Our healthcare system is broken and I want to fix it. The Affordable Care Act has had its successes by expanding coverage to 20 million previously uninsured Americans and preventing insurance companies from denying coverage to patients with pre-existing conditions, but it has had less impact on controlling ever-spiraling insurance costs to the consumer. One in five Americans with health insurance had trouble paying a medical bill in the last twelve months. 30 cents of every healthcare dollar spent goes to administrative overhead. That is 1 trillion dollars a year across the United States and yet patients are still responsible for transferring their health records, coordinating care between doctors and dealing with all payment and insurance issues. It is no one else’s problem. That burden is completely unfair given the amount of money we are spending per individual on healthcare.
I was pre-med at Stanford and imagined myself pursuing a career in medicine. My opportunities to pursue this track were extraordinary. I conducted my thesis research at the National Institute of Health, the world’s largest clinical research hospital that specializes in emerging care for rare or difficult conditions. I studied HIV with the renowned Dr. Hiroaki Mitsuya, the researcher who developed AZT. This is what I believe medicine should be, the pursuit of the best care and medical technologies to improve people’s lives. But I learned other, less appealing truths. Despite research at NIH being government funded, there was an ongoing battle with Congress that prevented life-saving drugs reaching the very people who needed them and litigation with drug companies, more interested in protecting patents than providing vital drugs to the uninsured or developing world nations.
I spent a year in Niger, Africa, a country that is fourth from bottom on the global Human Development Index. I witnessed the meaning of a real lack of healthcare access. No drugs, no dressings, no surgical gloves, no beds. I worked with a group of US surgeons brought over by an NGO to offer free fistula repair surgery, care that, like so much else, wasn’t available in Niger. Working alongside these physicians, I learned that they loved what they did, loved helping their patients but, if they could start over, would not choose to be doctors again. Most of their reasons had to do with the system as it is in the United States. They felt it was almost impossible to put the needs of their patients first because of the complexity and brokenness of the system. Patients did not have access to care due to the limitations of their insurance. Doctors had to fight with insurance companies to get their patients treatment that was medically necessary. There was the constant fear of frivolous malpractice lawsuits, always looking over their shoulders, doing unnecessary medical tests, to make sure they are legally protected. They felt that working inside the US healthcare system they couldn’t be the best doctors they could be.
So I turned to tech where things move faster and change comes more easily. I learned to build efficient systems that work well. What if that spirit of change could be set to work on healthcare? I believe technology is our best hope to change the healthcare system in the United States. To that end, I’ve just launched a healthcare app called Better.