The Affordable Care Act, with its subsidies, demonstrations, commissions, and study groups, embodies a considerable amount of regulatory and policy pressure on markets to improve the quality of health care. However, it is possible that this government-led movement will lead to a lot of talk about quality but not necessarily much improvement. A better strategy may be found through “disruptive innovation,” a market-driven approach that has balanced cost and quality in other industries. An example would be to provide lower-cost substitutes for some aspects of primary physician care, in the form of care at a retail clinic. Consumers might not perceive a clinic as a perfect substitute for physician care, but they might prefer the greater convenience and lower cost. Perhaps a little less quality for a lot less money might be acceptable to consumers and taxpayers, as we work to keep medical spending from siphoning off funds required for other needs.
(This research was not funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, but has been provided as an additional resource from this special issue of Health Affairs.)