Creating an ‘Innovation Ecosystem’ in Health Care

Lindsey Ellerson

The soaring costs of health care make it increasingly clear there must be a reinvention in the way health care is delivered. Currently health care is 18 percent of the U.S. GDP and by 2050, it is predicted it will reach nearly 40% if the climate maintains the status quo. General Motors spent $4.6 billion on health care in 2007 - more than it spent on steel. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, more than 80 percent of uninsured people are part of working families.

At SXSW, crowdsourcing health care was presented as a potential solution to this problem. The concept of crowdsourcing is essentially that strong and innovative solutions can originate from those who are allowed to collaborate and organize organically. The panel, led by influencers at the Department of Health and Human Services, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, NASA and others, suggested the time is now to welcome varying voices – entrepreneurs, providers, developers, patients - into the health care debate. Panelists touted the use of incentive-based programs as not only an effective mechanism for spurring innovation, but a model that is becoming more mainstream.

While the use of challenges and prizes have been a motivator throughout history, a recent McKinsey & Company report shows a dramatic spike of late. “Philanthropic prizes are growing in number and size, are appearing in new forms, and are being applied to a wider range of societal objectives by a wider range of sponsors than ever before,” the study reports.

This can in part be attributed to the passage of the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010, enabling all federal agencies to execute such competitions, and sanctioning the use of appropriated funds to support this innovation.

Indu Subaiya, Co-Chairman and CEO of Health 2.0: User Generated Healthcare, and Jeffry Davis, Director of the NASA Human Health and Performance Center, cited the benefits of this crowdsourcing model to include:

  • Production of innovative ideas and an element of surprise due to cross-discipline participants
  • Facilitation of broad collaboration and a convening of influencers who care about the issues
  • Acceleration of product/idea development time and reduced cost
  • Inspiration of public engagement and ultimately, a mechanism for sharing best practices.

Health 2.0, which works with the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT to engage government agencies, community organizations, nonprofits and others, to date has launched 25+ online challenges, more than 10 code-a-thons and offered $900,000 in prizes. Many of these challenges are not only producing fresh, creative ideas, but also building communities through the process of competition and driving discussion. Imagine the potential revolution of the health care industry if everyone was an active participant. Are you up for the challenge?


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