For those who are not familiar with Steam, Wikipedia offers a fairly good definition:

Steam is an Internet-based digital distribution platform developed by Valve Corporation offering digital rights management (DRM), multiplayer, and social networking. Steam provides the user with installation and automatic updating of games on multiple computers, and community features such as friends lists and groups, cloud saving, and in-game voice and chat functionality.

As a fairly avid casual gamer myself, I’ve found Steam to be increasingly effective in not only game distribution, but ever more so in creating an entire ecosystem of gamers and developers with incredible self-sustaining economics. In fact, the economics and distribution power of the platform/community have grown so much over the years that Steam can now be considered as one of the top (and few) places where independent game developers can garner a sizeable following of fans. For a bit more of the company’s history, click here.

As much as I’d like to rave about Steam, this post is meant to be a healthcare story.

There are several reasons for me to highlight Steam as a platform for what I envision as a potential prospect of our future healthcare solutions.

So the way it works today is that you’d first download the Steam platform onto your desktop. You’d have the ability to browse their store of games, purchase a game, download and install the game, then play the game. Pretty simple workflow, right? What’s interesting in this model is the ability for gamers to readily and quickly browse Downloadable Content (DLCs) as well as Community Assets (from Steam Workshop) which will enhance your gameplay in different ways.

Let’s take this analogy and extend it into the healthcare arena.

Suppose that you are a healthcare executive (“gamer”) who is making important decisions on a day-to-day basis. You are inherently interested (and excited) to figure out the best ways to solve the issues your organization is experiencing and/or are interested in solving (“type of game”). To that end, you’d like to browse for your options (“choosing the game in the category you’re interested in”) and this is where you hit your first roadblock – the “games” are distributed across all sorts of platforms…wouldn’t it be nice if most of what you need are aggregated on a centralized platform like Steam?

This is not a big issue, however, because as consumers of these products, I’m sure you’d find plenty of ways to get the “games” you want to play. Now, what is important is what follows the purchase of the games.

The reason the Steam-like platform is so attractive is the intrinsic ability for gamers (in this case, healthcare executives) to quickly and easily browse feature enhancements (DLCs and Assets) which builds upon the base game (in this case, base healthcare solution). The ability to expand the base solution’s capabilities is immense and truly leverages a community’s effort. This is important because we must recognize that a “healthcare analytics solution” isn’t the end-all-be-all for healthcare executives. If we look at the journey from data to outcomes, we can see that oftentimes, the point solutions we prescribe to only gets us halfway there. The few end-to-end solutions are far too bulky to be played around with.

Let’s for a moment consider the following. Instead of buying a game with ALL of the features and expansions (end-t0-end solutions) or a game with only base features (point solutions), what if we position the game as an underlying engine which additional features and enhancements can be readily coupled upon? You take your data, feed it through this base engine, couple on a few feature enhancements to further process the data, then couple on some workflows to render your insights in a much more consumable way than ever before.

What I’m suggesting here isn’t a call for more APIs. We’ve got plenty of that and it seems as though everyone’s working on one. To complete the journey from raw data to true health outcomes (what you’d actually pay for), we’ll need the engine, the feature enhancement, as well as custom workflows to work seamlessly together. You, as the end user, should have the ability to browse an entire inventory of any of these components mentioned above and pick your own “cocktail” specific to your needs.

And oh boy, we’re just getting started here. Now mix in the business model conversation – which parties would you like to involve in both the creation as well as the enhancement of any of the components mentioned above? In the Steam model, gamers typically would pay for the base game and the DLCs, but would have free access to most of the community assets (created by fellow community members). Can this model be similarly replicated to our case here?

I’d imagine this post as an initiation of this conversation, and I’d love to welcome my fellow colleagues/peers’ feedback and thoughts.

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