Digital Healthcare Innovation
Seeking solutions to today’s healthcare problems
Jonathan Fritz, J.D., M.S.
As a recovering patent and start-up attorney I’ve seen many solutions seeking a problem. Under such a scenario the inventor may have solved a problem, but the invention wasn’t designed with the problem first and thinking through a truly executable solution. While this process may work for widgets and molecules through the traditional tech transfer model, it often doesn’t work for true digital healthcare innovations. Health systems operate at the solution implementation level and would do well to think about the problems they have first, and then seek out solutions to address those problems—not the other way around.
Digital health solutions have the ultimate goal of improving patient outcomes. The most efficient path for improving outcomes is not to create solutions in a vacuum, but to intelligently solve problems first, and then quickly develop a scalable solution that can impact populations. Sophisticated health systems are beginning to realize that they have the resources to diagnose problems and generate highly effective solutions, but often lack the mechanism to quickly develop scalable solutions.
“Health systems are unique in that they have their own marketplace where proposed (and purported) solutions meet empirical reality every day.”Jonathan Fritz, J.D., M.S., Chief Strategy Officer
In contrast is the traditional model deployed by many academic technology transfer offices. In this model a researcher on campus has her desired area of study, and in many cases is funded by federal grants. The researcher has an “ah-ha!” or “eureka!” moment, and her invention disclosure form is evaluated by the tech transfer office. If it’s deemed interesting enough, a patent attorney is hired, $20,000+ is allocated and a patent application is filed. A patent may result in 3-5 years, but the tech transfer office immediately seeks out companies to license the solution. It’s at this point in which the market is often first confronted with the researcher’s solution seeking a problem.
Health systems are unique in that they have their own marketplace where proposed (and purported) solutions meet empirical reality every day. Additionally, they have exceptionally talented resources on the front line (clinicians, population health experts, health data analysts, etc.) facing real problems seeking a solution. It’s here where health systems have an advantage in generating truly innovative digital healthcare solutions. The experts, marketplace, and first customer exist under one roof! Even with these advantages execution failures are the norm, resulting in poorly developed systems. As a result, internal development and innovation efforts within health systems experience cost inefficiencies and sunk cost fallacies, which prevents dynamic thinking about what is needed and what it will take to get it done.
In order to avoid this trap, health systems should be aware of a few problem areas: 1) Hard-coded MVPs may appear to solve a problem, but can result in lost go-to-market time and are more costly in the end; 2) Lack of collaboration and ideation with the development team prior to writing code more often than not results in poorly planned development and restricted scalability; and 3) Development firms without proper financial risk alignment often run the meter, resulting in expensive, half-baked solutions.
Whether you’re solving a problem for internal deployment to reduce costs, or creating a scalable solution for commercialization to generate revenue, the right process and experience is critical to ensure success: improved patient outcomes. It’s here where a true innovation and development partner adds exceptional value. An exemplary process includes business-minded SMEs who can aid in creating a viable solution and a skilled development team dedicated to software in healthcare.
Digital healthcare innovation is increasing, and health systems are beginning to realize the resources at their disposal. When combined with the right innovation partners, health systems will be the drivers of solutions solving problems in healthcare.
About the Author
Jonathan Fritz is the Chief Strategy Officer and Director of New Ventures at Symphony Corporation. Jonathan is a recovering lawyer, having been outside counsel to many of the nation’s largest research universities, and has a Master’s degree in Bioinformatics. Jonathan works directly with a number of health systems on innovation and commercialization efforts and proudly serves as a TEDMED Innovation Research Scholar.
KEY TAKEAWAYS: Health Systems Should Develop and Leverage a Variety of Assets to Enhance the Results of Innovation Initiatives
Continue to sharpen product development processes by coordinating efforts between clinicians, other SMEs, and the development team
Establish innovation partnerships with other leading healthcare organizations and competent technology partners aligned philosophically and financially with your goals
Establish relationships with seed- and growth-stage partners to commercialize and scale technology when appropriate