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Simone’s OncOpinion: 6 Things Medical Centers Can Learn from Apple
Apple Inc. is one of the most admired, profitable, and successful companies in the world. It has demonstrated an ability to build superior computers, to overtake and dominate existing industries in certain areas (iPod, iPhone), and to create entirely new industry segments (iPad), seemingly always a step ahead.
While it is true that Apple’s success is based on physical products while a medical center’s product is mainly services, the parallels seem to hold up. I shall briefly describe a few of Hamel’s values and quotes and then draw a parallel to medical centers, particularly to clinical care.
Be passionate: “Great success is the product of a great passion—It comes from the tireless and inventive pursuit of a noble virtue…an exceptional ideal. For Apple that virtue is beauty.” No doubt the beauty and apparent simplicity of form and operation—no excessive or wasted features—are keys to our admiration of Apple products.
Lead, don’t follow: “I’m guessing that folks at Apple hate being derivative…[they sometimes borrow] but what gets them up in the morning is the chance to break new ground.” We see this in some research laboratories in medical centers, but too much research is incremental. The argument is that the funding agencies won’t go for radical new ideas. I don’t buy that; there are countless examples of truly innovative work that has been consistently funded by peer-review panels. It helps to have a good track record, of course.
Aim to surprise: “Apple seems committed to exceeding expectations—to evoking ‘Wow’ from even its most jaded customers.” Hamel then quotes Jonathan Ives, head of design at Apple, who was describing the new iPad: “When something exceeds your ability to understand how it works, it sort of becomes magical.” To paraphrase Hamel, how many medical center executives wake up in the morning hoping to do something magical for their patients?
Be unreasonable: “Greatness doesn’t come from compromises, from resigning oneself to trade-offs. It comes when trade-offs are transcended, when either/or gives way to both/and.” Although Apple’s products get the spotlight, Apple has a very efficient system including a “lean and agile supply chain.” This back office efficiency not only saves money, but also replicates the goal for products—to be lean, efficient, and beautiful. Of all the medical centers that I know, I have a hard time identifying more than a few that I would use those three words to describe.
Sweat the details: We all know of the pleasing aesthetics of Apple products, but Apple is also known for paying attention to the small details that make a positive difference in the user’s experience. “And when it works instead of aggravates, it’s because hundreds of people were sweating the details.” A patient may have a superb physician, great nursing care, and a convenient parking space, but a disrespectful check-in clerk can sour everything. Conversely, a patient may be coddled with amenities and plush upholstery, but a careless surgical procedure or medication error makes the former insignificant. It is really, really hard to have a team of caregivers who are all above average, but those details make a huge difference in patients’ lives and staff pride.
Think like an engineer, feel like an artist: “A company can’t produce beautiful products if the bean counters win every argument.” Apple Stores are a sharp contrast to other retailers. They are neat, understatedly beautiful, and efficiently organized. Also, one cannot be in the store more than a few minutes without someone offering to help. The store design and staffing are costly, but how many times have you heard someone raving about the design of any department store or electronic shop?
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