Disruption needs a higher purpose

Bruce BroussardIn a series of LinkedIn Influencer blog posts, Humana President and CEO Bruce Broussard shares insights and ideas about the future of health care and discusses the importance of working together to improve the health-care system as well as our own health and well-being. His latest — Disruption needs a higher purpose — is reprinted below. To see all of his blog posts, click here.

We all face disruption in some form or another, whether it’s in our careers or our personal lives. It generally happens unexpectedly, and we do our best to adapt.

On the personal side, take the threat of disease. Am I at risk for a serious illness like Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s? If so, can I do anything to improve my odds? These are questions we’ve all asked ourselves, mainly in vain, because the most we can do is to try to live a healthy life and minimize our risk.

But technology is disrupting the health care industry, and we can now improve our odds by learning about our genetic predispositions to disease.

The era of personalized medicine — when medical decisions are tailored to each person based on his or her expected response — will help millions of Americans use technology to formulate a better understanding of their health. With genetic testing, we can potentially extend our lives by understanding the genetic risks that threaten our longevity.


Take 23andMe, a company that sells home test kits that let people learn about their genetic risks.

Earlier this year, 23andMe was given FDA approval to sell these tests. You may have seen their ads on TV or social media, or even purchased the service.

So here’s how 23andMe works: You order a kit, spit into a tube, and mail the kit back to the company. The company extracts DNA from the saliva and looks for genetic markers. A few weeks later, you get an email saying the test is complete and you can log on to a website to see the results.

Before 23andMe, a doctor would have to order the test and interpret the results. Now, thanks to the FDA ruling, it’s basically an online retail experience.

Something bigger

The FDA approval of 23andMe shows the disruptive power of technology in health care. It’s an example of how we’re embracing non-traditional health care organizations and direct-to-consumer, personalized medicine.

Some might argue that home genetic tests tread on doctors’ turf and complicate their jobs. But the opposite is true — patients who have a detailed understanding of their genetic risks let doctors focus on the sickest patients.

Given how little time physicians, clinicians, nurses and other care professionals have in their day-to-day schedules, empowered patients are good for the system. And, as other highly regulated industries have learned, dramatic change can make life better for all of us.

Look at banking and telecommunications, two highly regulated industries that were disrupted and then evolved into customer experiences we take for granted every day. Regulatory evolution in banking helped build the foundation for the ATM, which enabled banks to meet the personalized needs of their consumers.

And the breakup of AT&T led to competition in the communications industry. That decentralized, highly competitive industry paved the way for the wireless industry and the devices that are now integral to our lives.

Yet both banking and telecommunications had one thing in common: each not only embraced the development of new technologies, but also capitalized on changes in regulatory developments that helped accelerate their disruption for the better.

It’s health care’s time

23andMe is a crack in the armor of the traditional way of doing business in health care. Both telecommunications and banking embraced similar advances in technology, and they were open to the evolution of their respective regulatory environments.

If you think about it, health care is ripe for more disruption like 23andMe: personalized technology that helps people improve their health because government and industry work together to scale an idea.

Yet disruption for the sake of disruption won’t improve health care. We have to stay focused on the ultimate goal: Helping Americans improve their health through a better customer experience, while maintaining quality and driving down costs. There will be more disruptions, but let’s make sure, like 23andMe, the value is aligned with a healthier country.

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