Bridging Business & Healthcare

Dressing the Avatar

Default AvatarAs a father of three teenage boys, my life is rarely dull. Their insights and slant on most things are generally entertaining to say the least. Last night as I was sitting at my dinner table, my 16 year old son caught my attention.  “Dad, the folks who make video games have got it figured out. They are marketing geniuses. They must be rolling in money.” Curious, I asked what he meant. He went on to share with me that on his new gaming system, there was a small avatar that sat in the lower right hand corner of the screen. According to my son, this avatar had no purpose whatsoever. It was not part of the game. It didn’t even move. It just sat there and blinked. The gaming company, it seems, has developed a system of buying “points” as imaginary money and with this money you can customize and dress your avatar in any way you wish. My son, perplexed by this, said “Dad, why would anyone buy something that has absolutely no value?”

My thoughts immediately went to the world I work in every day… the world of healthcare. CT scans for every headache in the ED? MRI for everyone with back pain? The list goes on.

As a physician, I do understand that the thought that goes behind these decisions is complex, but our current system has led some to pursue this type of behavior with incentives that are far from clinical. According to a recent survey by the Commonwealth Fund and Modern Healthcare, 93% of those healthcare leaders surveyed believe that current financial incentives for providers and other stakeholders are “extremely significant” or “very significant” barriers to the growth and adoption of new care models such as accountable care organizations. As we transition to a new system which places a greater value on quality, we as health care leaders have an obligation to ensure that these incentives are designed to assure true value is delivered. Let’s make sure we are no longer just “dressing the avatar."


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