How Companies Can Find Their North Star in Healthcare’s Disruptive New World Order

By Jim Traficant

When CVS and Aetna formed a $70 billion force in consumer health, this integration couldn’t even be imagined just five years prior. This disruptive merger is one of countless forces fueling sweeping change in healthcare. If there is one constant in the healthcare sector, it is disruption and change.

For companies looking to compete and thrive in this $3.6 trillion U.S. market, defense can’t be your first reflex. You can either be a disruptor or be disrupted. To win in this new world order, health leaders must have a North Star vision, communicate and manage change as a core competency, and drive their enterprise from today’s competitive field to leadership in the white space of tomorrow.

Multiple forces are converging to transform healthcare. Outside disruptors, convergence of payers and providers, the consolidation of the clinical supply chain with regional expansion by every major academic center - add a historic pandemic and the stakes get higher. Unpredictable policy drivers make it harder still.

These forces are reshaping the way we experience healthcare. The CVS/Aetna merger was fueled by Amazon’s purchase of PillPack. CVS responded by transforming itself from a corner drugstore into a one-stop, point of care provider for consumers. Minute Clinics became the front door to care and Aetna’s vast consumer data trove became the synergistic back office. And recently, Amazon launched its online pharmacy challenging the need to ever walk into a pharmacy again.

This kind of disruptive change is just the tip of the iceberg.

The Federal government and commercial health sectors are also converging. Walmart launched in-store comprehensive health clinics then helped the Department of Veterans Affairs reach 1/3rd of Veterans by jointly delivering telehealth services for Veterans in rural communities. Kaiser Permanente is the leading provider of healthcare for veterans outside of the VA. DoD’s TRICARE program funds $16B of private sector care for military families. The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) created a federally facilitated marketplace undergirded by private sector insurance companies. The boundaries have blurred.

COVID-19 has also accelerated new healthcare therapies, delivery systems and cutting-edge technology, especially when it comes to telehealth and rapid testing.

One emerging disruptor is eMed, which is democratizing access to rapid and affordable COVID testing. eMed will offer millions of Americans early detection and early intervention with results in 15 minutes to contain the spread and save lives. That’s disruptive.

Bold out-of-the-box disruption defines an outsider impacting the system but what about legacy players? Entrenched incumbents must pivot as well by leveraging their brands and accrued consumer trust to frame their own disruptive ecosystems. This is no time for defense. Your message and vision must take your organization into white space in the new world order. Your North Star must be compelling enough to guide your future, attract partners to fuel your vision, and fend off competitors to your core business.

If you want to know what a compelling vision looks like, watch Cleveland Clinic’s North Star championed by CEO, Dr. Tom Mihaljevic. Leaders know who they are and where they’re going. They have a vision and a clear narrative about how to get there. When I meet with prospective clients looking for a communications partner, the first questions I ask is, “What is your North Star”? At Pinkston, we don’t just help you tell your story, we help you achieve it.

Earned, owned, social, and digital media are tools for leaders to shape the future. Pinkston helps visionary leaders gain mind share, communicate with impact, disrupt or transform their industries, and lead their people and clients to their North Star. If you have a bold vision for transforming healthcare, you need Pinkston. It’s time for change. Let’s get to work.

Jim Traficant is a partner at Pinkston. He has over 30 years of executive and operational leadership in government, commercial and international markets. Jim’s expertise is in aerospace, defense, intelligence, and healthcare with experience in products, services, and M&A. He created Accenture’s Federal Health business, served as President of ASM Research tripling the business in three years, and served as President of Harris Healthcare Solutions taking the business from an idea to $200M in five years serving government, commercial, and international healthcare organizations across six countries.