Inward and Outward: True Healthcare Innovation Works in Both Directions

The rapid advance of technology and research translates into limitless opportunities for solving some of the most critical issues facing U.S. healthcare, and advancing healthcare as a whole in the country and beyond its borders.

The past decade has brought about truly disruptive and landmark innovations – from the widespread application of big data, to 3D-printed “living” body parts, to genomic testing for identifying and treating genetic conditions.

To fuel and sustain these developments, and continue to improve the care continuum, the most successful companies are embracing innovation from the outside as well as the inside: leveraging market trends to develop new products, services, and business models while developing and nurturing an internal culture of innovation.

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The Growing Need for Innovation

Healthcare leaders are faced with a giant to-do list, marked by an increasing need to improve outcomes and care access, reduce harm and waste, and lower costs for all stakeholders – all of which is compounded by rapid growth in care demand and a sharp increase in chronic diseases.

In a recent survey from NEJM Catalyst, 65 percent of respondents reported a belief that hospitals and health systems are most in need of disruptive innovation, followed by 47 percent for healthcare IT (such as vendor technologies like EMRs and clinical decision support), 36 percent for primary care, and 34 percent for pharmaceuticals.

Who will be the faces of these critical innovations? Survey respondents believe that the most promising entities are focused start-ups and established consumer industries like retail and consumer products.

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Fostering an Internal Culture

The companies that are paving the way are placing their organizational culture on a pedestal. In these environments, enthusiasm and encouragement of innovation originates in the C-suite and trickles down to set a strong, consistent tone across the organization. (Let’s call it “trickle-down innovation.”)

Companies can encourage innovation from the inside out through techniques like:

  • Hosting enterprise-wide strategy sessions, workshops, and a broader culture that encourages the exchange of new ideas.
  • Rapid evaluation and implementation of new ideas, which creates a positive feedback loop for future ideas.
  • Setting metrics and incentives to measure and reward innovative ideas and actions, either with financial rewards or through enterprise-wide support and recognition strategies.
  • Exposing team members to outside ideas by sending them to conferences, enrolling them in professional societies, and participating in other local, national, and international events.

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Accessing Critical External Resources

From the outside of the company, innovators will need access to the ideas, technologies, and capabilities that turn innovative concepts into market success.

For smaller companies and startups, this access can come in the form of financial assistance and mentorship from:

  • Venture capital, which helps companies to gain positions in startups, as well as understanding of new markets, technologies, and trends. While some companies invest purely for financial gain, many are a key strategy for catalyzing innovation.
  • Incubators and accelerators, which have skyrocketed from two percent to 44 percent in the 30 largest companies. They typically play a larger impact during the earlier, developmental stages of innovation.
  • Innovation labs, which are often employed further in development as a means to accelerate an innovation’s time-to-market. These in-house units complement conventional R&D and typically interact closely with external entrepreneurs.

For larger companies, this access may take the form of licensing, and mergers and acquisition (M&A). For example, in 2011, Gilead Sciences acquired the highly innovative biotechnology company Pharmasset. This acquisition was pivotal in the development of breakthrough hepatitis C treatments Harvoni and Sovaldi.

The Future of Innovation

Companies that holistically harness innovation – inwardly and outwardly – are the most equipped for success in an increasingly ripe and competitive market landscape. As healthcare continues to evolve, so too will the status quo for the way that care is strategized, delivered, and measured.

To learn more about the intricacies of an ideal innovation strategy, click here to download our whitepaper, “10 Steps to Healthcare Technology Innovation Success: Commercialization Strategies to Reach Adoption, Diffusion, and Market Acceptance.”