Physician viewpoint: Our current healthcare system discourages all innovation

Even as healthcare startups move toward "need-based innovation" and away from the traditional tech strategy of building a viable product before identifying an application and consumer base, they continue to face major institutional challenges in implementing their innovations.

In an op-ed for TechCrunch, Justin Barad, MD, an orthopedic surgeon and co-founder and CEO of the Osso VR surgical training platform, outlined the three most pertinent of those challenges, each of which will require innovation within the existing healthcare ecosystem to eliminate.

1. Institutional policies and hierarchical systems stunt innovation: Many startup founders spin their companies out from healthcare and educational institutions that promise to help navigate the development and regulatory processes. In fact, according to Dr. Barad, "Institutional innovation policies are not optimized to foster innovation, but rather to maximize ownership and financial returns," and often result in founders being completely cut out of their own startups.

2. Healthcare doesn't understand early-stage tech companies: Stakeholders often confuse biotechnology, which has a well-defined innovation pathway, with medical technology. Startups developing the latter require maximum flexibility as they scramble to find product-market fit and use that to secure funding; this lack of stability often scares away investors more accustomed to the institutionalized drug discovery process.

3. Pilots are set up to hurt more than help: When a health tech startup does establish a partnership with a healthcare organization, it typically begins with a pilot project that ends up benefitting only the larger, more established organization. These pilots typically lack urgency, are often unpaid and come with near-impossible goals and regulations. "The ultimate result is that healthcare institutions that want to add value to their system by improving outcomes and decreasing costs will often doom the very technologies they believe are worthwhile," Dr. Barad wrote.

More articles on innovation:
Northwestern receives $46M to advance digital, informatics research
Johns Hopkins wins $633K grant to launch regional digital health exchange
Providence St. Joseph CIO, chief digital officer & corporate development head on improving the patient experience

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