This week, Inc. Magazine announced their fastest growing companies for 2012 and Accolade was at the top of the list for health care companies. While this is a great accomplishment I cannot help but see it as just the beginning; the beginning of a great company and of a new profession. Speaking personally, the effort of starting this company has been the culmination of my entire career. For years before our start, I spoke out about the need to help people not manage disease in managed care and spoke about the need to have people when sick be recognized for their unique situations and attributes and have their care customized on that basis. While it knowledge of evidence based practice is critical, it must be used as a core element and not as a limiting factor of care.
At this point in the growth of Accolade we have proved that you can take that customized approach that includes not only scientific medicine but the unique dynamics of each and every family, and actually spend less money overall than if you just used a standardized, one size fits all approach. We have learned a lot along the way and realize that we are just beginning to move Accolade and the profession of Health Assistant being recognized as a needed resource in our health care world of complexity.
We have learned that in order to come this far you need:
· Investors and a Board of Directors who understand that it takes time and money to build a company that truly improve people’s lives and create value that can be reflected in revenues. We have such a Board and more. We have a Board that understands that the building of an Accolade is really about improving the world and not only building a company.
· A leader who can put all the pieces in place and create a culture that supports a truly unique and new way of doing business and who questions all old assumptions in the building of a new approach, a new profession and a new company.
· A group of people, all of whom understand the fundamental principles we work under, to design all the different elements, from the training to the IT systems, to the operational systems, to the support materials to even the designs of the office spaces that all support the culture and the values of helping people.
· Very strong IT systems, operational systems and support personnel to make this work. Health Assistants cannot work in a vacuum and are only affective if they have the proper tools and the proper information in place when they need it.
· Most importantly you need a group of individuals to actually do the work of caring, of supporting, of understanding and of helping those in need. Our Health Assistants, whatever their initial backgrounds and degrees all have come together to build something that is great and that has a profound impact on those we help and on those we will help in the future.
In addition, other major lessons learned and some of the reasons it has taken five years to come this far building an approach that makes so much sense and is so successful in both helping and lowering health care costs are:
- Changing a paradigm is extremely difficult. When you build something new, that does not fit nicely into preconceived notions, it is hard for others to understand.
- Creating simplicity for individuals and employers is extremely complex
- You need forward thinking, creative people leading the employers who work with you. We are fortunate to have that in Comcast, Medtronic and now Lowe's
What we have done thus far is not for the faint hearted. It is hard and it requires a blend of extremely different talents and knowledge.
The movement towards building the profession of Health Assistant also addresses in a positive and productive way the complexity that is inherent in a health care system that must take human behavior into account and that must have the knowledge of all aspects of care which includes the clinical/scientific, the financial, the emotional, the social and the religious elements. When one is sick, it is a family affair that affects every part of every person who is in that family unit. The profession of Health Assistant recognizes those pieces and helps the patient and the family through all of it. The professional Health Assistant also helps someone regardless of whether they are critically ill or merely in need of reliable advice about staying healthy and everything in between. Meeting people where they are and not just trying to cherry pick those people who are spending large sums of money or who happen to be using the health care system at a point of time creates the right relationships to make a real difference across a large population.
I can only hope that as Accolade continues to grow that we will see more and more people recognize how affordable care depends on a customized patient by patient approach and that approach can be simplified for all concerned by having Health Assistants for every person in this country and possibly the world. If that seems overly ambitious think again. We at Accolade know that we can help people as individuals make their own decisions and create a better health care system at the same time.