HEALTH CARE LESSONS FROM A RHINO

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A good friend of mine recently gave me a book called “The Barbarian Way” written by Erwin McManus. It’s a great book for people who want to take an inventory of their faith and the resulting actions their faith actually produces. Towards the end of the book the author describes a safari that he and his daughter went on where they learned a lot about different animals, one of which was the rhino.

Intrigued by his brief descriptions and observations of rhinos I went on to do a little research of my own. Rhinos are absolutely fascinating creatures. Depending on the type of Rhino, they can weigh anywhere from 1,800 to 7,700 pounds with the largest white rhino ever on record at a whopping 10,000 pounds! What’s more amazing is how fast they can move for the size that they are. In particular, the black rhino can run up to 35 mph. But all that mass running at that high of a speed presents a problem for rhinos because… they can only see 30 feet in front of them.

You would think that not having very good line of sight into their future and uncertainty about where they’re ultimately going would slow them down, but that’s not the case. Animals of all species have unique names as they gather together. For example, ants are a colony, wolves are a pack, birds are a flock and lions are a pride. In the case of the rhino, they are called a crash. Makes perfect sense. You get multiple rhinos that weigh several tons each with large sharp horns leading the way and well, as you can imagine, if they hit something, it’s gonna be a crash. Rhinos aren’t afraid to run fast when they need to because they know if they hit something they can very likely crash right through it.

Now, as a pioneering thought leader in the health care space, it seems fitting to draw a parallel between the plight of rhinos and the state of health care. With the PPACA landscape it’s pretty tough to see any further than 30 feet ahead. While we all know change is on-going and eminent, primarily with consumerism on the rise, no one can be certain exactly what is ahead. In addition to consumerism, you have 20% of hospitals on track to become payers by 2018. And don’t forget about the loss of underwriting and not knowing who exactly we’ll be insuring as people eventually migrate to the exchanges, which in and of themselves, change the dynamics of traditional competition in the space.

All that said, I think we can learn something very valuable from the rhino. And here it is…if health insurance companies want to not only survive, but want to remain dominate in the space, then they’re going to have to run a whole lot faster. They’re going to have to risk crashing into a few things here and there with the full confidence knowing that they have the mass and power to crash through any problems that come their way. But it’s going to take everyone realizing it. One or two rhinos doesn’t make a crash.

To wrap this up, I found this quote from Mark Boxer CIO from Cigna in a profile on Information Week in 2012.

“The decisions that I play in my head involve not moving fast enough. It took a few mistakes early in my career to understand that an imperfect decision today is worth a lot more than a more perfect decision much later.”

When you couple Boxer’s understanding and philosophy, with the pressure to innovate and transform the way we do health care, it’s pretty clear how important it is to run like rhinos.

That said, anyone want to go crash into a new vertical market?

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