Innovate or Die: Why Healthcare Must Embrace Innovation

Lisa Crymes, Guest Blogger for Elizabeth Richards

Innovate or Die. Companies (and industries) which embrace innovation and creative thinking are typically more dynamic and more successful than those that don’t. And, that dedication to innovation can be the difference between success and failure.

We have all heard of companies such as Eastman Kodak and Research In Motion (RIM) which were once market leaders but failed to embrace innovation. Then, there are entire industries such as railroads or some manufacturing facilities which were committed to “business as usual” and were intent on continuing down the same path. Because of their commitment to the status quo, they missed the opportunity to innovate. And, as a result, these industries were ill equipped to deal with new and emerging competitors in the marketplace.

Healthcare has not typically embraced innovation in many areas and now must innovate or die. Which healthcare players are at risk of becoming extinct? Which innovative companies will become the new Apple of healthcare by changing the market?

The first key to innovation is to know your customer. In healthcare, knowing who your customer is sometimes difficult. Is the customer the patient? The health plan? The employer? But understanding who the customer is allows companies to focus the necessary resources to meet the specific needs of their customer base. Without knowing your customers, companies are blind to their needs and do not innovate.

The next key to innovation is to understand the marketplace and your business. The near demise of the railroad industry could have potentially been prevented if they understood they were in the transportation industry rather than the railroad business. Companies, especially those in the dynamic healthcare space, must fully understand the competitive forces in the marketplace.

The third key to innovation is creating an environment which encourages and embraces change. For example, when nursing homes were told there would be massive cut backs in long-term care by state Medicaid agencies, the nursing home industry transformed itself from being warehouses for the elderly to facilities specializing in vital rehabilitation services and providers of treatment for patients with Alzheimer’s disease, memory loss and dementia.

Georgia is leading the way in innovation and healthcare is no exception ( There is an impressive record of healthcare technology companies that are thinking in new, creative and innovative ways. McKesson for example, has a large healthcare business with many technology solutions. However, the company has continued to reinvent itself through RelayHealth, a subsidiary of McKesson that provides connectivity to patients and providers has created a culture, which embraces innovation. As an example, RelayHealth recently won the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) “Blue Button for All Americans” contest. RelayHealth was awarded the $50,000 contest prize by making a Blue Button personal health record (PHR) system available to all patients, including Veterans, of more than 25,000 physicians across America.

Then, there are startup companies and emerging players that have innovation as their core mission. A few Atlanta based examples, include SoloHealth, a healthcare technology company that enables consumers to take charge of their own health via self-service kiosks. Also, PatientCo a fast-paced startup is changing the way patients manage, track, and pay for their healthcare expenses. Lasty, Velocity Medical Solutions, LLC, represents the next generation of intelligent radiation trement tools through a vendor-netural platofrm providing clincians a fully integrated record for all dianostic, planning and delivery data. These companies are great examples of businesses which have demonstrated that they can embrace innovation and change.

The final key to innovation is not only generating new ideas, but creating an action plan and executing on that plan to produce and drive change. Innovation is new ideas and new concepts plus action that drive economic value and is the key to growth. Healthcare has the opportunity to learn from other industries and make a commitment to innovation, which will ultimately lead to Sustaining businesses, growth and improving patient care.

2 comments Add your comment


May 15th, 2012
11:54 am

So which of these businesses mentioned is competing against the four providers left . None ? . Yeah innovation is needed but it won’t be the healthcare providers picking up most of the tab will it . Providers seem to get the profits at the expense of everyone else except for the bought politicians .


May 15th, 2012
1:47 pm

Excellent information. At a recent event a strategist from Eli Lilly echoed the call for innovation across the health care offerings. Health care is too important to our national economic engine. I look forward to hearing more!