Fast Company

Fast Talk: Medic!

Lois Quam says our balky health-care system presents a "classic redesign challenge."

Lois Quam

CEO, Ovations, a UnitedHealth Group company
Minneapolis, Minnesota

Quam, 45, runs the $25 billion division of UnitedHealth devoted to the health of people over 50. Her responsibilities include Medicare prescription-drug coverage, which will add $5 billion in revenue this year, and Evercare, Ovations's innovative elder-care program, which is growing at a 51% clip.

"The number of people in the United States without health coverage is increasing. States are under huge pressure to pay the health costs of the uninsured and people on low-income coverage at the same time they're trying to fund public schools. We have to recognize that without a system to ensure each individual's health security, we're undermining our economic and national security.

It's a classic redesign challenge. We need to shift our focus to care for the whole person rather than the current approach that treats people as a collection of organs or a set of diseases, each of which is treated differently. Individuals can really see the difference when a nurse tries to understand what's important to them in life and then organizes their medical care to keep them as healthy as possible, to avoid those crises, whether it's a fall or the flu, that can send people into a spiral--and take care of them where they live. As a result of that, we'll spend less money caring for people with the most significant needs and be more effective. This way of thinking is infusing everything that we're doing because the government is not going to be able to tax our way or cut our way out of the situation we're in."

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