Future of Health Summit

When Life Gives You Health-Care Reform

By Leonard D’Avolio

I was walking with colleagues, discussing how the latest round of health-care payment reforms would finally cure health care, when we came across the ultimate symbol of American entrepreneurialism: a young girl had set up a lemonade stand with a sign advertising 25 cents a cup. 

“I’ll take one!” I declared, in support of this young girl and lemonade in general. As I attempted to settle my tab, my colleague stated that he too would like a cup of lemonade and was willing to pay 30 cents!   

“I will pay half now,” he announced. “The other half will arrive 90 to 120 days later, assuming the lemonade meets eight of my predetermined measures of value.” Before he could finish explaining the 30 possible criteria from which the girl could choose, our third companion announced his thirst.   

“Now, now, friends. This is my treat. Lemonade for us all!” he exclaimed and dropped a dollar on the checkered tablecloth. The young entrepreneur was rightfully pleased, until my colleague explained that we might require more lemonade, but the flat rate of $1 should cover it.   

She eyed each of us up and down carefully, gauging our potential lemonade intake, and asked how much lemonade we might expect to consume. To which all three of us laughed, “My dear girl, how could we possibly know that in advance?” 

As we watched the young girl retreat into her home in a fit of tears, we paused to consider which proposal was so offensive that it caused such an early retirement. 

“What if,” my colleague posited, “it was not the specifics of any one of our proposals that caused our young friend to abandon her lemon-flavored ambitions?” We leaned in to see where exactly this train of thought might lead. 

“What if, instead, the pressure of meeting all three of our demands at the same time was to blame?” 

The poor thing. Clearly, our young friend wasn’t ready for the rigors of running a business. With that, we returned the empty pitcher to the abandoned stand and went on our way, turning our attention once again to more adult topics. 

Written By:

Leonard D’Avolio
CEO and Co-Founder, Cyft; Assistant Professor, Harvard Medical School