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The Sharing Economy Comes To Hospitals To Help Cut Costs

Hey, is that a spare x-ray machine you’re not using?

The Sharing Economy Comes To Hospitals To Help Cut Costs
[Top photo: Flickr user Ruhrfisch]

Health care is one of the most wasteful of all industries. Estimates show the U.S. system needlessly spends up to $1.2 trillion a year, all told.

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Could collaborative consumption help reduce costs?

We’ve seen in other fields how sharing economy platforms such as Lyft and Airbnb can make use of under-used assets, like cars that normally sit idle on street corners or houses that would normally be empty during vacations. Cohealo is doing something similar for hospital assets, allowing for the sharing of drills and neuro-surgery systems.

Army Medicine Flickr

“Hospitals buy things at the individual level and everyone ends up owning the exact same thing. They don’t use them and it creates an incredible amount of waste,” says Cohealo’s founder and CEO Mark Slaughter. “If we can collaborate and co-ordinate the consumption, that’s a good thing for the economics of the health system and a good thing for patient outcomes as well.”

Cohealo offers a software package allowing hospitals to list operating room items. If doctors need something for an upcoming scheduled procedure, they can look up the equipment and schedule it for delivery. The cost is normally $50 to $400 a day, Slaughter says.

Since launching two years ago, the Florida company says it has signed up a couple of dozen hospital groups and organized “thousands” of shares. Some hospitals have already saved more than $1 million, Slaughter says. This December and January, two major hospital groups are set to come onboard as well, which would bring the total number of hospitals to more than 400.

Cohealo organizes logistics, with most of the transactions occurring within a 100 mile radius around major metropolitan areas like Boston. “We think health systems should be the owners of equipment, not just hospitals. It breaks up that emotional attachment to say ‘this is mine’ and it becomes more of a flexible pool of assets,” Slaughter says.

At the moment, the sharing is only within health systems but he sees potential for different groups to collaborate as well. “We don’t yet have a Presbyterian in New York collaborating with a North Shore-LIJ, but we think that is a natural progression of our model,” he adds.

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The challenge would be getting competitors to “play nicely in the sandbox together”–though it’s nice to think it’d be possible if saving money and improving health was the wider outcome.

About the author

Ben Schiller is a New York staff writer for Fast Company. Previously, he edited a European management magazine and was a reporter in San Francisco, Prague, and Brussels.

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