‘Innovate or Fail’

The role of innovation was the theme at the Harvard Business School’s 9th Annual Healthcare Conference. In the introductory keynote and subsequent panel discussions, the need for innovation in today’s healthcare industry was made clear.

Among the practitioners, healthcare organizations and consumers present, innovation was agreed to be the ultimate challenge at hand, and essential to the success of healthcare reform. Speakers offered different perspectives on the purpose of innovation and their approach to finding ways to innovate to avoid becoming artifacts of the old healthcare system.

Karen Ignagni, President and CEO of America’s Health Insurance Plan (AHIP) delivered the opening keynote, ‘Health Care Innovation in the Context of Rising Health Care Costs.’ As the voice of health insurance plans, Ignagni has a wealth of knowledge and passion for health policy.¬† In regard to innovation, Ignangi sees innovation as the tool for creating value. Through new payment models and the adoption of new technologies for care delivery, Ignagni sees an opportunity for collaboration and innovation. Innovation, she said, benefits both the public and private sector by enabling more efficient and effective care, which at the end of the day, creates value.

Katie Szyman, Senior Vice President and President of Medtronic’s Diabetes business, oversees research, development, sales and marketing for Medtronic’s insulin infusion pumps and continuous glucose monitoring systems. In the ‘Devices/Diagnostics: Enabling New Treatment Paradigms’ panel discussion, Szyman was one of three panelists that addressed how new markets and applications for devices and diagnostics are helping patients assess their health and take preventative action early to help improve health outcomes and control healthcare costs.

According to Katie, value is linked to the support of innovation. Through the use of new technologies, value is attributed from increased patient satisfaction and improved health outcomes. When asked about the FDA’s influence on the use of new and innovative devices, Katie acknowledged that FDA regulations have indeed slowed down development and caused shrinkage in investments in new technologies, resulting in the rise in medical tourism and or ‘inverse innovation.’ Despite the negative outlook, Katie foresees more collaboration between the CMS and FDA that she hopes will improve the review process and support of new medical products.

Innovation was also addressed at the ‘Healthcare IT: A Blueprint for the Data Revolution,’ a panel focused on the revolution in the quality and accessibility of data, and its potential to transform healthcare. When properly deployed, IT was said to be the true leader in innovation, spawning new business models and industries. Robert Cosinuke, Chief Marketing Officer of Athena Health; Graham Gardner, CEO and Co-Founder of Kyruus; and Steven Wardell, Vice President, Marketing and Business Development of Activate Networks¬† shared their insights on new IT developments that are improving collaboration and communications between patients and providers. The shared opinion among the panelists was that the key to value creation is through the support of health IT technologies.

Other discussions at the conference featured payors/providers, biotech/pharma, entrepreneurship/venture capital, and private-public partnerships. With leaders from some of today’s largest and most innovative healthcare organizations, the conversations were informative and tied to health reform. The pressure to innovate or fail was felt. This year, next year, and in the years to come, the focus on innovation to create value will persist.