Disruptive Innovation, Applied to Health Care


THE health care system in America is on life support. It costs too much and saps economic vitality, achieves far too little return on investment and isn’t distributed equitably. 

Instead, the country needs to innovate its way toward a new health care business model one that reduces costs yet improves both quality and accessibility.

Two main causes of the system’s ills are century-old business models, for the general hospital and the physician’s practice, both of which are based on treating illness, not promoting wellness. Hospitals and doctors are paid by insurers and the government for the health care equivalent of piecework: hospitals profit from full beds and doctors profit from repeat visits. There is no financial incentive to keep patients healthy.

Using innovation management models previously applied to other industries, Clayton M. Christensen, a Harvard Business School professor, argues in “The Innovator’s Prescription” that the concepts behind “disruptive innovation” can reinvent health care.

Disruptive innovators in health care aim to shape a new system that provides a continuum of care focused on each individual patient’s needs, instead of focusing on crises.

“Health care hasn’t become affordable,” he said in an interview, “because it hasn’t yet gone through disruptive decentralization.”

By creating a continuum of care that follows patients wherever they go within an integrated system, says the Princeton University economist Uwe Reinhardt, care providers can stay on top of what preventive measures and therapies are most effective. Tests aren’t needlessly duplicated, competing medications aren’t prescribed by different doctors, and everyone knows what therapies a patient has received. 

Kaiser’s system, in particular, has proved the benefits of an integrated system, Mr. Reinhardt says. “It is much cheaper than pay-for-service systems, because they have absolutely no incentive to overtreat you, but they have every incentive to keep you healthy,” he says.


Rae-dupree, J. (2009, January 31). Disruptive innovation, applied to health care. The New York Times. Retrieved September 23, 2021, from https://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/01/business/01unbox.html. 


Though discussing health care systems, this insight is valuable because health care, like transportation, is an industry relevant to mostly everyone, and is supposed to be for the greater good to promote ease and health in everyday lives. In this proposed disruption of the current healthcare model, the ideas cited in this article are for more custom and individual care. They want to dismantle the system that prioritizes “treating illness, not promoting wellness.” I think this is a useful framework of thought that helps spark my mind in the transportation model about how not to just get those of limited mobility transportation, but challenge systems to allow for a more mainstream and accessible main model of transportation. The way that this article finds integrated care, where all of one person’s medical records and data is kept together, as a solution is interesting to consider. How do individual needs of people over collective needs create an impact on transportation? And how is it different in healthcare than other industries?