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Physician Creativity & Disruptive Innovation In Medicine

Making way for your creativity.

Whoever said “a creative mind is rarely a tidy mind” was on to something. Who hasn’t had a great idea for a new product that they are sure would make them rich? Whether it’s a new medical device that fills a client need or a new service that will increase your revenues, how do we know what really makes an idea “great”? Why do certain bad ideas get to market and great ideas never make it to market?

Inventions that have taken a forward-thinking approach at their very beginning often appear backwards in their thinking given a few years (or decades) of retrospect. For example, what about the birth of individually packaged goods, which made food both convenient and transportable? Was anyone thinking about how all the materials they were using were creating more waste for landfills? The side effects of our creative ideas can’t always be anticipated. 

Innovation flourishes when there is a desire to make our world stronger, faster, cheaper, convenient and more beautiful. These are the desires that keep the most creative innovators inspired. But, some of the most innovative ideas and solutions we imagine can create other problems as a result.

The best way to reduce the risk of negative side effects is to follow a series of “filters and qualifiers” that will help separate the brilliant long-term solutions from the quick fixes and the genuine needs from the flash-in-the-pan fads.

Certainly medicine and health care has it's own set of filters, but there are basics that apply across all playing fields. Following are a blend of the best practices from the world of medicine, architecture and social entrepreneurialism. You can use these with confidence when fleshing out your ideas. Review them, use them and embrace themthey will save you both time and money. 

Step 1:  Take the time to understand your market

This step starts with the simple question “Is my product idea needed”?  If a product or service already exists in the market, then your products must truly be better, cheaper, or more convenient to be successful. And in some cases, it would need to be better and cheaper to catch the consumers’ attention.

When considering this question even further – in terms of production, quality and sustainability – you can easily determine if the product or service is deserving of the required resources.

Step 2:  Think beyond your lifetime

Some of the most socially responsible and successful companies look out 20 – 30 years before commercializing a product.  They may over-engineer a product, far beyond the initial scope, in order to open the way for future revisions or adjustments.  For example, an architect may design a project making use of reclaimed materials and energy-generating materials in anticipation of future advancements and needs. 

Step 3:  You are a resource too

When considering product success and sustainability, you need to think beyond the actual materials that will be required.  You need to ask yourself, “How committed am I to this idea?  Will I be as excited and passionate about this product in 5 years as I am today”?  Personal sustainability can no be underestimated because your idea’s success will need you year after year

Step 4:  Happiness counts

Some ideas may be difficult to measure in terms of social responsibility.  For example, how would the launch of another dermal filler be considered “good for the people”?  So instead, some projects – like amusement parks or comic books – should be measured in how much happiness will result from their use. 

If an idea doesn’t pass the social responsibility test, then run it through the “happiness quotient”.  Will your product or service bring more happiness and joy to the world?  If not, then scrap the idea.

Step 5:  The buck stops here

One of the hardest parts of evaluating an idea is assigning a dollar amount to our vision.  It has been proven that there is a direct correlation between a project’s profitability and it’s sustainability.   While some products make a boatload of money over 6 months and then disappear (think Pet Rock…), the ideas most of us have are those with real legs that will be profitable year after year.  Do the financials, understand your profit potential and evaluate your risks. 

Now go innovate!

Reader Comments (1)

As I noted in a previous post at , bioentrepreneurs create life science innovations by exploiting limited resources. What’s more, there is a big difference between dreams, inventions and innovation.

Dreams are ideas that pop into your head and happen all the time. Leonardo Da Vinci was one of most famous dreamers or all time. He conceptualized helicopters, mechanical devices and many other contraptions hundreds of years before they were actually built. He invented few of them.

Inventions, on the other hand, are ideas that are reduced to practice. You take the idea and build something. You think of a new design and create it. IThe invention has no intrinsic value at this point.

Innovation is the process of taking inventions and discoveries and creating value in the marketplace. Most of the time, the value is measured in dollars. There is a sustainable business model. In some instances, however—as in finding a creative way to increase vaccination rates in third-world populations—the metric is eliminating a disease such as smallpox. It is the difficult process of identifying a market niche, developing a compelling value proposition—the promise the business makes to the customer—and implementing a plan such that the company can make a profit or sustain itself. Merely building a device or creating a new healthcare service is worthless without a market willing to buy or use it.

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