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By Eric Schaefer
“Yes, it’s a good idea. But does it have value?”
This simple question isn’t asked nearly enough in the healthcare innovation process. As a result, health systems tend to be less adept in deploying innovations outside of traditional models.
Consider the case of Driver. The app was touted as a way to connect cancer patients with clinical trial opportunities and leading-edge treatments around the globe. It even got buy-in from the Cleveland Clinic and the Mayo Clinic. So why did it shut down after just two months? Driver didn’t provide enough value to consumers. With an initial $3,000 fee and a $20 monthly subscription, the app couldn’t attract — and retain — enough users to stay afloat.
Would Driver have succeeded if it had developed a more holistic value hypothesis regarding its target population before launching? It’s impossible to say. What is certain is that it would have helped, not hurt, its prospects.
The Secret to Value Creation
Starting the innovation process with a value hypothesis can prevent a healthcare organization from wasting money, time, and human resources. However, it can be tricky to know the proper way to define and explore that hypothesis. This is especially true for people unaccustomed to the discipline involved in testing rigorously and failing fast.
Scientific teams that begin experiments by analyzing value hypotheses work to squeeze as much data as possible from early testing. They’re also willing to pivot if their original value hypothesis is flawed. With this mindset, they can make strides without getting mired.
To be sure, such a mindset is relatively new in the healthcare system. Healthcare innovators sometimes make assumptions and take them too far without doing a thorough analysis. Consequently, many innovations end up dead on arrival.
To prevent your innovation from floundering, put value hypothesis creation front and center by answering the following questions:
1“What is the most important outcome for our organization?”
At a strategic level, your innovation must support all relevant stakeholders — including yourself. If it doesn’t, it won’t last. Lantern, a mental health portal, was valuable to end users but wasn’t meeting its own needs. Whatever your innovation might be, it should serve your interests, goals, and bottom line. If it doesn’t, it won’t have the chance to make a lasting difference.
2“What is our endgame?”
You have to know your endgame before you can decide whether an innovation is worth the effort. If your strategic objective is to help patients better manage their risk factors, your innovation should match that outcome. Too often, innovators get so caught up in the novelty of their ideas and the excitement of bringing them to life that they fail to think about what that idea should make possible once it’s complete.
3“What kind of innovation would best suit our desired outcome while creating value?”
After determining your desired outcome, brainstorm value-added innovations that will align with that goal. These could be anything from new processes to novel technologies. If you don’t clearly outline these objectives and ensure they align with your overarching goals, the innovation won’t survive. Brainstorming with those goals in mind can help keep you focused on the right projects and set you on a successful trajectory.
4“How can we bring our innovation to life?”
Innovations don’t happen without effort. They take expertise, commitment, and sometimes outside partnerships. One health system invested in a startup focused on engaging patients through a portal but faced problems when it realized how difficult it would be to keep the portal updated continuously with fresh and inviting information. Ultimately, these innovators couldn’t compete with content behemoths like WebMD and the Mayo Clinic because they weren’t equipped to put in the necessary effort.
Healthcare is ripe for innovation and disruption, but it takes effort to design, develop, and deploy solutions. Aim high and always keep in mind that great ideas only become game-changers when they deliver value.
Eric Schaefer is the vice president of healthcare innovation at Coplex, a venture studio focused on developing new healthcare ventures with corporate partners. He’s responsible for developing these partnerships and works with the Coplex team to validate and pilot innovation concepts.
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