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Intel’s Andy Grove: Prevention is not the answer

by Tony Chen

Read this interesting WIRED interview with Intel Chief Andy Grove.

I’m a blogger, so everything I read needs to be transformed into a post. Andy is a technologist, so maybe every problem he sees needs a tech solution. He thinks we have to chunk down healthcare in order to solve it. Specifically, his 3 chunks (2 of which are tech-based):
(1) Get elderly to stay home with remote monitoring and smart gadgets
(2) Get uninsured to stay out of ERs by building a lot more retail clinics
(3) Unify medical records via the web.

When specifically asked about prevention as a solution, he does make an interesting point. Theoretically, it’s the right idea, but in reality, it really comes down the changing human behavior - possibly the most difficult problem of them all. This reminds me of the famous Fast Company article “Change or Die” that uses bypass surgery patients as a prime example. Even with the risk of needing another complex, life-threatening, painful, and costly surgery, 90% of folks don’t change their lifestyle to avoid it.

Of course, I disagree with Andy a bit. If you read further into the same Change or Die article (and I’ve posted on this previously on hospital impact), motivation for change can be sustained if it is framed correctly. The question is whether anyone can figure out how to monetize that.

3 Comments »

  Emily DeVoto wrote @ May 3rd, 2007 at 12:49 am

Prevention is also about changing provider behavior and the structure of reimbursement (e.g., diabetes care). That in itself can have a big impact.

  Carolyn O’Keefe wrote @ May 3rd, 2007 at 4:36 pm

We respectfully disagree! Prevention is a huge part of the answer. From our company’s first-hand experience, PinnacleCare is getting an influx of people motivated to prevent medical issues, especially when they learn of documented proof that eliminating certain foods is important for cardiac health or changing a small habit can help in the prevention of certain cancers. Yes, people who are motivated in general are also the first to change behaviors. And, PInnacleCare does see that. But, we also see less assertive people making incremental changes, getting support from us, and making more changes. They feel better and that verifies the science. They are convinced that their prevention moves will improve their quality of life, now and later. And so are we!

The bypass operation example is discouraging and that’s why the best hospitals insist that candidates get counseling ahead of time to understand full commitment beyond surgery. That’s when we see a continuance of improvement. The best specialists will not proceed without a full circle approach to maintaining weight loss. When counseling and support are not in place, old habits return.

  Tony Chen wrote @ May 4th, 2007 at 2:51 pm

Call me an optimist, but I think with the right approach/incentives/framework, most people can get very motivated to change. Somehow, smart companies will learn how to tailor their messaging & product design accordingly that maximizes impact.

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