What if… we redesign the healthcare system and put people at the center?

All around the world, the healthcare sector is facing major challenges. Shortages of personnel, rising waiting times, unequal access to high-quality care and skyrocketing costs. As a leader or professional in the healthcare sector, you see these problems growing, as well as the effect they have on individuals and society at large. 

Redesigning the healthcare system starts with asking yourself some imaginative questions, as well as looking at inspiring companies that are already creating value in new ways. Step out of your day-to-day activities and zoom out to look at the big picture. Take a deep breath. There you go. Alright, let’s get to it.

Our current system is designed for acute care.

Covid-19 put an unusual strain on an already heavily stressed healthcare system in many countries. It also uncovered the importance of mental health problems and stress, and how those affect overall health and well-being. 

It revealed something else as well. The current healthcare system was not designed to keep us healthy. Our healthcare system was originally designed to provide and pay for treatments when we get sick. 

Existing business models, reimbursement schemes, and the entanglement between the medical industry, governments, insurers and pharmaceutical companies make it difficult to redesign this system. Changing towards a system that focuses on keeping people healthy and feeling good is going to be a radical shift.

What if… we place humans at the center of a health & well-being system?

What if… healthcare is no longer viewed from a time & efficiency perspective, but instead as a basic life service accessible to everyone?

How do we… enable people to be in charge of their own health?

Some of the greatest revolutions in the history of humanity weren’t designed and planned by brilliant leaders and then executed top-down. Instead, many revolutions were inspired bottom-up: starting with changing ideas and habits that were already present or even widespread in a population. One trend we see more and more people - sick or healthy - picking up nowadays is tracking, analyzing and acting on their own health markers.

How could we redesign health & well-being products, services and even the entire system to enable people to be more in charge of their own health processes? Why not look at some companies that are already doing that?

Self-health inspiration

  • ASR, a large Dutch insurance company, partnered in their ASR Vitality program with Fitbit and Apple Watch. The program motivates clients to track their own health but also to actually be more physically active, and gives users small perks when they have reached certain activity thresholds.

  • How could we make it easier for people with chronic disease to track their health? Abbott’s Freestyle Libre 3 helps diabetics check and be alerted about their glucose levels discreetly and whenever they need, without having to fingerstick.

  • How could we make people with cardiovascular conditions be less dependent on the availability of medical personnel for their checkups? Philips HealthDot continuously captures the patient's heart rate, respiratory rate, posture and activity. It securely transmits these to the clinical information system every 5 minutes to ensure relevant action is taken when needed.

How do we… help people maintain and improve their mental health?

The last few years have seen an impressive rise in mental health problems. Partly due to increasing use of digital technology and decreasing social connection - and worsened by the Covid-19 crisis, lockdowns and social distancing. Collectively, we have been under a lot of stress. Luckily, the last few years have also seen a rise in mental health awareness. As well as a rise in the general openness to discussing mental health issues, and a growing understanding of the mind-body connection and its implications for health and well-being.

How could we help people manage their own mental health, and to destress when needed?

Mental health inspiration
  • When it comes to healthy habits, it is often best to start young. Headspace partnered with Mattel to improve awareness and mental health habits for children. "Breathe with Barbie" leads a guided meditation with the click of the necklace around her neck.

  • Social connection is a core prerequisite of human health, happiness, and longevity. With more and more social interactions taking place digitally, how do we keep these interactions as meaningful as possible? And in the case of children and their faraway family members, how do we keep those moments engaging, educational and safe? Peekabond is an app that helps you do precisely that.

  • What about the mental health and need for social connection amongst elders? Social platform Klup fights loneliness by connecting seniors in a simple way, within an active community, resulting in a more social and active lifestyle.

How do we… offer health and well-being services as a continuum?

Finally, how can we change the approach to health and well-being from being disease-focused, toward being focused on a continuum starting with actual health and well-being?

Well, of course that would mean taking collaboration to the extreme, connecting prevention, cure, and care. Luckily, we wouldn’t have to (re)invent the wheel on that one, either.

How about collaborations with governments?

Health and well-being are basic human needs, so why not look to collaborations with governments? Singapore uses City Design to help people live healthier lives. They provide citizens a greener environment that stimulates more exercise. They also design to foster more moments of connection between different groups, such as children and elderly people.

Why not look to Cuba for inspiration?

The country has a surprisingly good healthcare system with positive and very equitable health outcomes. The Cuban healthcare system is based on a vision of health as a basic human right and is well integrated - from the family physician to hospitals - and focused on prevention.

How about the health and well-being of employees?

Startups like Cuentame, OOPKOP and Quan use digital technology to measure, analyze, and improve mental health for teams. If you’re looking to learn more about how to promote health from prevention through to care, check out our podcast on Quan’s growth and business model.

Let’s shift towards a proactive health and well-being system.

It starts with asking the right questions, and being curious about how things could be fundamentally different. It is also about collaboration and integration, supported by technology & data to increase relevance and accessibility for users. 

Finally, it can and will often even become fun to think about how to improve health & well-being, when we think about how to place human happiness and health at the center - as evidenced in the case of Mattel and Headspace’s ‘Mindfulness Barbie’.

Two additional points to keep in mind.

1. Changing the health and well-being of society is best done from the inside out. So, think about how you can start proactively improving the well-being of the people inside of your company, next to the well-being of the people your company serves.

2. If we truly want a system of health & well-being that places humans at the center, it is imperative that we keep an eye on the ethics associated with our business models, collaborations, and users’ data sovereignty. 

We really believe it is time to start connecting the dots, to imagine new ways to approach health & well-being, and to collaborate and collectively act on our vision. 

Look at the examples we’ve listed here, and ask yourself and your team: What if... we focus on the creation of real value for human beings, like some of these frontrunners do? How can we apply elements of these business models and collaborations? When do we start?

Care to hear more? Meet Roland. He loves to make your business better.

Roland Wijnen
Roland Wijnen