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Entries in Innovation (8)


Hey Doc! Inspire Action

On the door to my office, I had posted a little memento from a new business pitch we did for one of our clients several months back…and on this memento is a phrase that reads “Hey Doc…Inspire Action”.  Although I pass it each day, I’ve never paused to think about what it actually means.

Today, I pause.

And I question myself, “Do I inspire action? Is that my role and responsibility as a physician?. Is that part of my duty in treating and managing patients?”

I must confess, I have not seen a patient (at least as part of a formal practice) in a few years, but the statement still resonated with me since I always consider myself first and foremost a physician.

In today’s hustle and bustle practice, it’s easy to get caught up in managing the pure science of disease. Without placing blame, I’m convinced this has largely been the result of a health system that is utterly broken…one that is predominantly focused on measuring financial and scientific outcomes at the sacrifice of quality drivers of care. In essence, we have lost the art of medicine. After all, how do we measure it? How do we get paid for it? How do we know its working?

Quick answer, I don’t (yet) know. But I can confidently wager that every one of us would agree that it is important to address these critical issues to achieve optimal patient care.

My hunch?...Perhaps this dilemma is the result of system that designed to treat disease, rather than prevent disease. Do we have our priorities misaligned?

It is well known that - beyond the science - patients seek guidance, support and trust from their providers…and not just during the course of disease, but also before the disease ever occurs. This is not science, but rather art.

How are we helping patients stay motivated to get well and stay healthy? How are we inspiring them to take action and be proactive for their wellbeing? How do we create a structure that emphasizes and rewards prevention? How do we make this work within the construct of our existing cost-ridden health system?

In my many interesting people encounters over the past several months, I can happily say that I have met a number passionate individuals who are trying to solve these very issues through active participation and innovation... The only problem is that just a handful of these people are representing the voice of physicians.

Rather than watch a pending disaster unfold before our eyes, it is my hope to inspire all of you to take action and be a part of the solution, not the problem.

Hey Doc! Inspire Action.

(If you are doing something innovative in this area, please comment and let us know what you are up to! Inspire us!)


What Is Your Future Of Medicine?

We are holding ourselves back from visionary changes.

The business of our practices and careers often gets in the way of our visionary thinking of the future. In medicine, this seems to be more true than other sectors of our society. Our medical practices of today closely resemble the medical practices of 20 or even 30 years ago.

For the most part, medical practices all look the same. The front door of the practice opens to a waiting room filled with some variety of magazines, chairs and a large glass window that separates the “practice” from the patients. Patients are called back to the exam room and pass through hallways that are narrow and poorly decorated with wallpaper or generic art on the wall. And the exam rooms all look and feel the same: poor natural light and a large exam table placed in the middle of the room.

As well, the process of the medical visit is largely unchanged from decades past. The doctor walks in, sits in her designated chair and speaks with the patient for a few minutes before performing a physical exam and writing prescriptions and/ or lab/x-ray orders. (On a side note, have you ever wondered why the lab report of today looks exactly like the lab report of decades ago? Hasn’t technology changed how we view data?)

We do this over and over. We have been doing this over and over the same way for way too long. One of the problems with figuring out how to create a better health care infa-structure is that we cannot get the current/old/tried-and-true medical visit model out of our brains. We are literally stuck here (and there) because we continually feel that the way we are practicing is the best way because that is how doctors practice medicine. Over and over and over.

I feel that we would do ourselves and our industry a service by throwing away this model and starting fresh. Let’s face it, the modern society we live in right now is very different than 20 years ago. Back then we did not even have the internet, the iPhone or Facebook. 20 years ago we communicated with our patients solely by face to face appointments in our offices. The same offices we are using now.

In order for us to truly make progress, then, we have to reinvent how medicine can be practiced. Here are six visions I have that will make for a better medical practice, improve patient outcome and boost physician job satisfaction (in order from the most practical to the most visionary):

1. Embrace the virtual visit: patients don’t have time anymore to drive through traffic and wait in our waiting rooms and exam rooms anymore. They have questions right now and we have the technology to embrace this. Ask all of your patients to get a Skype account and then offer virtual visits and charge the patient for this convenience. They will love it. And so will you.

2. Take down the glass: this is a pet-peeve of mine. The glass partition creates an immediate sense of imbalance in the waiting room. Far better is to create an open waiting room where patients feel on equal footing with the practice staff. Staff can be trained to communicate so HIPAA violations do not occur. Why not add a pinball machine and coffee bar? Add free WiFi. Make the waiting room a place where patients don’t mind waiting, but actually enjoy the break in their day.

3. Offer Home/ Work visits: This goes back to idea #1. Do you really need a central office anymore? Would you serve your time better by working from home and making periodic house calls while employing virtual visits most of the time? There is so much wasted time in the office. We get interrupted all the time with this phone call or that fax. Wouldn’t your own time be better served if you could focus on one thing at a time? This would certainly free up time to focus on the other aspects of your life and career that you enjoy pursuing. So much of the office is devoted to running the office that many times our own personal goals are left out.

4. Create a Social Health Network: right now this is the big push with out society--belonging, joining and participating in different social media outlets. I think this reflects our desires to connect first. The problem with many of the social media venues is that we end up reaching out as opposed to actually interacting. Facebook and Twitter are great for developing a fan base, but not so good at focusing on the fans. By creating a Social Health Network, we could each have our panels of patients that we could interact with in more of a community way. This would allow us to interact on the individual level and at the community level. Employing a Social Health Network would also allow our patients to interact with each other. I think that having more of a niche network is exactly what people are longing for--more personal and deeper connections.

5. Redesign Lab Reports: have you seen Flipboard on the iPad? This is where we need to move medicine communication. The visual information our current lab reports provide is so boring and plain. There is no visual dimension to these reports. Far better would be to generate digital reports that are fluid and are actually enjoyable for the patient to interact with. Right now we have trained our society to detest looking at their lab reports because they are boring and don’t provide any visual information. But what would happen if we created digital lab reports that were full of color and motion?

6. Merge our virtual health and real health worlds: We are raising our children in the digital era with great emphasis on the virtual world that trumps reality. Video games, streaming movies, iTunes music, apps, you get my point. So why not take advantage of this and create a virtual health world? Much like the Sims game, we could all create virtual profiles of ourselves that we “play around” with. With the advent of monitoring devices on our mobile phones (sleep cycles, heart rate variabilities, pedometers, etc.) it is now easy to access information about ourselves we never could before. We could stream that type of information to our virtual selves: it appears you have not reached deep sleep for 3 nights in a row--how about trying some Melatonin or Ambien? We would then watch what happens with our virtual selves when we tried this. By combining real data into a virtual world, we would be able to see how our bodies react and respond to different tweaks and changes. As doctors, we could then communicate with our virtual patients in this game-like world as well, providing an extra level of support. By combining our virtual and real worlds we would bring an element of fun and style that is currently missing in medical practice.

One of the major obstacles in reforming our health care system is that we are stuck using the same tried and true methods of practicing medicine. I think we will only be able to break through and create a better system for patients and ourselves when we scrap our impressions of how patients are seen and how we practice medicine.

So what are your visions for the future of medicine?


Here's to the Crazy Ones

I'm a Mac guy, but even if I wasn't I'd still like this ad.  It's an old Apple tv commercial and I find it very inspiring.  It's good to remember that some of the most dynamic individuals we've known were originally labeled "crazy." 

For all my physician friends who are willing to color outside the lines from time to time, well, here's to you.


What Healthcare Can Learn From 5 Other Industries

There are 4 major consumer trends that are rippling through healthcare.

A recent Booze Company report analyzed how 5 industries are hitting the reset button as they emerge from the global recession. Healthcare should pay attention.

For example, the 4 trends cited in the report for the consumer products industry are frugality with a twist (paying a little more for creature comforts), an aging and health conscious population, digital customers and large, emerging markets.

All of these trends present great opportunities for bioentrepreneurs in health and wellness products and services, global care, digital and social network healthcare marketing and high value, differentiated medical products and services designed for those willing to pay more.

We have a lot to learn from telecom, consumer products, automotive , financial services and telecommunications. Innovation is almost always a visitor, not someone who lives in your house.


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!


How To Do An Organizational Innovation Audit

Innovation in medical settings needs an environment that facilitates its development. Here's what to look for where you work.

If you had an idea for a medical device, would you know where to go at work to get help commercializing it? Most of the time, based on my experience at, an innovation management consulting company, the answer is no.

Given that there are a small number of hidden innovation gems on the medical staff or faculty, engaging them, getting them interested and moving them to action requires a carefully crafted and executed strategy. Whether you work in an academic or non-academic setting, here are some questions you should ask to assess your organization’s innovation IQ.

Is there structure, process and leadership in place to help me commercialize my idea?

Most major research universities have technology transfer managers and processes in place to help faculty move their commercial ideas forward. The initial steps typically involve determining whether the invention or discovery passes certain technical, legal, intellectual property ,and market hurdles. If that’s the case, then technology transfer managers work with faculty or staff to identify potential licensees, like drug or device companies, or, with business development or spinout managers, who work with inventors interested in creating a separate company.

In community hospitals and systems, even large ones with many hospitals, large R/D budgets and hundreds of staff, there is typically no innovation management system or a designated executive to lead it. At best, some of the pieces are outsourced or inventors are referred to members of the hospital network or community with some experience. Usually, though, you’re on your own.

When it comes to innovation, does my organization have a process to move the medical staff from awareness to intention to decision to action?

There are several ways to internally market to staff to make them aware of what innovation is and how to participate in the creative process. Newletters, websites, emails, educational events and other tools help to create awareness and inform the staff about intiatives and opportunities to contribute.

What has your organization done to remove the barriers to participation and create incentives to innovate?

We all can identify things that get in the way. Common ones are , “I don’t have enough time to do this given my clinical and administrative duties” or, “This is not why I became a doctor”.  However, without a culture or ecosystem that enables those who are interested, ideas will usually fade into the woodwork  or medical staff will leave.

Does your workplace celebrate success and cheer the champions?

Nothing succeeds like success… if people know about it. Awards dinners, articles and press releases and other devices are great ways to highlight the accomplishments of peers and get others excited.

Healthcare innovation, whether it is process, goods or services, is a combined bottom-up and top-down effort that requires an enabling, user friendly environment. If you think you are working in a place that is not designed for innovation, you can lead, follow or get out of the way. The choice is yours.


Connecting The Dots: Enterepreneurial Networks & Innovation

Networks drive innovation.

Social network analysis views social relationships in terms of network theory consisting of nodes and ties (also called edges, links, or connections).

Social networking theorists have stressed the value of networks to individuals, companies, and even countries. Creating and connecting dots has replaced money, sex and real estate as the top topics at cocktail parties and propelled the founder of Facebook to the cover of Time magazine.

Institutions of higher education, like health sciences professional schools,  will likewise benefit from this networking trend and become part of the movement towards creating the entrepreneurial university

The concept of the entrepreneurial university goes beyond creating high performance technology transfer operations with eye-popping  invention disclosure, licensing and spinout numbers. Rather, the idea is to create structure and processes, an academic innovation ecosystem, that provides an entrepreneurial mindset to every graduate of the unversity , not just a handfull of faculty superstars in the medical or engineering school.

Universities like the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Stanford, MIT and Harvard have embraced the concept and are encouragng others to do the same. How would you know an entrepreneurial university if you saw one? A few things to look for are:

  • A clear definition of innovation and a strategy that drives it
  • Leadership from the top
  • Robust campus  internal and external networks
  • Clearly defined entrepreneurship learning objectives and curriculum design for all students
  • Knowledge transfer and knowledge exchange programs
  • Recruitment, development and retention HR policies designed to attract and promote entrepreneurial faculty
  • A way to measure outcomes and impact

Innovation is our major sustainable competitive advantage. Entrepreneurial universities, and their professional school faculties,  are in a position to solve most of the world's major problems.  That vision is a long way from finding a date online the first week of college.

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