I am pleased to have been invited to be a contributor to NonDoc. For some time now, I have admired the thoughtful writings of many of the NonDoc contributors. Let me introduce myself.

For almost 30 years, I was chief executive officer of INTEGRIS Health, the state’s largest provider of health care services. After I retired in 2010, I wrote a book called Political Malpractice – How the Politicians Made a Mess of Health Reform. In that book, I attempted to explain why health care is so hard to reform and why both political parties have missed the boat by a wide margin.

For the past 20 years, I’ve also written a monthly column in the Journal Record. I appreciate this new opportunity to speak to my traditional audience as well as make many new friends through this avenue.

Communication preferences reveal generational differences

At a recent dinner, my wife and I sat next to a table of about 15 young adults, I’m guessing in the age range of 18 to 25. It struck me that everyone at the table was looking at their cell phone. During our 90-minute dinner, I never witnessed any of the individuals at the other table actually talk to each other. Everyone was constantly on their cell phone and barely put their phone down to eat. For all I know, they could have been texting the person sitting next to them.

This in no way is meant to be a criticism. It is not my intent to be the old geezer who talks negatively about the younger generation, their lifestyles, their music and their modes of communication. Clearly, if this table next to us was an example, this is a generation that prefers electronic communication over face-to-face conversation. So, I am not going to be my father who was outraged over Elvis Presley and The Beatles and couldn’t understand how anyone could enjoy their music. It is sufficient here to note that this generation clearly prefers a different style of communication.

This all led me to wonder how the health care system was going to relate to the young adults I witnessed in the adjoining table.

Two areas to consider when reforming health care

I intend, over time, to focus these pieces on two primary areas. First, there is a new generation of young adults whose view of the world, whose interaction with many traditional institutions and whose communication styles are completely different than preceding generations. Given their proclivity of not necessarily settling for traditions, the reasonable question to ask is how various industries will adapt to their desires.

My second area of focus will be to consider the potential actions of Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and Chase Bank in their desire to remake health care. In January, the three of them announced a collaborative to “fix health care.” This collaborative, nicknamed ABC, has gone so far as to hire noted author and doctor Atul Gawande as its executive director. Among the three companies, there are hundreds of thousands of employees and billions in market-purchasing power.

Join me on this adventure

These two factors, in my mind, are going to be intimately connected. Amazon has clearly demonstrated its desire to change the rules of commerce. If they are considering designing a new system for health care that works for the future, they will have to take into account the lifestyles and interests of a new generation. In the following months, I will examine the current rules of health care (written, codified or understood) and reflect upon how Amazon might break these rules and what might be the consequences.

This should be a fun exploration, and I look forward to communicating with the readers of NonDoc. I hope this is a shared adventure, and I look forward to hearing from many of you on what you think the rules of health care are as well as your thoughts on how the health care industry may and/or should change in the future.