S+B: So innovation is the key to future growth?
FREEMAN: Innovation is very important, but the bedrock will always be quality and service. Because in the end, technology can be replicated. We’ve got 130 million patient encounters a year. All we have to do is screw it up — not only in the testing, but in billing or any other encounter people have with us. If the noise gets loud enough at the managed-care companies or the physicians’ offices, they’ll walk away. Part of the simplicity of this business is that, if you can excel in quality and service, it will differentiate you from your competitors.
S+B: Where, then, will technology have the greatest impact?
FREEMAN: An area where there is the potential for differentiation in terms of technology that will drive growth, even more so than new tests, is information technology. Because, in the end, we’re really an information company. So the ability to provide information to physicians and, ultimately, to the patient that helps lead to better health-care decisions is part of how this company has evolved.
In health care, you’ve got lab results. You’ve got imaging results. And you’ve got the conversation with the doctor. Those are the three basic sources of information from which health-care decisions are made. The opportunity to have a medical record that’s uniquely yours, that you transport with you, whether it’s on a CD or whether it’s ultimately an implanted chip, is the future of this business.
That kind of chronological, unique, always available information has never been used in health care. It represents a significant opportunity for our business.
Reprint No. 04410
Randall Rothenberg ([email protected]) is editor-in-chief of strategy+business.