Health Tech Or Wealth Tech?

AUSTIN, TEXAS -- Innovation in the health space has complexity like no other with the overwhelming amount of components like diseases, patients, professions, influencers, processes, organizations, pricing models, systems, etc. There have been great ideas coming to life and new technologies being used that show exciting potential, but is the industry ready for all of this? The ideas that we see come to market are short-term ROI driven, due to the disrupted landscape of health innovation and the lack of know-how to move forward.  

Who are we innovating for?

Are we delivering solutions for the people that need it most? Are these solutions designed to be useful and matter? These are questions health innovation needs to address in order to evolve the industry. The innovations that are being created today are for the affluent market and not effective in other markets with financial burdens. We have to realize that these in-need markets are impacted greatly by even the smallest introductions of technology. There are innovations from the mid-90s that are making a difference when applied to these markets. They are expressing interest and are willing to adopt any new ideas that can help. Not only are we just currently tapping into the tip of the iceberg, but also new markets are being created due to the Medicaid expansion.



Let’s look at Purple Binder. It is software that supports community referral systems to address the social determinant of health by connecting people with the care they need. Purple Binder makes it easy to refer people to local community services. It is an evolution of the physical documentation kept in the offices of community health workers. The technology used to build the database and interface is not the innovation here, but the solution it enables. Also, it is priced accurately and ultimately affordable for the right markets. It taps into an insight that this market needs a simple solution and the truth that health is local.

The ecosystem is key.

With innovation honed in on patients/consumers in the health industry, there is missed opportunity in working with organizations. Partnering with the right organization not only innovates their service, but presents more potential for implementation. One example is the Center of Care Innovations and their work helping the industry move forward. Work like this needs to be able to scale, but it can only happen in this health innovation ecosystem if improvements in skills and culture are tackled. Design thinking has been a buzzword through innovation, but the mindset and knowledge needs to be the norm in health. There are tools that need to be impacted by this “new norm” that is needed including:

  • Flexible resources

  • Replication and behavior science

  • Patient and community advocates

  • Supportive policies and payment options

  • Learning communities

  • Technical assistance

  • Evaluation

Opportunity for experience innovation.

This disrupted industry is ready to come together in order to enable the innovation goals that have become so important. The lack of a holistic view and strategy is holding back the innovation to take place in the right places, for the right people, and the right way. By understanding that with a formalized mission to evolve the healthcare experience, we can then understand the complexity from one perspective and make appropriate changes to enable mass-innovation. By designing an ecosystem as the infrastructure of this experience, we can break through the barriers of health innovation like unsupportive policy and payment framework, uncertainty with evidence base, different definitions of success, and limited patient and community engagement.
1 comment about "Health Tech Or Wealth Tech?".
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  1. Jane Sarasohn-kahn from THINK-Health, March 16, 2016 at 10:12 a.m.

    Matt - great points here! I am a big fan of the work of both the Center and Purple Binder. I wrote about them both in my recent paper for California Healthcare Foundation, "Digitizing the Safety Net."  Do take a look -- it addresses the industry's attention on shiny new things, technology in search of problems -- vs taking a user- and social-centered approach to digital health tech design, development and deployment. Thanks for raising these issues...Jane 

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