Give Healthcare a Chance

A business and society viewpoint on health and healthcare in the 21st century by Council on Business & Society members Keio Business School, Japan; FGV-EAESP, Brazil; Fudan School of Management, China; and ESSEC Business School, France.

Healthy employees, healthy organizations

Overwhelming evidence demonstrates that corporations that take a proactive approach to employee health and wellness achieve better financial results, decreased employee turnover, and enhanced employee engagement and performance. Equally characteristic of current systems is the general emphasis given to rewarding overwork and perceiving value mainly in the hands of individual “champions” in the workplace. Such focus on individual results may not only engender critical healthcare issues but also, and paradoxically, reduce overall employee motivation. Management systems must evolve to reassess the health-productivity formula and focus more on the role of teamwork and credit-sharing. Companies and organizations must invest in creating uniquely tailored healthcare programs meeting both group requirements and individual employee needs.

Technology and management innovations in healthcare

Over the last thirty years, the world has seen shifts on a massive scale in technology, communications, demographic changes, increased life expectancy, and globally mobile populations. Taking these changes into account, new policy initiatives must correct the world’s current lack of sufficient attention to the merging of information and medical technologies, balancing openness and personal privacy, and providing for the sustainable creation of new pharmaceuticals. Moreover, new management innovations must acknowledge mental health issues and demographic changes such as greying populations, women’s empowerment, a global workforce, and globally mobile populations. Information technology (IT) and healthcare are increasingly interconnecting, and huge opportunities exist for both to advance together in cross-disciplinary programs and technical expertise.

Healthcare is a moving target: there will never be a single model. Strategies must be detailed enough to meet current demands, but flexible and innovative enough to serve very different populations, many decades into the future. Healthcare is a universal need, and in many countries indeed a constitutional right and, as such, it demands sustainability and cooperation. It requires commitment to high ethical principles, fairness, integrity, and critical thinking. And although so-called “alternative medicine” and new approaches should not be dismissed out of hand, institutional health care – especially care managed by governments and funded by taxpayers – should be strictly data-based. Decision-makers should firmly adhere to factual, verifiable medical evidence obtained using the scientific method.

Challenges: Who pays for healthcare and how is it supplied?

Healthcare may be the ultimate interdisciplinary study. It cannot be viewed just as a business, a public service, a technology field, an academic discipline, an ethics issue, a moral duty, a management study, or a matter of every person’s most private life. It is all of these things simultaneously. Business schools – neutral, intellectually independent and results-oriented – are perfectly positioned to take important and even leading roles in crafting healthcare solutions. The best solutions are unlikely to originate from individual companies, governments, universities, or not-for-profit organizations: they will only originate from collaboration between all of them. The question is not: “Do healthcare systems need reform?” The question is: “How should everyone constantly re-examine health concepts and implement systems to create the best outcomes in sustainable ways?”

While some healthcare systems are arguably better than others, all existing models are demonstrably inadequate for most present and all conceivable future purposes. Today’s policies are for the most part reactive, input-driven, and financially unsustainable. By contrast, the successful systems of tomorrow will be proactive, driven by desired outputs, and financially sustainable.

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