Dr. Iman Abuzeid of ‘Incredible Health’: 5 Things We Must Do To Improve the US Healthcare System

Jason Hartman
Nov 11, 2020 · 9 min read

The first thing I would do is remove employer-driven health insurance. That would be an immediate first step toward solving patient access. We also need a simpler regulatory framework that prioritizes managing costs. Any government-provided healthcare needs to both expand access and manage costs, so that needs to shift.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) did a great job of expanding access but it did very little to manage costs. A part of that effort should include additional legislation to keep drug pricing affordable.

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Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

During my time in medical school, I came to realize that while one-on-one patient care was great, I wanted to make a greater scalable impact on entire health systems. I went on to pursue opportunities that allowed me to do that. Whether it was my time in management consulting doing hospital operations and strategy, getting my MBA at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, or leading product management at an early stage healthcare technology company, these were all opportunities for me to gain skills to make a huge, scalable impact. The ultimate version of making an impact was founding Incredible Health, where our vision is to help healthcare professionals live better lives.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

I’ll start off by saying what the most interesting thing that happens at Incredible Health is when nurses get their dream jobs, and hospital leaders are relieved. The most interesting stories at Incredible Health are those we hear from nurses who have had success on our platform. We’ve had nurses who tell us that they got the job of their dreams, that they never imagined working at a hospital so amazing, that their pay increased or doubled, that their commute times were cut in half, that they are able to do their continuing education courses on our platform for free when historically they have had to pay out of pocket for them, and that they’re now more easily able to send their kids to college.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Our mission makes us stand out: we help healthcare professionals live better lives.

We also have a value called “customer obsession” that sets us apart from other companies. We do whatever it takes to make employers and nurses succeed. An example of this is how our team rallied to help a nurse who got a fantastic job through our platform. She was hired for a permanent job in San Jose, CA, and moved to the area with her two kids. We discovered she was living in her car while waiting for her first paycheck. Everyone on the Incredible Health team, including the company itself, donated money to get her into a hotel for the first few weeks until she received her first paycheck, and shared resources with her on where she could get food and other resources in the meantime.

What advice would you give to other healthcare leaders to help their team to thrive?

My advice to other healthcare leaders is to remember that your job is to give your team autonomy and responsibility. Also, make sure you make decisions that enable your employees to succeed, such as improving processes, removing red tape, or simply keeping your word. Working in healthcare is going to be stressful no matter what, and your job is to keep improving the professional environment.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s jump to the main focus of our interview. According to this study cited by Newsweek, the US healthcare system is ranked as the worst among high income nations. This seems shocking. Can you share with us 3–5 reasons why you think the US is ranked so poorly?

I’ll start off by sharing the three criteria an ideal healthcare system needs to do well: deliver quality care and outcomes, manage and keep costs down, and ensure that as many people as possible have access to healthcare. Fulfilling all of these criteria is extremely challenging for every healthcare system in the world; there are often compromises and tradeoffs to balance quality, cost, and access.

The U.S. healthcare system has challenges with all three, and the complexity of our regulatory framework — and presence of so many special interests with very different goals and incentives — makes it difficult to enact change. The fact that healthcare is most often tied to your employer affects many Americans’ ability to access quality healthcare. Another issue is the dichotomy of profitability vs. patient outcomes. Providers, payors, drug companies all have different incentives, but every player is trying to balance quality care, manage costs, and drive profitability.

Finally, another major issue is that in the U.S. the patient does not come first. Unlike so many other industries, patients are not treated like customers who require phenomenal customer service, whose needs and priorities are valued. Ultimately, this lack of prioritization negatively impacts the patient experience.

You are a “healthcare insider”. If you had the power to make a change, can you share 5 changes that need to be made to improve the overall US healthcare system? Please share a story or example for each.

The first thing I would do is remove employer-driven health insurance. That would be an immediate first step toward solving patient access. We also need a simpler regulatory framework that prioritizes managing costs. Any government-provided healthcare needs to both expand access and manage costs, so that needs to shift.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) did a great job of expanding access but it did very little to manage costs. A part of that effort should include additional legislation to keep drug pricing affordable.

I’d also really like to see all the parties involved in the healthcare system — payors, providers, and the government — prioritize the patient as the customer and deliver on phenomenal customer service just like any other industry would.

Finally, healthcare workers, including nurses and doctors, should be appreciated and respected more. Not only because they are critical frontline workers, but they also hold many of the solutions to our healthcare challenges.

Ok, its very nice to suggest changes, but what concrete steps would have to be done to actually manifest these changes? What can a) individuals, b) corporations, c) communities and d) leaders do to help?

Individuals can engage with the public policy debate and press for more changes to the system itself. Corporations can start treating patients as they would customers. Communities can do more to address the social determinants of health — like housing, education, and nutrition. The healthcare system tends to become the backstop for other areas that are lacking so addressing social determinants of health would create positive change. Leaders can make meaningful and rapid changes to the system.

I’m interested in the interplay between the general healthcare system and the mental health system. Right now, we have two parallel tracks, mental/behavioral health and general health. What are your thoughts about this status quo? What would you suggest to improve this?

I believe that the general healthcare system and the mental health system should be integrated and be treated as one. Health insurance needs to cover mental health care and access to mental health services should expand.

I also think it’s important for healthcare practitioners to have a basic understanding of mental health and the services they can provide patients. Healthcare workers can bring heightened awareness that physical problems can be a manifestation of mental problems and recommend the appropriate treatment to patients.

How would you define an “excellent healthcare provider”?

I would define an excellent healthcare provider as someone who prioritizes patient care, and views themselves as delivering phenomenal customer service.

In addition to that, I think more providers need to acknowledge and understand that they work in a business — and therefore must have a business mindset. We can’t ignore that our facility is a business and we have to deliver on patient care while also delivering on business goals. An excellent healthcare provider is someone who understands and balances both, and accepts that multiple team members are needed to make both goals happen.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” — Theodore Roosevelt

I believe that you shouldn’t be on the sidelines watching people do things, or complain about others — you should get in, be proactive, fix things, and make a difference and impact.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Incredible Health’s mission is to help healthcare professionals live better lives, and we’re constantly updating our offerings to help nurses find and do their best work. One example of this is our new Nurse Salary Estimator. This free feature gives nurses a better idea of what they should expect to earn based on geography and current salary. Historically, transparent salary information has been nearly impossible for nurses to access, and this feature allows nurses to see their estimated salary range and make informed decisions about their careers. Another example is our free Continuing Education Units (CEU) offering. We offer free continuing education for nurses in the U.S. to help them obtain or renew licenses required to practice. This solves a major pain point for millions of nurses who are required to take courses to renew licenses, usually as an out-of-pocket expense, now completely free in their Incredible Health app.

What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a better healthcare leader? Can you explain why you like them?

Ben Horowitz’s “The Hard Thing About Hard Things” highlights the challenges of the entrepreneurial journey and that the number one job of the CEO is to manage your own psychology.

David Goldhill’s “Catastrophic Care: Why Everything We Think We Know about Health Care Is Wrong” explains the customer service problem in healthcare and really helped me understand the fundamental problems with the U.S. healthcare system.

I highly recommend both!

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

I am a huge fan of entrepreneurship and think there is a set of problems that can be solved with innovation. If I could inspire a movement where entrepreneurship becomes more feasible for more people, that would be incredible.

How can our readers follow you online?

You can find me on Twitter at @ImanAbuzeid and on LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/imanabuzeid/. You can also find Incredible Health on Twitter at @JoinIncredible.

Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!

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Jason Hartman

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Author | Speaker | Financial Guru | Podcast Rockstar

Authority Magazine

In-depth Interviews with Authorities in Business, Pop Culture, Wellness, Social Impact, and Tech. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.