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Intel’s Andy Grove sounds off on data transparency in healthcare

Andy Grove, the legendary and longtime CEO of Intel (s INTC), wants to light a fire under healthcare providers and patients.

In an article in the latest issue of Wired magazine, he argues that, in healthcare, “1950s-era thinking still rules the day, and irrational and inexplicable pricing is routine.”

“The health care industry plays a gigantic game of Blind Man’s Bluff, keeping patients in the dark while asking them to make life-and-death decisions. The odds that they will make the best choice are negligible and largely depend on chance. Patients need to have data, including costs and their own medical histories, liberated and made freely available for thorough analysis. What health care needs is a window sticker—a transparent, good-faith effort at making prices clear and setting market forces to work,” he writes.

Grove’s interest in healthcare isn’t new. Over the past couple of decades, after being diagnosed with prostate cancer and later Parkinson’s disease, he has not only invested millions in research, but supported a an innovation-minded graduate health program and become an impassioned advocate of reform.

In his latest piece, he says that healthcare costs have climbed, even as technology in the field – which typically drives efficiency – has advanced.

Entrenched biases among doctors and policy-driven investment patterns are partly to blame, Grove argues, but he adds that consolidation among healthcare providers only exacerbates the situation by further hindering data transparency.

What’s needed, he explains, is a “digital sticker” reminiscent of the so-called “Monroney stickers” glued to the windows of new cars.

Startups like CastlightSimpleeCakeHealth and others are beginning to bring more price transparency to consumers by helping them comparison shop for healthcare providers and breakdown their medical bills and insurance claims into more understandable charges.

But Grove envisions new tools, reliant on computers developed explicitly for this purpose, that are even more comprehensive and provide information in real time. That will only happen if the healthcare industry, led by doctors, changes its mindset, he said, but the role of the patient is also critical.

At the Wired Health Conference in New York Tuesday afternoon, Grove spoke with Wired executive editor Thomas Goetz via Skype and, when asked where that motivation for change will come from, he simply replied: “From you and I being sufficiently pissed.”

3 Responses to “Intel’s Andy Grove sounds off on data transparency in healthcare”

  1. Michael Seo

    Simplified, but essentially both are talking about the same thing.
    Its interesting that you compare them to wolf calling out fox. You’re absolutely right.
    But i think its also a possibility that the wolf is more interested in money, while the fox is interested in all self-serving acts. The wolf can very well be a very good watch dog, given the right incentives.

    Incentives play a big role in any life any circumstance.

    I dont know why nobody realizes, that doctors, medical practitioners have no incentive to maintain quality. Insurance pays them no matter what. Even after misdiagnosis. i mean…WTF. Why should anybody pay this doctor for spoon feeding me a bunch of bs.

    No one realizes that insurance companies have no incentive or authority over controlling healthcare costs. Neither do doctors.

    Costs are being driven up by blah blah blah. Insurance pays for everything. We pay insurance.
    Healthcare costs arent what are rising. Or atleast not as much as the insurance companies would like you to believe.

    Its insurance payments that are rising. Oh, and look at what we have here, larger payments, larger margins, larger profits.

    There is clear difference. The result?

    Doctors who don’t give a shit. Administrators who dont give a shit. Insurance companies who don’t give a shit. And a bunch of confused politicians, who in all honesty, don’t give a shit.

    It’s so sad what this country has become.
    I remember when I was 10. 20 years ago. This used to be the greatest country in the world.
    My generation is making it a laughing stock.
    Corrupted and layered structural “systems” that are imperfect, and only incentivise people to work around them, thereby creating “evil” in the world.

    Shame. tsk tsk tsk.

    The world is becoming increasingly more confusing. Especially to laymen like me. But we all know when something isnt right.
    Last time I was in the hospital, something was definitely not right about the way things were done. And I am sure any patient currently recieving care would agree with me.

    Its soooooo sad, that our government, and corporations, our own people, are absuing the sick, the helpless and the desperate, to make a quick buck.


  2. There are undoubtedly efficiencies to be gained by going at health care from both ends (payer/provider and consumer). We need to do much more automation to eliminate fraud and drive efficiency – and QUALITY.

  3. This is really the wolf calling out the fox over who’s better at looking after the chickens. Having a Priceline attitude to healthcare is the last thing we need. We are not talking about commodities, we are talking about people’s lives. What is actually missing in medical practice is an openness of clinics and hospitals to nationally share therapies and outcomes data and thereby have a more accurate definition of best practices. This is what ultimately determines costs. Costs are about the correlation between therapies and outcomes and there are thousands of unpredictable circumstances that effect these factors. We need the technology to correlate this data. In Europe best practices are predicated on such national data which drive costs down, and have been in operation for over a decade in most countries. In this country, it is competition that is a cause of the current problem because the institutions with the most efficient outcomes are not sharing their data because it is a selling point. How is that efficient, and how is that good for the nation’s health? Barefaced price comparisons will not bring prices down, it will cause instability and irresponsibility. Look at the state of the legal profession, do we really want to go down that road, with a mass of dubiously qualified grads looking to make a quick buck? Crazy Joe’s Bargain Basement Appendectomies? Is that the kind of healthcare we want?

    Looking to Wired for meaningful untainted analysis is always a mistake. For a more considered outlook I suggest you read this New Yorker article from 2004 which is still very relevant today, and gives you a small idea of what I’m talking about.

    Another big part of the home care equation will be elderly chronic care, which is way beyond the type of simplistic analysis of this corporate manager. The insane administrative cost of the current multi-tiered insurance system is what is causing most of the drain on Medicare currently, and Obamacare will actually make it worse not better. To roll the dice on a gradual evolution to single-payer is a stupid and callous bureaucratic policy that will make a lot of people suffer in the short term. At the other end of the insanity, this CEO is obviously completely clueless about the realities of healthcare, but nonetheless sees a potential business opportunity to exploit. We are stuck between these two idiotic mind sets, that will see the weakest in this society pay the price as usual. To further disabuse you of your blind ideology of private health, I also suggest your readers join Public Citizen or like minded watchdogs who keep a handle on the fraud and abuse perpetrated on a week by week basis by these insurance companies, often with the full collusion of Medical Practioners and drug companies.

    No system is perfect, but the Europeans have managed to maintain good universal coverage for 60 years now, fully endorsed by their citizens. It’s time the US grew up and started to care, really care.