Disrupt or be disrupted

Healthbox President Neil Patel breaks down how incumbents in the healthcare space can also be part of the innovation.
By Laura Lovett
12:11 pm
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When it comes to innovation, healthcare players can’t wait around to see how it it going to play out.

“You are either being disrupted or a disruptor — sometimes you are both,” Neil Patel, president of Healthbox and EVP at HIMSS, said this morning at the Innovation Symposium.

That’s why it’s important to always be looking ahead and thinking about trends, he said. Giving Blockbuster as the example of a service that missed out on innovation to competitors like Netflix and Redbox, Patel stressed that it's important for the established systems to look ahead.

“You don’t need to respond to every single threat that comes your way. But you need to start looking at trends,” Patel said. “What kinds of opportunities are these startups or new entrances seeking within your current system? And then think about that on a macro level — what can you do about the change?”

Healthcare is seeing a lack of consumer choice, high systemic waste, poor outcomes and a high cost of care, he said. That, coupled with the fact healthcare is becoming “cool again” and the general trend towards infrastructure digitization, means that this is a ripe time to innovate.

Right now there are the two camps in this disruption space: new entrances into the health arena like Amazon or Facebook and the incumbents in the industry such as large health systems. Each are making moves in different ways. While there is still a lot of speculation around what these new players will do in the space, the last year has given some hints. Amazon has made headlines in the past year for acquiring Pillpack and inking a deal with JP Morgan and Berkshire Hathaway.

But that doesn’t mean all is lost for the incumbents. Health systems and payers have an opportunity to disrupt the system as well.

“Disruption seems like a really good thing. If you are the consumer of an industry that is being disrupted it is generally a really good thing for you in the long run because all the parties that are getting paid to supply a service will have to be better,” he said. “But the problem is when markets are well established or there are a lot of margin companies, it takes a long time for these things to take hold. That is a good thing and a bad thing. That’s a bad thing for patients who are looking for change immediately but it's a good thing for the incumbents because if they choose to they have time to change and get out ahead of this.”

In fact, many health systems are looking at the emerging technologies as an opportunity. For example, the Mayo Clinic has employed social media to engage their patient.

“If the care is perfectly good then it's not memorable, but if its bad it’s memorable then you have a bias but social media is starting to change that. When I say social media I use that broadly. I’m talking about Yelp reviews and all sorts of places that patients leave feedback about their hospitals,” he said.  “Mayo Clinic was one of the health systems that was one of the leaders in this area, that embraced those medias and outlets to control the narrative and engage with their patients. … [It] developed a center for social media where they teach these skills to other health systems that are willing to learn and to teach.”

Patel stressed that it is always important for systems to start with a problem instead of running after “cool” technology. This will also help get buy-in from staff and help change the culture of innovation at incumbents.

“The key here is to embrace change, cultivate innovation and think about what problems you want to solve and then build buy what you want to solve,” he said.

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