Radial Tires, Computers, and Doctors

I am a big fan of the former hedge fund manager, turned writer, Andy Kessler. I think I have read all of his books – and apply many of the things he writes about in building businesses – and get excited whenever he has a new article in the Wall Street Journal.

In June of 2017, Mr. Kessler published an article in the Wall Street Journal entitled The Radial Tire Lesson for Silicon Valley.

In this article, Mr. Kessler compares the computer industry (and, along with it, the tablet and smartphone industry as well) to that of the tire industry. 

Tires before the radial tires lasted about12,000 miles. And while initially much more expensive, radial tires were able to get to at least 40,000 miles. People didn’t necessarily drive more. Their tires just lasted longer. (And caused the tire industry to shrink.)

Because technology was growing and changing so fast in the 90s and early 00s, computers used to be needed to be replaced every 18-24 months. This has carried over to the tablet and smartphone marketplace and was why a new version of tablets and smartphones was released every 18 months or so.

Now, people are keeping their devices longer. Computers have been lasting longer for some time now. Mobile devices are now at the point where people are not replacing them as fast as before. Sure, there are advances in technology from one version to the next, but the leaps in technology, for example, from an iPhone X to an iPhone 12 are just not that great to justify a new iPhone every 18 months. At least for the average smartphone user. Therefore, the average computer/mobile device user does not see the value in purchasing the newer version.

So how does this relate to Doctors? 

Well, when I first read this article, I thought about comparing medical technologies and how the barriers in the field have had quite the opposite affect. There have been very few advancements in the treatment of disease. More specifically, there have been little-to-no cures in anything. Where the free markets were allowed to seek the best alternatives for drivers and technology users, this has not been the case in medicine or medical advancements. 

But that is not the point I’m of this post.

The radial tire and the computer/tablet/smartphone industries show two of the thousands upon thousands of examples of how humans will pay for value when they see it being added into their lives (whether it is real or perceived).

So, again, how does this relate to Doctors?

The vast majority of Doctors do not understand the the value of the service they provide. As such, their usefulness, or at least the way the insurance companies and hospital administrators perceive their value, continues to wane. The current value of the service that most physicians provide is declining, as evidenced by the increasing demand by insurance companies and hospital administrators for the use of Physicians Assistants and Nurse Practitioners. 

It is the stated objective of many in the technology industry, working in conjunction with insurance companies and hospital administrators to eliminate up to 80% of the current Doctors with algorithms and robots

Let’s face it, the profession of being a Doctor has not changed very much since the 1960s. And instead of being LudditesPhysicians – as both a career and a calling – need to adapt. As Charles Darwin said:

“It is not the strongest of the species which survives, nor the most intelligent…but the one most responsive to change.”

The next great advancement in medicine will be because of two main things:

  1. Physicians who have thrown off the shackles of the white collar factory and become Medical Advisors and,
  2. Medical Advisors who have learned how to help their patients body heal itself.