Move fast, break things, and bam. Out pops a unicorn. Being called a disruptor gives you major street cred in Silicon Valley. In fact, the startup buzzword has even crept to Washington, with Hillary Clinton recently calling on entrepreneurs to “disrupt” one of the biggest threats of them all — ISIS.
People sling the word around like it’s an eleventh commandment, but the reality is, disruption isn’t the answer for all industries. Think back to the disruptive kid in school who always broke the rules and distracted the rest of the class. To make real progress, you can’t be that kid in the back of the classroom — you have to be in the front row, ready and willing to learn.
Whether it’s online poker or lending, having a deep understanding of the rules and regulations in the space you operate is the only way you can see what’s broken. Then, that knowledge will help you see how to put things back together. And in industries where human lives are at stake — like health care — it’s not only important, it’s our duty as human beings.
Disruption | noun | disˈrəpSH(ə)n
From the Latin " disruptionem," which means "a breaking asunder." To break into pieces, shatter.
Skirting a law to get your app in the App Store might seem like one badass move. But if the app in question is helping someone make health decisions, it’s not just animated GIFs on the other side of that screen. Breaking things has warped into an empty idea. As more and more tech companies take on tightly regulated industries, that primal instinct for destruction can be hard to let go. However, disruption should never be an excuse for closing your eyes to the law.
Take Zenefits for instance. California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones recently remarked on the scandal, saying yes, new technology can help smooth out archaic systems, but it shouldn’t be done in place of government regulations. For health insurance brokers in particular, the rules are there “to make sure that only individuals and firms with the expertise and integrity to transact insurance are allowed to do so.” That’s a darn good reason. The laws are in place to prop up the industry as a whole.
Compliance? Why hello there
Compliance | noun | kəmˈplīəns
From the Old French " complir," meaning "to fulfill, accomplish, carry out."
In health care, following the law is like getting a neat stack of Cs on your report card. Sure, you’ll pass, but is that enough? Does that make you feel good at the end of the day? Really, compliance should compel you to do the impossible for your customers.
According to Bryan Haardt, the CEO of Decisio Health, complying with regulations is both the right thing to do and it keeps everyone in your company accountable. “Run toward the FDA,” he says. Haardt’s company works in the highly regulated space of clinical decision support, and he sees regulations not as a hindrance, but as “an opportunity to create a great company.”
Why does this matter so much?
Being a mission-driven organization means you have to take the idea of “overcompliance” seriously. To explain why, let’s take a look at brokers. Some may equate them to salespeople hawking any other ware, but that’s not quite right. Brokers are confidantes and advisors, helping people elucidate one of the most important decisions they’ll ever have to make: how to care for themselves and their families.
Think about the last time you visited the doctor. Before getting treated, you probably expected that they went to medical school, took the Hippocratic Oath, and became an expert in their field. Why? Because your life depended on it. Shouldn’t that expectation be the same throughout the industry?
To become a broker, you need to pass a 52-hour long certification program, along with various other state-specific requirements. When you’re helping people with their health, 52 hours of your life — a few hours more than the average workweek — is a small price to pay.
That’s why the infrastructure is there in the first place — they’re guidelines to help protect consumers, and at the same time, keep the industry sealproof. You don’t know the intricacies of every field, which is why experts are there to lead the way.
Theranos is a blood-testing company that’s been under the microscope for inaccuracies, sidestepping the FDA, and deceiving investors. According to insiders, it was obvious that the kits weren’t perfect — in fact, users were 1.6 times more likely to see abnormal test results — but Theranos continued to sell them. The issue here involves a faulty product, along with misleading consumers to buy a test that will never reach a critical level of accuracy. The company is now being investigated by the SEC for criminal activity.
Everyone should be served by experts who know exactly what they’re doing, regardless of the field they’re in. If someone can’t get their dialysis treatment because their broker messed up, that’s not okay. If someone’s medical history is leaked because a company thought HIPAA was too onerous, that’s not okay. We deserve more from our system.
Sure, compliance isn’t as sexy as disruption. It doesn’t have the panache, the Indiana Jones-ness of coming in and saving something worth saving. But really, compliance is the foundation we need to hold everything together, and eventually, find where we can push for change. Because when you stop disrupting and start complying, that’s when the real revolution begins.