For the first Healthcare Thursday I’m going to keep it simple. Healthcare is excruciatingly complex, but today I want to boil it down to an odd analogy.
I have a unique perspective having been trained in both healthcare and business. From my perspective, healthcare and business go together like peanut butter and pickles.
Stay with me here. The goal of healthcare (at least as far as most in the field are concerned) is treating patients. Making them better or more comfortable. It’s a noble goal, and the siren song to which all healthcare professionals respond.
In business, the goal is quite different. The primary goal of business is to maximize profits. This is taught in business school. Without a doubt, there are businesses with altruistic goals. They may sacrifice some profit for the social good. And, of course, there are non-profit businesses. But, without exception, a shareholder owned firm in the United States has one goal: maximize profits.
Here’s where we hit trouble. Now we have goals that, although not completely at odds, mix in a manner that may not be all that appealing. Hence, healthcare and business go together like peanut butter and pickles.
I’m sure there’s people who LOVE peanut butter and pickle sandwiches. (Didn’t Elvis? Or was that peanut butter and bananas?) Likewise, some healthcare organizations blend together the moral goals of healthcare with the profit goals of business quite well. Most, though, find the mix a little odd or confusing.
Essentially, this is the crux of the healthcare argument. Where do we find that right mix of peanut butter and pickles to highlight the best of each, and maybe even complement each other?
If all we care about is peanut butter (healthcare), everyone will get every treatment they want for free, but we may bankrupt the country. If we choose just pickles (business), only those that can afford treatments will get them, and we’ll have millions of people suffering needlessly.
What’s the right mix?
Of course, this is an over simplified analogy. There are a dizzying number of interwoven issues that effect how peanut butter and pickles taste together. (Chunky or creamy? Dill or half-sour? Between bread or dipped?)
But understanding the competing, yet potentially complimentary, goals of healthcare and business gives a base to decifer the debate that rages over healthcare policy in the United States.
Perhaps someday Americans will like nothing more than the comfort food we simply call, PB&P.