Column | Finance and Business Strategy

Haven and the dynamics of transformational change

Column | Finance and Business Strategy

Haven and the dynamics of transformational change


In some ways, it's not surprising that Haven, the high-profile company launched three years ago by Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JP Morgan Chase, has called it quits. 

Haven is the latest in a long line of frustrated power brokers that have failed to “fix” healthcare, which is, without a doubt, the most complex industry in the United States. Fragmentation, the bifurcation between public and private insurance and amorphous transactions that involve multiple parties make healthcare a uniquely challenging industry. 

According to an analysis by The Wall Street Journal from Jan. 7, Haven struggled, in particular, with the lack of cost and price transparency and the challenges of collaboration among groups with different needs. Sound familiar? It should. It’s a variation on evergreen issues that have been a source of frustration to all legacy healthcare stakeholders.

Nevertheless, it’s imperative that our nation figure out how to reduce the total cost of care and rein in the growth of healthcare spending. The country’s economic viability depends on it. Finance leaders should not be breathing a sigh of relief because a potentially gargantuan disrupter has left the stage. Quite the opposite — Haven’s entrance and exit signal a tremendous unmet need and acute market demand for transformational change. Numerous others are working tirelessly to disrupt what everyone agrees is a misaligned and maladapted healthcare delivery system.  

Finance leaders should take a page from the playbook of physician executive Zeev Neuwirth, MD, author of Reframing Healthcare: A Roadmap for Creating Disruptive Change. Neuwirth’s vision is a reoriented, consumer-centric and humanistic healthcare system that substantially improves how consumers purchase, utilize, experience and benefit from it. His profound insights and compelling market discernment clearly illustrate that the digital technology and retail disrupters entering healthcare are not just consumer-oriented but actually consumer obsessed. If legacy healthcare stakeholders don’t realize that, Neuwirth says, they’ll become increasingly less relevant. His examples underscore that it’s already happening. (By the way, I don’t think healthcare has heard the last from Amazon, in particular.)

Neuwirth’s ideas about reframing healthcare should be adopted and operationalized — using relevant, accurate and timely data to improve quality and safety, advance the consumer relevance of traditional healthcare delivery and put spending growth on a sustainable trajectory. Legacy stakeholders can’t wait for others to do it for them. Nor should they attempt to run out the clock on fee-for-service payment and legacy business models.  Business school case studies are replete with the disastrous outcomes of that conservative strategy. 

Consider this: Haven brought the resources of three extremely powerful and iconic businesses to bear on transforming healthcare value. Haven’s downfall may have been that it did not grasp the opportunity and need to frame a new approach and create next-generation business models. Recognize this turn of events as a signal, and see it as an opportunity — an opportunity to seize the moment and create a new healthcare, while we still have the runway to make it happen. 

About the Author

Joseph J. Fifer, FHFMA, CPA,

is president and CEO, HFMA, Westchester, Ill.

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