Health Innovation 101

Biomedical and health innovation is going through some exciting times. However, like all major industry shifts, there will be bumps in the road.

Health innovation has gone mainstream. Driven by multiple factors including complex challenges, continually sky-rocketing costs that threaten the federal budget, and patient and physician demands to fix the system and make it safer and more equitable, biomedical and health entrepreneurs are working overtime to create products and services that add value.

However, many health service organizations are struggling to find the keys to the innovation treasury, struggling with cultures, policies, procedures, systems, and failed innovation leadership. The result is wasted time, effort, and money, or worse, frustration and cynicism about "inNOvation".

The problem is not unique to healthcare. Almost every industry sees innovation as its competitive advantage, and yet, few are able to get the ball into the end-zone.

There are a few fundamentals about healthcare innovation:

1. Sick care and preventive medicine are different from other industries for many reasons.

2. Biomedical and health innovation are different for many reasons.

3. Health innovation requires an innovation management system.

4. Innovation goes through 5 stages. We are presently experiencing a healthcare innovation land grab in various stages of experimentation. The result will a battlefield littered with dead ideas and a few victors.

5. Like all innovation, it is rapidly outpacing the legal and regulatory structure designed to balance protecting the public without stifling innovation. Sometimes, almost in desperation or for political motives, the heavy hand wins. Sometimes the invisible hand wins.

6. As the world gets more connected, things get potentially more complicated. At the same time, it opens opportunities to help entrepreneurs see what they thought was scarce, but, is in fact in unrecognized abundance. Sick care, for the most part, can't be fixed from inside.

7. Drucker's principles of innovation and the 7 sources of innovation have essentially remained unchanged.

8. Innovators are their own best critics. They know the problems. They understand the ecosystems and the complexities of sick care and disease management and prevention. So do patients. Both have, unfortunately, been excluded from the innovation and ideation supply chain too often and should be included in new product development efforts as early as possible in the idea generation, vetting, and experimentation phases. COINs make it easier.

9. Innovation needs leaderpreneurs, not managers.

10. Engaged knowledge workers with an entrepreneurial mindset are rare. In most instances, they can't be created, but rather self-selected and given a supportive environment to thrive. Like medicine, you can't train residents how to be a surgeon. They self-select, usually successfully, in medical school. Then, you teach them how to do surgery.

Biomedical and health innovation is going through some exciting times. However, like all major industry shifts, there will be bumps in the road and, like a photograph developing, a picture of success that only becomes evident over time after going through various stages. Of course there will be winners and losers. The hope and promise is that patients won't be part of the latter.