Do Healthcare Innovation Centers Deliver?

Healthcare innovation centers might be a fad or an important tool for fixing what's broken.

The new thing in sick care administration is to create healthcare innovation centers, modeled somewhat after other industry R&D and skunkworks. Their goal, ostensibly, is to innovate our way out of the sick care and healthcare mess. They focus mostly on quality, cost, and access to care and range in size, scope and vision. A recent review identified 25 hospital innovation centers.

Now, even the American Medical Association is in the game and has anted up $15 million.

As you would expect, there are now conferences, webinars, and white papers about health innovation centers, best practices and their impact to date. Accelerators are changing to accommodate the realities of the sick care industry.

Corporations are creating innovation outposts to stay ahead of the curve.

Health innovation center leaders and participants will need to address some issues to be effective and deliver impact:

1. The last mile. All the systems engineering in the world won't make a difference until we crack the code on how to change human behavior.

2. The rules. Most will have relatively limited impact until and unless the reimbursement rules substantially change. Rules drive ecosystems that create business models that deploy and scale innovation. Right now innovation centers are trying to use new tactics but can only deploy limited innovation strategies without a new playing field. They are living in the no man's land between the now and the new.

3. Systems thinking overcoming silos. Healthcare is notoriously siloed at almost every level, from department to department to one sick care system to the next.

4. Patient willingness and ability to engage. The assumption is that more patient "engagement" will be mean better outcomes. That needs to be validated and we need to do a better job of targeted patient segments who want to take responsibility for their care and assume the consequences for the results.

5. Shifting value factors. Medical care is becoming commoditized. Patients can't judge quality and cost since they are so opaque so they use service, speed, convenience and experience as proxies. There is relatively little correlation between satisfied patients and the quality of care they receive.

6. Data integration and interoperability. Resolving the “protect but share” dictum will be challenging.

7. Measuring and defining innovation. Big orbit change is necessary, not incrementalism. Innovation is a measure of the multiple of user defined value that results when compared to the existing competitive offering.

8. Lead innovators, don't manage innovation. We need leaderpreneurs and followers with an entrepreneurial mindset willing to fail at low cost.

9. Innovation management systems. There are many ways to foster, package, test, validate, prioritize, and deploy components of an R&D portfolio. The process needs to efficient, effective and transparent to the users.

10. Execution. Inspiration and perspiration. In the end, no idea, invention, discovery, or process is worth much without a team who can execute or deploy it.

Healthcare innovation centers seem to have a different focus than community-based entrepreneurship centers. Yet, they should both be focused on the same thing: transferring value to patients. Physician centered value centers should have the following features:

1. Focus on creating value transfer to patients, not startups.

2. Create a separate value proposition for the different kinds of physician entrepreneurs: private practitioners, technopreneurs, intrapreneurs, investors, consultants.

3. Include rapid prototyping facilities.

4. Integrate non-MDs from other industries to create a larger, more eclectic community of interest.

5. Include patients and others who might help with the customer discovery and development process.

6. Include human subjects trial support.

7. Accommodate the schedules of practicing clinicians.

8. Use state of the art teaching technologies.

9. Have an active and effective mentoring process.

10. Create a business model that doctors will buy.

Most don't do these things and that's part of the reason doctors have been disintermediated and marginalized from the value creation process.

Sick care innovation centers might be a fad or an important tool for fixing what's broken. We'll have to see. In the meantime, enjoy yourself at all those conferences.