What 21st Century Health Care Should Learn from 20th Century Business

Health care today has a complexity problem. Progress has produced major medical advances, but health care’s traditional organizational structure is buckling. Knowledge has increased the number of therapeutic options for most conditions — but also the number of people involved in delivering care. The result: Clinicians have trouble collaborating. Patients have trouble navigating the system. And leaders have trouble leading.

Analogous challenges confronted American business during the 20thcentury. Many companies had become larger and more diverse, designing, producing, and selling disparate products through shared functional departments. Yet leading companies, like General Electric (GE), Dupont, and General Foods did not succumb to exploding complexity; instead, they changed the way they organized. They shifted from organizing around individual functions (e.g., marketing and production) to organizing around products and the customer needs they aimed to meet. This new structure enabled companies to compete, product by product, to improve product quality and efficiency and speed up innovation, while continuing to diversify and grow. …..more

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