Transforming Industry Disruption into Innovation Opportunities

By Samuel Greengard
February 6, 2018

It requires organizations to wade through a vast array of new and evolving technologies, and more importantly, to rethink and rewire processes.

In today's health care environment, standing still means moving backward. The scope and pace of change is nothing less than staggering. As a result, organizations must harness disruption and usher in innovations large and small.

"Disruption is changing health care in every facet − from payment systems and how physicians interact with patients to the type of information patients possess and the tools doctors use," says Brian Kalis, managing director of digital health at consulting firm Accenture.

To be sure, disruption requires organizations to wade through a vast array of new and evolving technologies and rethink and rewire processes. Accenture found that 54 percent of health care organizations are appointing chief innovation officers and 66 percent have established a formal innovation process. Yet, simply addressing disruption isn't enough to guarantee success.

Without strategic direction and strong alignment between systems and processes, things can go astray.

Uncharted Territory

Addressing disruption is paramount. "We have entered an era where precision medicine is possible, yet medicine still takes a one-size-fits-all approach to patient care," says Tufia C. Haddad, MD, a consultant in the medical oncology division at Mayo Clinic.

A proliferation of medical knowledge and patient data points are driving radical change, Haddad says. "Health care providers must find ways to optimize the quality and efficiency of patient care."

At Mayo Clinic, one key initiative has focused on using machine learning to better match patients with clinical trials. As medical knowledge advances and patient data points swell, finding the right matches for trials becomes even more difficult. "The complexity of clinical trials requires precision medicine, targeted therapies, and immunotherapy," Haddad says.

Mayo Clinic has turned to a cognitive computing solution from IBM to parse through medical literature, studies and patient data to determine who is the best fit for a trial. The facility is moving to a model that is driven by gene aberrations and molecular signatures rather than tumor types, Haddad explains.

The result? The 2-year-old program has already boosted enrollment in systemic therapy trials for breast cancer by 80 percent and reduced the time required to screen patients from as much as 45 minutes to about 8 minutes — all while improving the quality of the matches.

Beyond Computing

Another facility pushing the boundaries for disruption is UC Davis Children's Hospital in California. Jim Marcin, MD, MPH, professor of pediatric critical care, says a focus on value for both patients and a facility is at the center of transforming disruption into innovation. It's crucial to find ways to improve performance and results while reducing costs.

"Disruption requires more than technology,” he says. “It's about revamping and re-engineering processes. The technology simply drives the changes."

The hospital has begun several strategic initiatives. It is pushing into remote patient monitoring through video and connected devices, exploring remote triaging, and looking to redefine everything from patient admissions to patient education. "Applying technology strategically can prove transformative," Marcin says.

For example, UC Davis Health System, a pioneer in telemedicine, is now connecting with remote emergency departments skilled nursing facilities to improve the speed and quality of diagnoses for a wide range of issues, including strokes and sick children. It's also exploring ways to boost at home patient monitoring for diabetes and blood pressure through connected medical devices--while integrating all the data into electronic health records.

Rx for Success

To become a disruptor, health care providers must adopt a more holistic view of medicine and the business, Kalis says. "New players are entering the health care space while retail and technology companies are focusing on innovation by growing their market share and bottom line," he says, suggesting physician leaders keep a strategic eye on evolving and emerging technologies, including telemedicine, analytics, artificial intelligence, consumer wearables and much more.

Success requires a strategic framework but also mechanisms to transform disruption into innovation, Kalis says. Adequate funding is critical. "Innovation funding should span a portfolio of opportunities — big and small — and include funding for incremental innovation."

Getting past risk adversity is critical. Innovation leaders must have a green light for commercializing opportunities — and an accountability framework is essential, Kalis adds. "By taking these steps and fueling innovation … organizations will not just 'think' innovation, but also reap its rewards."

Samuel Greengard is a business and technology journalist based in Oregon.

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