Christopher Habig: How Understanding Subjective Value Will Revolutionize the Medical Care Industry
The field of medical care is so ripe for new entrepreneurial solutions. As is always the case, solution design begins with understanding subjective value, both for customers (patients) and providers (doctors) Christopher Habig of Freedom Healthworks (FreedomHealthworks.com) joins Economics For Business to explain how an Austrian, subjective-value focused approach is bringing market freedoms to medical care.
Key Takeaways and Actionable Insights
Step 1: Like many entrepreneurs, Chris Habig started a revolutionary business from a place of familiarity and existing knowledge.
The so-called effectual process in entrepreneurship begins with two straightforward questions: what do I know and who do I know? Chris Habig grew up in a family where both parents are physicians. This vantage point gave him the opportunity to observe the critical doctor-patient relationship first hand, as well as the way in which modern bureaucratized medicine imposes obstacles and complexities that strangle the value generation potential of that relationship.
Step 2: Assessing the subjective value gap.
From his Austrian analytical perspective, Chris was able to identify the subjective value gap. For customers (patients) it is the loss of the positive feelings that they associate with the doctor-patient relationship. Chris summarizes them as advocacy, access and affordability: my doctor is on my side and looking out for me; my doctor is always available to me; I will not be excluded for economic reasons. These feelings are negated by bureaucratic medicine.
There’s a subjective value gap on the physician side, too. Research shows that doctors are stressed, and no longer find fulfilment in their work. Their mental health declines and there is an increasing rate of defection (leaving the industry) and even suicide. It’s a sign of a dysfunctional system to exert such an effect on its human capacity.
Step 3: Identifying the barriers to remove.
Value generation often consists in the removal of barriers to the realization of the desired experience. Chris identified two major barriers: insurance and government. The current approach to medical insurance actually hampers the market for what customers truly desire, which is the positive feelings of the doctor-patient relationship. Now it’s a patient-insurer relationship: will my visit / test / procedure be covered? Will there be a big bill in the mail?
And, of course, the participation of government to enforce the current system through legislation and regulation perpetuates the barriers.
Step 4: The entrepreneurial solution.
The solution is to free the system from its constraints through entrepreneurship. The physician is the entrepreneur on the supply side. Via a new business model called Direct Primary Care (DPC), the physician-entrepreneur creates a new value proposition for customers. Access is provided via a subscription model, and this financial innovation enables the thriving of a practice composed of a small number of patients to whom the physician can devote more time per visit, more attention, and more personal and individualized care. The physician is networked into a web of complementary secondary and specialist services that can be orchestrated for the individual patient’s need. All the associated business services are clustered around the DPC practice, and the physician does not need to be bound by a hospital system bureaucracy.
The new financial model enables the customer to take charge of their medical expenses, paying cash for current needs and reserving insurance for catastrophic events, which is the way it should be used. Consumer prices are lowered throughout the system.
Lives are improved on both sides of the doctor-patient relationship.
Step 5: The support system for the entrepreneurial model.
We live in an age in which distributed entrepreneurship can be embedded in an enabling system of digital infrastructure. Part of the innovation that Freedom Healthworks brings to the renaissance of the doctor-patient relationship is the platform on which the DPC business model can run.
Chris has identified 158 steps for the set-up, operation, and maintenance of a DPC business model. These can all be hosted, enabled, and implemented on the physician’s behalf. Finance, technology, operations, marketing, and vendor relationships can all be systematized and partially or fully automated. The doctor can focus on the relationship component of interacting with patients.
Step 6: Scaling.
Can entrepreneurs build out a fully-functioning cash-based direct care system to rival and ultimately replace the government-insurance company nexus? It’s already happening. As each DPC practice proves itself, more entrepreneurial physicians will make the transition and momentum will build.
DPC is an important example of the future of entrepreneurial economics.
“Enabling A Direct Primary Care Practice” (PDF): Mises.org/E4B_145_PDF1
“FreedomDoc Launch Process” (PDF): Mises.org/E4B_145_PDF2
Healthcare Americana podcast: Mises.org/E4B_145_Pod