Some great ideas are sparking here, helped along by Robin’s notion of a “Starbucks API.” Noah Brier calls it a “physical API” (see also the smart comments) and Kit Eaton at Fast Company extends the concept (tongue-in-cheek) to Microsoft, Apple, and Twitter. But I like Drew Weilage’s proposal at Our Own System the best:
The idea: create a “physical API”… of the Mayo Clinic or Cleveland Clinic. Copy their entire way of doing business and paste it into hospitals around the country. In a nicely wrapped package deliver their systems for decision-making, integration, coordination, and expertise. Include their human resources practices, innovation efforts, and technology. Import their employment model, their bargaining power, and of course brand recognition. This is a beta release so if anything is left out, it can be included in a later version.
Mix with water. Implement. Poof! Great health care!
Just think about it, Local County Hospital, powered by the Mayo Clinic or Our Lady Health Care System, supported by the Cleveland Clinic; it’s a definite brand extender.
Seriously — this has, potentially, amazing public policy implications. My dad, who’s worked in the government for-practically-ever in Wayne County/Detroit (first at the jail, then in public health, then in lots of places), always used to stun his bosses, co-workers, everybody, because whenever they ran into a persistent problem or one they couldn’t solve, he would get on the phone to people he knew in Oakland County, or Chicago, or Denver, to see how they handled it, who would in turn refer him to other people, etc.
You can get these information bottlenecks even when there’s no competing interests, and nothing proprietary — it’s just hard (without an API) for people to know where or how to look.
(Also note – at this point, whenever I hear terrific health care ideas, I do a little dance, with a chant that kind of sounds like this: a-TUL! Ga-WAND-e! A-tul, Ga-Wande!)