Dr. Atul Gawande aims to disrupt U.S. healthcare - Activate World

Dr. Atul Gawande aims to disrupt U.S. healthcare


Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway, and JPMorgan Chase, announced the appointment of Dr. Atul Gawande as CEO of its joint health-care venture that could serve as a template for future American healthcare. The companies’ CEOs: Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffet, and Jamie Dimon, announced their partnership in January to address rising health-care costs. The still-unnamed company will be based in Boston and operate as an independent entity “free from profit-making incentives and constraints.”

The companies announced in January they were forming the venture to improve healthcare for their more than 1 million employees receiving health insurance, acknowledging it could take years to show results. If their efforts are successful, the companies are expected to make these innovations freely available to other firms struggling with an outdated healthcare system ripe for disruption.

Disrupt HealthcareDr. Gawande practices general and endocrine surgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and is a professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Harvard Medical School. He is a best-selling author known for his work on healthcare quality and a journalist for the New Yorker magazine. He wrote the article “The Cost Conundrum” in 2009 drawing the attention of Charlie Munger, Berkshire Hathaway’s vice chairman, leading to his eventual selection as CEO of the new healthcare company.

The venture will target three kinds of healthcare system waste: administrative costs, high prices, and improper healthcare usage. Other areas of focus include the use of data analytics, prescription drug costs, access to tele-medicine and better wellness programs, end-of-life care management, and aligning incentives among doctors, insurers, and patients.


  • Warren Buffet describes the current healthcare system as “a tapeworm of American economic competitiveness” due to escalating costs that consume the country’s gross domestic product.
  • Major firms such as Walmart Inc. have experimented with bypassing health insurers entirely purchasing healthcare for their workers directly from doctors and hospitals.
  • Warby Parker is disrupting the healthcare sector through a telemedicine app allowing customers to take online vison tests. Costs for their exam, lenses, and frame are less than half of the national average.
  • Amazon recently purchased PillPack Inc. and will probably offer a more convenient way to fill customer’s prescriptions. Can they disrupt the pharmacy industry despite the extensive regulations protecting incumbents and impeding change?

Quests and Actions (Q&A):

  • The U.S. healthcare system is moving from fee-for-service to value-based programsthat reward providers based on the quality, rather than the quantity of care provided to patients. Can this approach reduce costs and improve quality?
  • Insurance premiums increased by over 55 percent in the past decade, what has been the impact to you personally?
  • Three major corporations are collaborating on a venture intended to disrupt the $7 trillion healthcare sector. Are the chances for success increased or decreased with so many players involved?
Sources:  Becker’s Hospital Review, Bloomberg, Forbes, New York Times, STAT, WSJWSJ
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