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Solving a sumo-sized healthcare problem

A good friend once told me that the problem with American capitalism, is that we can never do less. Our solution to most problems is to do more. Want to fix congestion in our cities? Build bigger highways. Want to deal with our energy problem? Drill for more oil. Want to lower your cholesterol? Take your Lipitor! In 2018 my wife and I took a trip to Japan. We were fortunate enough to catch the final day of the National Grand Sumo Tournament at Kokugikan stadium in Tokyo. Watching 400 lb men try to throw each other out of a ring is truly awesome, and a little bit shocking.The thing that shocked us the most however, was the minimalism of the whole production. No jumbo trons, no beer vendors, no TV time outs, no $20 hot dogs, and no celebrity boxes. Just a ring (the dohyo) and some big humans. Contrast this with the modern American sporting event. We Americans have found about 1000 ways to supersize the spectacle.

You, of course, know where I’m going with this. Healthcare is sucking the air out of the proverbial room. Healthcare spend represents 19% of our GDP. We talk endlessly about the need for efficiency, but then what do we do in the post-pandemic world? We dump more than $50b of venture dollars into … more tools! Now, I’m not arguing against capitalism, digital tools, or the NBA (I was at Heat game 6 against the Celtics and it was epic!), but there is a better way forward for healthcare.

What if we just… did less?

At Hummingbird, we believe that healthcare already has much of the talent and tools it needs to deliver better care. But our organizations are expected to do everything. They of course need to take care of patients, but also build hospitals, and recruit doctors, and buy MRI machines, and negotiate with payers… and also buy, build, install, maintain, and innovate around world class technology. The truth is, no large organization in any other industry is expected to shoulder the burden our Providers do. And adding the 400th digital scheduling tool to the mix isn’t working. Perhaps the answer to solving some of our hardest problems then, is not to buy more stuff, but to better use the resources we already have, in a smarter and more aligned way.

Our goal, therefore, is simple. Work hand-in-hand with providers to help them do less.

We do this by taking on the technological and operational burden on the Providers’ behalf, which allows them to focus on what they are great at: taking care of patients.

We knew that to create an organization with impact, we were going to have to come out of the gate quickly. So, we raised a large seed round, hired 20 of some of the best people we knew in healthcare, and found an aligned provider partner. We are now in the trenches with our first customer and plan to have our second customer in the next couple of months. We have a tremendous amount of work to do, but I’ve never been more aligned with a mission. 

I am so thankful to be surrounded by such a strong and supportive community. If we’re going to solve a sumo-sized problem, let’s take a page out of the Grand Sumo Tournament playbook. 

Thanks for reading,