Let’s Put an End to Mediocre Innovations in Health

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It pains me to see our marketplace inundated with mediocre innovations that are only ‘good enough’ to address our ailing healthcare system.  I didn’t leave the practice of medicine for ‘good enough’, I left to transform an industry that has been left behind in a century old paradigm.

I spent many years training to become a doctor, only to realize that we cannot effectively treat patients if the very system within which we treat them is ill itself.  We do the best we can within the boundaries of what is available and acceptable, but this is not enough!

This very notion set me on an odyssey years ago to intricately understand the symptoms contributing to our acute healthcare crisis; and to uncover novel treatments to address the root diagnosis.

While it is not reflected as such in our media, the global healthcare crisis is as profound as, if not more than, the numerous financial crisis’ we have witnessed episodically over the past few decades. It’s not just too big to fail, but too important to ignore. But that is just what has happened…we have ignored the root causes resulting in a code blue situation. In fact, iatrogenic causes that include unnecessary medical procedures and the complications that arise from them account for one of the leading causes of morbidity and mortality in the US. We are doing more harm to our system than good.

How did we get this way? And how do we get unstuck?

After all, we have some of the smartest and most experienced people in the industry on the case. But that may be the problem itself.  Our leaders of today are tackling the problem with business-as-usual approaches, with the same techniques that have been used for decades. We need to branch out and understand divergent perspectives.

In my opinion, that ‘usual’ approach will no longer work. As Einstein aptly stated: “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them”. We need to start thinking unusual by applying the secrets from the worlds leading innovators that are transforming entire industries – both in and out of health (mostly out).

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As well-studied business professionals, we have been led to believe that if we create products that solve problems, then we have succeeded. While that may address short-term ailments, it does little to transform entire markets. This text-book approach only serves to cover up the symptoms with simple band-aids.  What we need going forward is to re-imagine experiences designed for people.

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It is my belief that transformational innovation is created from the random collision of unusual ideas and perspectives to re-imagine people-centered experiences from which they consume products and services that solve real world problems.

We must project out into the future and re-imagine what the experience should ideally be, and then create solutions to meet those future needs. Currently, we build solutions and then haphazardly drop them into our current out-dated health experiences creating an oil-meets-water cocktail; and then we sit back endlessly contemplating why no one is engaging or that we see little outcome improvements.

To highlight this issue, lets take our current approaches to digital health technologies as an example. The practice of medicine was established over a century ago.  Since then, little has changed with how we approach patient sick-care.  Yet the technologies we create, such as electronic health records, are simply tools dropped into the historical office setting without any consideration for how doctors deliver care, or how they should deliver care into the future to accommodate team dynamics, continuity of care and preventive approaches. We have literally littered our current spaces and experiences with digital technologies scattered throughout the care setting and wonder why we see minimal improvements in outcomes and engagement.  This approach creates friction and interference that simply cannot sustain us into the future.

How do we as humans co-exist with technologies to prevent interference? What is the future role of the medical consumer? (physicians, patients, nurses, caregivers, etc?) and how do we design solutions and experiences based on their future roles? As technologies permit us to deliver care remotely, what does and should the future medical facility look like? With new remote tracking sensors entering the market each week, can we flip the clinic as we are doing with the classroom to create a more productive patient-centered medical encounter? 

These are the type of questions, I fear, that few are asking.   But the implications of these answers have tremendous implications with how we innovate.

I certainly don’t admit to having all the answers, but that is what this blog is about. To explore and uncover the unusual perspectives from transformative innovators from all walks of earth that we can then learn and apply to help treat and transform healthcare (or any industry, for that matter). In an attempt to create a dialogue that gets us to Think Unusual, I will share with you stories, techniques, tools, and habits from the best of the best.

What do you think? What does unusual mean to you? How do you believe we can transform health and put the brakes on mediocrity?

Please comment below and share any examples of unusual ideas you believe are helping to transform markets.


  • Thanks for your thoughts, Jo-Anne. The only portion I may have some hesitancy is your statement: “modify so that it is doable in regulated environment”…sometimes we assume the regulations are like the constitution and can be unchanged. Although when talking about truly transformative spaces, sometimes we need to re-invent the outdated laws and not assume the old regulated assumptions still hold truth today. Certainly this is the case for social media and health, and will most likely be the case for sensors, data, and remote care delivery. We’re playing in brand new territory where the rules may not apply (or at least be the same.). To me, this is an exciting time in history where we can potentially redefine and reset the rules going forward.


  • Jo-Anne Callahan says:

    Agree totally as well. I believe that it is worth taking the extra time to evolve innovated thinking and ideas from other sectors and present a truly big idea — then hunker down and sort through the details of scaling it so that it is tangible to the market, modify so that it is doable in regulated environment, and then pull in executional hands to figure out the details of execution. It will become the force that makes people sit back and say “wow”!

  • Totally agree, Krish. Unfortunately, for many systems, profits are protected by the ivory towers by keeping ecosystems complex — such as in health. By breaking it down into its simplest form, only then can can we begin to disrupt and innovate around it. This will take an unusual frame of mind.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and approach!

  • Krish says:

    Excellent initiative. ‘Think unusual’ – to me – starts with Thinking simple. A complex approach to a complex issue will just make it more complex. What is needed is the Simple approach to a complex issue – which can lead to innovation.

    As an Analyst – the most simple approach to me is 1. Understanding the As-is state 2. Define the To-be state (aspirational state) 3. Chalk out a road-map to reach the To-be state.

    Start with defining or taming the Process – keep it lean, agile, adaptive, scalable and repeatable. Then fit Lean Governance on top, and People and Technologies around this Process.

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