valued as hobbies, diversions, and priorities, despite busy schedules. In fact, consumers understood and embraced this notion long before the medical profession did.

Consumers don’t see themselves as patients. They want to go down an autonomous path of health and wellness and avoid “healthcare” at all costs. When they do have to avail themselves of the healthcare system, they’d like that experience to integrate into the larger picture of how they live their lives. They want to return to being — and remaining — healthy and well. Episodic, traditional medical care seems very disconnected from what consumers have evolved to prefer.

Who will win the hearts and minds of consumers? Who will embrace our seamless approach to health, wellness, autonomy, transparency, and support-when-needed from the healthcare system?

Payers have experience assessing health in populations and offering programs to promote health and prevent illness. So do employers. Provider systems have had their hands full managing the sick patients that flood their ERs and clinics, but they are also turning their attention to the community and the health of the populations that they serve. But no one has invented the magic formula for success and greatness yet.

It’s coming: a massively transformational business that rocks the foundations of healthcare. It will empower us to adopt new levels of health and enable us to integrate with providers of care in ways that make sense to us. I’m thinking hard about what that breakthrough approach is going to be like. My fund is currently being flooded with ideas from amazing entrepreneurs. Some of these ideas are shocking. Some seem silly. Some are mind-boggling. I have a feeling that the most outrageous, brazen, and counterintuitive of these may be the ones that fuel the tsunami. Exciting times.