AT&T, Healthcare and the iPhone

You may be wondering, “Borsch…what does AT&T, Healthcare and the iPhone have in common?” Two are complex and require enormous study to figure out what you’re buying, and the third has made heretofore complex processes brain-dead-simple.

After activating my iPhone on a family plan, I wanted to add the second one for my daughter (who works at an Apple Store but is too new to get the free one promised by Steve Jobs to all employees). It was difficult to add the second line so I had to call AT&T. I’ve now spent three total hours in one week on the phone with AT&T customer service getting the account straightened out and features locked down correctly.

Thinking about adding yet a third iPhone for my bride who travels outside the country often, determining International rates, understanding how and why they slapped that “Roadside Assistance feature” on my account for $2.99 per month per iPhone, and why there are just so damn many moving parts with mobile telephony accounts is beyond me (actually it’s not. They’re purposely confusing us since it’s easier to get people to pay for things they don’t need this way).

This feels like asking the price of colonoscopy which I did this week. This procedure was recommended by my Doc now that my Dad has issues in his colon, there are hereditary risk factors, but people at healthcare facilities chuckle at you when you ask for the discounted rates (the ones that they give insurance companies). My high deductible health plan means *I* am paying for the procedure and thus I want to know how much it will cost. The status quo hospitals, specialists and clinics don’t want consumers for God’s sake asking how much stuff costs and I’ve yet to get anyone to tell me their rates.

Shopping for a health plan, setting up a Health Savings Account and even trying to be a decent steward of these sorts of health care expenditures is extremely difficult. Both my businesswoman bride and I are quite good at contracts, deep minutiae and variables embedded within plans, and we still find this whole healthcare arena dauntingly difficult to navigate — so I can see how Joe SixPack and his bride have real challenges.

It’s no wonder that the healthcare industry is growing 10% faster than inflation since it’s so horribly inefficient and consumers with health plans say, “Oh…sure….go ahead with that $5,000 procedure if you think it’s necessary.” They don’t know if it’s really necessary or drives top-line hospital/clinic revenues only, it’s costing them a $15 co-pay so they care little, and of course a person wants everything possible to be done for them. Go see Sicko if you want to experience one perspective on the fiascos in healthcare and be prepared to be dismayed.

The “iPhone of clinics” is Minute Clinic (MC), started right here in Minnesota and recently acquired by CVS Corp. They streamlined the overwhelming majority of clinic visits (ear aches, strep throat, other easily diagnosed illnesses) and made them fast, cheap and convenient since the MC’s are located everywhere.

Contrast both of these issues (AT&T and healthcare) that touched me this week alongside Apple’s iPhone. I’ve used dozens of devices and smartphones and this is the first one I’ve used that has wiped away almost all complexity; streamlines all the processes I use to interact with a mobile device; and does so in an incredibly elegant and fun fashion.

Yeah….I’m with all the critics who whine and moan about the lack of third party applications, the few limitations in the device and the crappy and slow EDGE network Apple chose, but there is NO question in my mind that this device — and the height of the bar Apple has set for all the other players in the mobile space — is going to make the whole category more efficient for us all.

The complexity of healthcare and the potential for disruption that an iPhone is bringing to mobile telephony isn’t a fair comparison…but I’m just so aware that it’s possible to make something work well that has historically been complex and difficult and change an industry as a result.

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1 Comment

  1. Mike Artherton on July 17, 2007 at 2:09 am

    Nice stuff… tough to keep track of all that is happening. I end up reading 100 odd blogs daily. Plus there is news. You could also enrich your blog by adding current news on your blog… try out the news widget from widgetmate.com



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