Since before the WLSA was officially formed, we have suggested to major company leadership that being on the socially correct side of health issues would enhance their brand and value.
Non-healthcare companies are increasingly becoming involved in personal health. The environmental movement lead to this type of cultural change in which all companies in the public eye have examined their impact on natural resources, taken some steps to reduce it and tell the world about their activities on the “Sustainability” tab on their home page.
One example of a non-healthcare company embracing personal health is Samsung, which has doubled down on its commitment to personal mobile health (http://www.modernhealthcare.com/article/20140529/NEWS/305299943). Pwc’s recent analysis of the Fortune 50 companies has numerous examples. The firm characterized 24 of the largest companies in the world as ”healthcare new entrants,” defined as non-healthcare companies that have significant business initiatives in health and health care (http://pwchealth.com/cgi-local/hregister.cgi/reg/pwc-hri-new-entrants.pdf). Public companies do not take these steps lightly.
Now, the most famous brand in technology has (almost) embraced the notion that doing good in health is good for a public company. Apple has reportedly told the FDA that there may be a “moral obligation” to help consumers understand their own health (http://appleinsider.com/articles/14/06/09/fda-says-apple-feels-a-moral-obligation-to-improve-health-tracking-data-collection). Whatever concerns one may have about Apple’s walled garden, the company has earned its respect as a judge of consumer culture. Let’s hope that the company takes the next step and publicly embraces this moral (social) obligation. Others will quickly follow and that will do much good for its own profitability and for society. CVS Caremark’s decision to stop selling tobacco products is another example of this mentality. It is smart business.
The immense US consumer sector is beginning to consider the inefficiency of the health care sector as an opportunity to be disrupted, democratized and downsized by delivering health products and services in ways that people prefer. Target, Walmart and Apple stores will not be doing surgeries but they can change the culture of health to reduce the demand for health care, and they can certainly improve the performance, delivery and utilization of many products and services that have traditionally been available only through medical channels. Traditional healthcare institutions need to rethink their long term plans. The future may change more rapidly than they expect.