The success of Uber has led to the discussion of the “Uberization” of businesses other than transportation – including health care. For example, the UberHEALTH flu shot service, which allows people to request a “wellness pack” and flu vaccination to be delivered to their homes on a specified date – Outsmart the Flu with UberHEALTH. Of course, along with this new program has come conflicting opinions of its relevance and utility – An Uber For Health Care Is Closer Than You Think and Why You Should Be Skeptical About An ‘Uber For Healthcare’.
I am a big proponent of management teams in the health and human service field using emerging technologies to reinvent the financing and delivery of services. And, in our current market, there are many opportunities to do just that – see What Health Plans Want: Technology That Engages Patients, APIs & Why You Should Know What They Are and Beware Your Donkeys On The Freeway.
But bringing innovation to health and human services is not like innovating in other areas of commerce. The field is highly regulated, protected by powerful trade interests, involves government spending, serves vulnerable people, and is actually a “matter of life and death.” It’s the perfect storm for a change resistant market. I was reminded of that when reading, Dear Silicon Valley: There Are No Shortcuts In Health Care, by Christina Farr in a recent issue of Fast Company. She wrote:
…unfortunately, the “move fast, break things” mentality that is fundamental to the success of consumer-tech companies doesn’t fly in health care. It can take up to a decade for new products to get regulatory approval, and that requires clinical trials, well-funded research studies, and more. That’s far longer than some Silicon Valley companies—and their investors—are willing to wait….
There are a few recent examples of this phenomenon, including Zenefits and 23andMe. Zenefits offers cloud-based software to help with health insurance coverage and works as a health insurance broker. But the company has come under investigation in recent months for not obtaining the licenses necessary to sell insurance in individual states (see Startup Zenefits Under Scrutiny For Flouting Insurance Laws). In February, the company replaced founder and chief executive officer Parker Conrad amid ongoing investigations, including those in California (see Zenefits’ Business Practices Under Investigation).
Another example is 23andMe, the personal genomics company. In 2013, they had to discontinue offering their services, pending completion of an FDA review and regulatory clearance or approval. The company is back in business – but didn’t gain FDA approval until 2015 (see Personalized Medicine Hits A Bump In The Road and FDA Clears 23andMe For Its Direct-To-Consumer Genetic Carrier Test).
Having watched many new technologies and innovations fail to get to “scale” in the health and human service field, there are some commonalities in the challenges. First, there is a lack of an understanding of the synergistic effects of regulation, trade association influence, and culture in the field. Second, there is a “tech” focus of entrepreneurial management teams, without a robust “end user” perspective. And third, there is the financial pressure on teams responsible for innovations to bring something to market quickly and generate revenue.
I think the lessons of Zenefits and 23andMe are applicable whether you’re an executive with a tech start-up, a mature tech or biotech company launching a new product, or an entrepreneurial provider organization trying to replicate an innovative program. There are some basic steps – applying best practice service line development processes and implementation science tools – that shouldn’t be missed. Based on our experience, innovators need to think in terms of an iterative process that informs development with a few key steps:
- Market research – Concept testing with demand estimates and high-level feasibility analysis
- Service line research – Detailed product description, feature and benefit statements, compliance review, and reimbursement models
- Service line development – Operating processes, flowcharts of consumer interfaces, information flow/connections, workforce models, pricing models, segmentation of market demand, and initial ROI estimates
- Human factors testing – Service blueprinting with testing of stakeholder points of interaction
- Proof of concept testing – Small field testing to prove the real world applicability of the new service
- Development of stakeholder ROI methodology – Creation of a methodology for stakeholders to realize a “return” from the innovation that can be validated in a beta market test
- Pilot or “beta” market test – Testing the innovation in a selected “natural” market
A disciplined approach is required to shape and present innovation in a way that will speed adoption in the field. With the on-going disruption of the value chain relationships between traditional stakeholders in the health and human service field, there is great opportunity for innovative products and services. What will likely separate the winners from the losers is their ability to take great concepts to scale.
For more, check out these resources from the OPEN MINDS Industry Library:
- From Innovation To Action: Why Structured & Rapid Service Line Development Is A Critical New Competency
- Thinking New Service? You Need 2 Tools
- Forget The Sizzle – We Need New Technology Business Models & Business Cases
- The Footprint Of The Elephant In Health Care
- Why Health Care Is Not Like Google Or Amazon: The Challenges Of Fitting Ideal Data Models Into The Real World
- Making Mobile Tech Work In Health & Human Services (Or Any Tech For That Matter)
- Will Your Market Be Disrupted By ‘Frugal Innovation’?
- More Tools For Tech ROI
- How To Improve The ROI Of Your EHR: Optimizing Your Technology Investment
- The New ROI Numbers On Brain Training
- The ROI Of Recidivism Prevention
- New Service Line Development From A To Z: Tips, Tricks, & Advice
And for even more, join us on June 8 in New Orleans for The 2016 OPEN MINDS Strategy & Innovation Institute, where OPEN MINDS senior associate Sharon Hicks will hold a half-day pre-institute seminar, “Innovation, Diversification & Scalability: How To Develop A Profitable New Service In A Competitive Market,” for attendees looking to expand their institute experience with a “deep dive” into successful new service line development.