(Originally published on Blogcritics.org)
Wikipedia defines Disruptive Innovation as:
“An innovation that…disrupts an existing market and value network, displacing an earlier technology…[by improving] a product or service in ways that the market does not expect.”
Healthcare has long been recognized as the most un-disruptable industry on earth. Until Dr. Zubin Damania came along, that is. Damania, the closing speaker at SXSW V2V in Las Vegas on July 16, 2014, spent 10 years as a doctor at Stanford. Although he won awards for clinical teaching during this period, he became increasingly frustrated with a medical system that, as he put it, “Pays you to do things to patients, instead of doing things for them.”
“No one pays you to ask questions and find the real problem,” he said. For example, a person’s blood pressure may be up because his or her personal life is falling apart. He said that doctors don’t usually find that out because they are paid to dispense pills, not solve the deeper causes.
He gave voice to his frustration by creating a shadow career as a stand-up comic, making fun of the medical system. This morphed into his internet persona, the medical rapper ZDoggMD.
His internet fame attracted the attention of another disrupter, Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh. Zappos is one of the internet’s major retailers, known for its participatory culture and great customer service. It regularly makes the list of the nation’s best companies to work for.
disrupting health care
In 2011, Hsieh began The Downtown Project, an effort through private investment in startups, technology, education and culture to transform a blighted area of Las Vegas into a model urban community.
One day Damania’s phone rang. It was Tony Hsieh, challenging Damania to come to Las Vegas and reinvent medical care from the ground up. Damania accepted the challenge and the result was Turntable Health.
Damania explained that his vision was to refocus health on prevention, rather than waiting for things to go wrong and then fixing them. Turntable’s clients pay $80 per month for unlimited access to primary care services with no co-pays. Costs for such things as shots are passed on at wholesale. Instead of being charged, for instance, $50 for an injection as they would at a hospital, Turntable clients pay only $5.
The membership model encourages doctors to keep clients healthy, while the lack of co-pays encourages people to use the service. They can get medical advice not only in person, but also over the phone and by email. Clients also get unlimited free classes on a range of topics including diet and yoga.
Damania described this as “longitudinal rather than episodic care.”
The system also allows doctors to “practice at the top of their specialty” by training assistants to counsel and interview members, so members don’t get to the doctor until the doctor’s knowledge and skills are really needed.
Damania said that when he was working at Stanford, he would never have counseled his little girl to think about being a doctor. Now, in the new world of Turntable Health, he said he would encourage her.