Disrupting health care in order to redeem it

By Mark Blocher  ·  Jun 20, 2023

Part 1 of 2.

in 2000, long before Obamacare, COVID-19, and the emergence of increasingly aggressive “woke” medicine, this newsletter published a four-part series of articles that I wrote titled “The Need for a Dissident Community in Modern Medicine,” calling for Christian medical professionals to push back against the paganizing of American medicine, and openly defend Biblical principles of medical ethics.

I argued that Christians should be a vocal presence within the medical mainstream, resisting the temptation to either remain silently compliant or abandon medical practice. I called for Christians to be “dissidents.” My position then was that Christian doctors and nurses would increasingly face opposition to their Christian beliefs and values, but they should endure the slings and arrows to ensure a Christian presence within the mainstream of modern medicine.

Twenty-three years after the publication of this series, my position has changed. I am now convinced that Christians must create a parallel health care system that disrupts the medical status quo—to redeem health care by changing how it is delivered, is funded, and better serves the needs of patients. As co-founder and CEO of Christian Healthcare Centers, I know this is possible because we are already doing it, albeit on a smaller scale than what is needed. This article is an invitation to join the movement.

The art of the disruption

Netflix disrupted Blockbuster’s business model, resulting in the video rental chain going out of business. It isn’t the first time something like this has happened in the world of business. It’s called innovation and entrepreneurship. Netflix’s disruption of the video entertainment space was fueled by technological changes, e.g., video streaming vs. DVD rental, and other cultural shifts, such as more people wanting on-demand video.

It is a familiar prescription. Think of how the internet transformed retail business and just about every other part of the economy—except health care. It took a pandemic to open the eyes of the medical policymakers to the virtues of telemedicine. However, we also saw how U.S. health care remains entrenched in an outdated delivery model that is focused more on payments than patients.

In a study of 12,000 patients from seven industrialized countries, American patients were found to have the highest rate of dissatisfaction with their health care. According to the study, 34 percent believe the U.S. health care system needs to be rebuilt completely. More recent studies reflect growing patient cynicism toward American health care.

Now, doctors and nurses have joined the chorus. Over 50 percent of practicing physicians express negative feelings about American health care and would not recommend a medical career to young people. A 2023 national study conducted by the National Council of State Nursing Boards reported 100,000 nurses left the profession during the COVID-19 pandemic, and another 700,000 plan to leave by 2027, creating what the Council called, “... a national health care crisis” if not corrected. Even more troubling is that 59 percent of newly trained nurses younger than 25 plan to leave nursing within the next 12 months.

Although patients and medical professionals are dissatisfied with American health care, what about those who occupy the commanding heights of health care—politicians, medical schools, hospital associations, insurance companies, and government regulators? I won’t catalog here the mountain of literature that highlights the deficiencies they acknowledge but seem powerless to improve. The smartest and most influential voices in medicine postulate many strategies to address funding and health care access discrepancies, but none have worked. Medicare for All is destined to be a monumental failure if it is ever implemented. Yet, as dysfunctional and fragmented as our health care “system” is, it still commands one-fifth of our economy. Someone needs to disrupt this pretty quickly, or we are going to end up with a health care system that has all the quality of the Veterans Administration, all the efficiency of the U.S. Post Office, and all the compassion of the IRS.

I am now convinced that Christians must create a parallel health care system that disrupts the medical status quo—to redeem health care by changing how it is delivered, funded, and better serves the needs of patients.

An essential element of the art of disruption is doing the unexpected, courageously discarding outdated systems and implementing bold new ones that truly focus on solving real problems. Much of modern medicine is too institutionalized and too tethered to its revenue-capture mantra to be redeemable. The modern medical industrial complex consists of a labyrinth of accredited medical schools, professional associations, controllers of medical board certifications, third-party reimbursement formulas, state licensing boards, and highly paid lobbyists, all of which are sharply protective of the status quo.

Disrupting the medical cartel does not mean abandoning beneficial medical technologies, lifesaving treatments, or effective therapies, although these are being corrupted, too. We see medicine engaged in the farming and harvesting of human tissues, the wanton destruction of unborn babies, the mutilation of minors in the name of “gender-affirming” health care, and the medicalization of killing under the guise of rendering “aid in dying.”

It is bad enough to corrupt the economics of health care, but corrupting the core ethical principles of patient care is intolerable.

For Christians, continuing to support such a system with our presence and resources is rapidly becoming harder to justify, especially when we have the opportunity to create an alternative.

Creating the disrupter

At some point, disappointment and disillusionment with the status quo has to be replaced with a bold decision. We can be disgusted with and complain about our overpriced, overregulated, overly bureaucratic health care system all we want, but if we keep using it indiscriminately and funding its voracious, insatiable appetite with our money while it belittles and undermines our Christian values, nothing will change.

There is no way to sugarcoat the daunting task of redeeming health care. Unless God intervenes, anyone who tries to do it will fail. The task ahead is not merely an effort to change a business model. Redeeming health care means engaging in hand-to-hand spiritual combat! That is not an overstatement. Not only is health care about matters of life and death, but it is also an arena where so much is at stake spiritually.

Spiritual wellness is foundational to all other forms of wellness. There is a reason Jesus connected His teaching ministry with healing. Wherever Jesus taught, He also healed. The Gospels record numerous times when Jesus encountered demon-possessed individuals manifesting what doctors today would interpret as medical issues. Medical needs and spiritual wellness are related. We must not forget the Apostle Paul’s warnings to Corinthian believers that their abuse of the Lord’s Supper resulted in physical weakness, illness, and death (1 Corinthians 11:30). Likewise, James 5:14-20 connects physical illness with spiritual wellness. Indeed, we do not just battle with flesh and blood, but with principalities and powers; with spiritual wickedness in high places. Could this be any clearer than it is today?

I hasten to say that I am not suggesting that all illness is an indication of sin in a person’s life, or that their illness is indicative of demonic interference. Nor am I saying that it is wrong for godly Christian medical professionals to practice within the existing system. I personally know many who faithfully serve their patients who also lament the medical status quo and would love to see it changed. More of them would transition to a better system if it existed. That is why we must create one.

Next month: The Body of Christ as health care disrupter

Mark Blocher is a Samaritan Ministries Board Member and the chief executive officer of Christian Healthcare Centers in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Mark Blocher is co-founder of Christian Healthcare Centers and a member of the Samaritan Ministries Board of Directors.