Include to change

The health care industry is facing greater challenges now than ever before: decreasing reimbursement, demanding patients, talent shortages and the continuously blurring lines between partners and competitors. The U.S. consumer today expects health care to become more effective, less expensive and easier to understand in the next three to five years.

We all know this reality. It's on the TV news every night and politicians won't stop talking about the issue. To deliver these solutions, the health care system needs innovation.

As the health care capital of the world with a thriving entrepreneurial spirit, Nashville is uniquely positioned to innovate and improve health care. We have more health care companies and workers per capita than any other city. We have a robust community of entrepreneurs and creators. These people are smart, hardworking and passionate about delivering the best care for the lowest price possible. They all want to make health care better.

Traditionally, innovation was understood to fall into two categories: disruptive and incremental. Disruptive innovation is prevalent in Silicon Valley and is typically the domain of startups. It involves tearing down all the old systems and infrastructure in order to make room for the new model. Think about leveling a building so a new, taller, better version can replace it. This is vastly different than incremental innovation, which is stereotypically represented by the mid-level executive in Middle America making a slightly improved version of an existing product. Think about remodeling one floor of a building while allowing everyone to continue living and working there.

The problem is that neither of these methods is independently viable in health care.

Caring for people's health is different than other industries. It is critically important and intensely personal. We have established norms regarding how we take care of one another that do not exist in other markets.

We do not believe disruptive innovation will be successful in changing the U.S. health care system. Its bias toward exclusively technological solutions and its active focus on destroying existing processes make it a poor choice for health care.

The healing process is not 100 percent biology. It involves a lot of psychology, compassion and counseling. It's very difficult to fix humans with only computers. Of course, technology is part of the recipe. But to be successful in health care, you have to interface with the whole person, not just the human body.

Additionally, the health care industry has longstanding, highly trusted brands. The biggest consumers of health care are the older population and they are the least comfortable with disruptive new products.

I'm 44 and I find myself beginning to use the health care system more often than I used to. I see myself as fairly open to innovation. I buy most things through Amazon, invest with Vanguard, grab rides on Uber and stay at Airbnb properties. However, I have seen the same primary care physician for 14 years and he is the person I go to when I need health care. Perhaps this will change, but I don't see it changing very quickly.

We also believe that incremental improvements are insufficient in creating meaningful impact in the issues facing us. Incremental innovation is slower and carries inherent biases toward existing ways of doing things. In addition, incremental innovation is best practiced within well-established companies. However, the immensity and complexity of the established health care industry makes it incredibly difficult for large companies to innovate on their own. Not to mention that in these companies -- on which thousands of people rely for efficient, effective, life-saving care -- operation must take precedent over innovation.

We've established that neither the creative, entrepreneurial class nor the seasoned, health care insiders can solve the industry's challenges alone. So how do we actually deliver the new technologies and processes that can make health care better? At Jumpstart Foundry, our answer is to create a new method of innovation designed to fit the needs of the industry. We call this new approach "inclusive innovation."

Inclusive innovation pulls creative entrepreneurs into a collaborative discussion with health care practitioners and corporate executives. The best way to improve the industry is to include and align all parties together in finding solutions. Through this inclusive process, we can build solutions to important, immense and complex challenges in ways that respect and satisfy all stakeholders.

Industry insiders practice medicine every day and often understand the challenges and inefficiencies in the current system. They can fully define the opportunity. However, these experts also can find themselves too close to the problem. Often, an outside perspective is very helpful to develop an innovative solution.

Inclusive innovation helps existing health care companies harness the power of innovation. It empowers outside perspectives in a way that respects the critically important role of the trusted health care provider. Through inclusive innovation, all stakeholders can help identify opportunities to deliver improved outcomes at lower cost and make health care better.

Vic Gatto is CEO of Jumpstart Foundry, which this summer is organizing its first cohort composed exclusively of health care companies. He also is a board member of SouthComm, the parent of the Post.

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