Last month one of us (Jonathan) gave a talk at Stanford to a hall full of healthcare entrepreneurs. The comments began with a favorite quip used, to desired effect, many times over the years: “I really think…this internet thing is going to be big.” There, in the shadow of Google’s global headquarters, the audience laughed on cue, quickly grokking the embarrassing point: it’s 2016 and this $3 trillion industry that our lives depend upon still relies on faxes, clipboards, and isolated instances of legacy software locked away in hospital basements.
Despite healthcare’s remarkable track record holding out against the tides of change, there are finally holes in the dam. The healthcare internet is emerging node-by-node, provider-by-provider, and patient-by-patient. So, there’s really no longer a question of whether healthcare will join the rest of the economy and concede to the inevitable. The real question is what it will look and feel like for patients and providers once care is connected and the “network effect” begin to take hold.
It turns out we have a pretty good sense of what’s to come because we know what AirBnB has done to hotels (and homes), Waze to GPS systems and fold-up maps, and Uber to taxis. To us, these disrupters illustrate well the three dimensions of the network effect that is poised to transform healthcare: administrative automation, networked knowledge, and resource orchestration.