[This is part 2 of a series of posts based on the following: http://disrupthealthcare.blogspot.com/2013/01/a-different-kind-of-soup-building.html]
As with most delicious dishes, I prefer well-executed simplicity. From my experience with running a healthcare software company and working as a hospital-based physician, the following simple ingredients should make for a decent health innovation incubator: Clinician innovators + Local sandbox + External content experts.
Clinician-innovators should have two basic skill sets which are apparent in the name. A clinician could be any clinical care provider that has their finger on the pulse of healthcare delivery. This could be an RN, NP, PA, MD/DO, PhD, PsyD, PharmD, etc. As long as that clinician sees patients with some regularity, they would bring up-to-date clinical insights to the value ideation process.
An innovator would ideally have experience building a product or service that creates social and ideally commercial value. A “failed” entrepreneur is a great example because they’ve learned the ropes of building a company and they don’t have to repeat quite as many mistakes on the second attempt. An MBA should not be a prerequisite because on the ground innovation experience can often be more formative than 2 years of didactic training and networking (drinking games).
The clinician-innovator must have the majority of their time protected to engage in the building the innovation, with a small fraction of that time allotted for ongoing clinical practice to stay current on care delivery pain points.
The clinician innovator should also receive enough pay to meet their basic needs. They don’t need to get rich while in the incubator. But they need to be reimbursed sufficiently to not be distracted by the need to consult or moonlight to live comfortably.
Finally, this position would be optimal for a clinician-innovator that is early-mid career and post-residency training. The timing would be similar to fellowship training in the typical career trajectory of a clinician seeking subspecialty training. Hence, I would propose we call this position a Clinical Innovation Fellow.
The next element of building an innovation incubator within the walls of a hospital is the local sandbox. The entrepreneur would have access to learn the local patients’ and providers’ pain points. And more importantly, the clinical innovation fellow could easily test their proposed solutions to those patients’ and providers’ problems. The fellow would have access to local content experts within the host department. And, there would be a multidisciplinary community of academic researchers accessible for guidance and diverse perspectives. To ensure a balance between serving the local community and scaling to global solutions, the following elements should be incorporated into the incubator: 1) the tool/intervention is patient-centric, 2) a feedback loop exists to patients, and 3) the intervention is outcomes focused.
External Content Experts
External content experts would enable the ideas generated and tested in the local sandbox to expand beyond the walls of the host institutions. External experts could be developers, designers, and data architects. They could be consultants or advisors, paid or unpaid. The could temporarily or permanently be made internal to the incubator over time once sufficient need and value was identified.
External content experts could be think tanks that provide guidance on specific ares of expertise like readmissions, or service delivery models, or reimbursement mechanisms. In addition to providing basic content, they could serve as connectors to a broader customer based. This would be particularly relevant to emerging technologies that stand to benefit payers or pharma companies.
External experts could come in the form of legal counsel, startup guidance, or fundraising mentorship. Law firms could provide pointers on the regulatory implications of an innovation being built. Startup advisors could reinforce the basic principles of lean development. Investors could teach the value of a good one-liner, executive summary, and pitch deck.
With these basic elements, a hospital-based incubator can create value to not only the target customer base, but also to the fellow, the host institution, and the external partners.