Commodification is the process by which an item that possesses no economic interest is assigned monetary worth, and hence how economic values can replace social values that previously governed how the item was treated. Commodification describes a transformation of relationships formerly untainted by commerce into commercial relationships that are influenced by monetary interests.
As payors move away from reimbursing providers simply for performing services (volume-based purchasing) to paying them for the value they deliver (value-based purchasing), we must acknowledge that we are “commodifying” health-care quality and affordability. By doing so, the economic viability of medical practices and health-care institutions will depend on delivering value, and to the extent that this determines a competitive advantage in the marketplace, providers might be reluctant to share innovations in quality and affordability.
We must not let this happen to health care. Competing on the ability to effectively deploy and manage new innovations to enhance quality and affordability is acceptable. Competing, however, on the access to these innovations is ethically unacceptable for an industry that is indispensable to the health and well-being of its consumers.
Coke and Pepsi do not provide indispensable products to society. It is thus fine for soft-drink makers to keep their recipes top secret and fight vigorously to prevent others from gaining access to their innovations. Health-care providers, however, cannot morally defend refusing to share new products and processes that decrease costs, improve patient experience, decrease morbidity, prolong life, or otherwise enhance quality.
We must, therefore, strive to continuously collaborate with our hospitalist colleagues and HM programs across the country to propagate new innovation. When someone builds a better mouse trap, it should be shared freely so that all patients have the opportunity to benefit. We must not let the pursuit of economic competitive advantage prevent us from collaborating and sharing ideas on how to make our health-care system better.
Fixing health care is complicated, and employing collaboration in order to do so will be required. Hospitalists have vast experience in working effectively with others, and should leverage this experience to lead the charge on efforts to enhance physician-patient collaboration. Hospitalists should strive to continuously collaborate with their colleagues to ensure open access to new discoveries that improve health-care quality and affordability. Those interested in learning more about how to be successful collaborators might find it helpful to seek out additional resources on the subject. Collaboration, by Morten T. Hansen, is a good source on how to turn this concept into action.3
- Hoffman A, Emanuel E. Reengineering US health care. JAMA. 2013;309(7):661-662.
- Frost, S. A matter of perspective: deconstructing satisfaction measurements by focusing on patient goals. The Hospitalist. 2013:17(3):59.
- Hansen M. Collaboration: how leaders avoid the traps, create unity, and reap big results. Boston: Harvard Business Press; 2009.