TEDMED and Innovation in Healthcare

Medical Challenges screen shot

By Jason Brandt

How important is innovation in healthcare? If you listent to the attendees of this year’s TEDMED conference it’s one of the top priorities for our industry.

TEDMED has been polling conference attendees about the the “The Top 20 Great Challenges in Health and Medicine” and “Inventing Wellness Programs That Work” and “Achieving Medical Innovation” were voted #1 and #4 by some of the brightest minds in the healthcare space. It’s clear that there’s a dramatic need for new ideas and “out of the box” thinking in healthcare. The big question is where should it come from.

As one of lead business people for a digital agency, I’m often contacted by clients who are looking for solutions that don’t come from within their corporate structure. Other times they’re looking for a way to extract value and critical thinking out of their organization. Many times we succeed in working together to develop unique solutions. But sometimes (too often in fact), we’ll work together to develop a strategy only to see it not adopted or worse yet, not embraced by the entrenched corporate culture.

It occurs across numerous industries (not just healthcare) and “not invented here” is an obstacle that many managers have had to try and overcome. But is it simply a question of territorial pride?

Pharma research and development has followed a tried and true approach over the past few decades. It begins with years of research in to the development of a drug, followed by a lengthy period of clinical testing, then FDA approval and eventual marketing and bringing of the product to market. A launch cycle of 5-10 years is the industry norm and the process is as linear as it gets. But, as many futurists and technology writers have noted, our current rate of technology growth is not linear, it’s exponential. I’m not going to cite Moore’s Law here but it seems like sometimes Pharma innovation is dead before it even gets out of the gate because our internal systems are set up to handle a rate of change that hasn’t existed for 20 years now.

How can we turn things around and create business units that can keep up with the rapid changes in technology and behavior we’re currently experiencing? is the solution to bring in outside agencies to jump start a culture of innovation? Or to create “skunkworks” within a company, business units that understand the corporate culture and know how to circumvent roadblocks that may occur. Or is there another solution? 20% time like Google?

TEDMED and similar conferences are great kickstarters for innovation. And I have tremendous respect for all the small Healthcare startups that are looking to change the rules of the game. But ultimately, real innovation needs to come from companies with the resources that can really move the needle.

How is your company addressing the need for innovation? What are you doing to change the way healthcare works today?




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