Imperfectly Seizing the Unknown: Embracing Innovation in the Medical Profession
Kevin Kelly, former editor of Wired magazine, wrote an article several years ago where he discussed the radical transformation of the global economy based on the digital revolution of the 90s. In the article entitled, “New Rules for the New Economy”, he postulated several “rules” to help individuals and companies thrive, not merely survive, under these new conditions.
Without doubt the entire article is fascinating, yet one quote sticks out over all the others. Mr. Kelly proposed, “Wealth in this new regime flows directly from innovation, not optimization; that is, wealth is not gained from perfecting the known, but by imperfectly seizing the unknown.” Profound, right?
Much like the digital environment that Mr. Kelly was writing about, there has been an equally radical shift in the business environment of private practicing physicians as well – one every bit as jarring and transformational. It stands to reason that parallels can be drawn between the two events.
Innovation NOT Optimization.
If innovation is the new guiding principle, what is meant by optimization? The manager’s credo for years has been to take what exists and to make it better, be it personnel, products, or processes. Efficiency became the buzzword as the profitability equation (profit = revenue – expenses) was vexed by an ever-decreasing revenue coefficient and matching rising expenses.
Classes abound at regional and national tradeshows describing maximizing patient throughput (remember the wave scheduling craze?), adding billable revenue sources (add PT, add MRI, add mid-level providers), increasing existing services (add ultrasonic guidance to injections), etc. Perhaps these changes added revenue to the bottom line for a season, or perhaps the changes were instituted just ahead of changes in regulation or reimbursement remodeling leaving practices on the backside of the trend, never seeing the promised pot of gold at the end of the proverbial rainbow.