What Netflix and IKEA Can Offer Health Care Innovation

What Netflix and IKEA Can Offer Health Care Innovation

David Asch's Comments From AAMC Award Ceremony in Austin

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation David E. Rogers Award: David A. Asch, MD, MBA

In a video played during his appearance at an Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) award ceremony, LDI Senior Fellow and Penn Medicine Center for Health Care Innovation Executive Director David Asch talked about truly innovative approaches to innovation.


"What can doctors, nurses and hospital administrators really learn from Netflix and IKEA about health care innovation?," David Asch asked the  Association of American Medical Colleges audience at its annual meeting in Austin last week.

Speaking in a video (above) that was part of the ceremony honoring him as the 2018 recipient of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's David. E. Rogers Award, Asch pointed out that "We have this paradox in health care. It seems like every day we're introduced to astounding new discoveries like CRISPR gene editing or CAR-T cellular therapy for cancer. But at the same time, we hear complaints of 'why can't health care be more innovative?'"

Asch, MD, MBA, a Professor of both Medicine at Penn's Perelman School of Medicine, and Health Care Management at the Wharton School, and an LDI Senior Fellow, has been wrestling with such questions since he was named the founding Executive Director of Penn Medicine's Center for Health Care Innovation six years ago.

"I think the resolution of the paradox is that when people are calling for health care to be more innovative," Asch continued, "they mean more innovative in the delivery of services; more innovative in the organization and financing of health care and how we treat patients as customers."

Crazy and a little irritating?
"It seems crazy and forced and maybe a little irritating to think that a place like Netflix has something to offer to obstetrical care or that IKEA has something for hip replacement," he said. "But if you take a step back, it's actually not crazy to think that IKEA as a business model might be able to help us. So, for example, IKEA has been great at thinking about returning to the customer all of the aspects that the customer himself or herself can do. You pick up the product yourself. You take it home. You put it together yourself and the company -- the factory -- does only the things the customer can't do. Well maybe that's not such a bad model for hip replacements. Maybe we actually can learn from other industries, transport elements of their business delivery models, and introduce them into health care." 

Such seemingly incongruous ideas -- of integrating industrial marketing insights and practices into the clinical areas of hospital work -- have been a hallmark of Asch's tenure and success at the Innovation Center.

Sponsored by both RWJF and the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), the Rogers award he received recognizes "a medical school faculty member who has made major contributions to improving the health and health care of the American people."

The honor was originally established in memory of David E. Rogers, first President of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.