Why the COVID-19 Crash Will Spur the Next Wave of Healthcare Innovation

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By Brenda Schmidt

Corporations get a bad rap when it comes to innovation. They’re viewed as having a fixed mindset — a “that’s the way we’ve always done it” approach to business. I, however, believe that corporations, not startups, will actually drive the next wave of innovation. 

Traditionalist industries like healthcare are ripe to undergo substantial disruption in the coming years. Corporations understand that to survive and thrive, they must make innovation a strategic priority, and they have the existing customer relationships, market expertise, and capital necessary to do that with less risk.

Now’s the Time: All or Nothing

The economic shock of the coronavirus has shown corporations that no amount of optimizing or reshaping their current business models is going to drive disruptive, innovative ideas. They need to take the plunge, reimagine the future from a broader perspective, and explore adjacencies that allow them to disrupt their entire industry. 

The pandemic exposed the frailty of our current healthcare system, specifically the urgent need for disruption and transformation to improve care for all. Leaders must explore ways to effectively address the underlying social needs of vulnerable populations and healthcare access, including the elderly and communities of color. These issues have opened opportunities for telehealth and other scalable, lower-cost delivery models that can improve the cost and quality of care. 

A High-Stakes Game

Regulation has not caught up with technology advances that could radically improve the quality of care and reduce costs. There are many innovative healthcare delivery models, financial incentives, and technologies that could significantly improve healthcare cost and  quality, but implementing and scaling these innovations are frequently restricted by antiquated regulations. 

Hopefully, the pandemic will serve as an inflection point to help healthcare leaders address the existing healthcare delivery paradigm. If not, healthcare costs will continue to rise, and the current inequities in care delivery will persist. 

Innovating From Within

Even a tightly regulated industry like healthcare can innovate from within; it just requires that corporations have the courage to take a step back, identify industry issues, and make bold changes to drive nonincremental innovation. 


Below are four trends already driving industrywide change. Traditional healthcare organizations can capitalize on these tailwinds to transform themselves and their broader industries from the inside out.

1. Telehealth services became a covered medical benefit for Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries. Who knows how long it would have taken for telehealth services to be covered if not for COVID-19 disruption. These interventions have proven to increase access to care with high consumer satisfaction and are much more efficient for all parties involved. 

2. Consumer experiences are taking a front-and-center role in healthcare delivery and process improvements. Consumer experience in healthcare is not limited to a 20-minute doctor appointment. It spans everything from cost transparency and payments to scheduling and patient records. Healthcare leaders should consider the consumer experience at every point of the consumer journey, from the day consumers first learn about the organization to their post-appointment follow-up and care. The entire experience must be consumer-centric. 

3. Health plans are starting to take a community-based approach. Access to healthcare must be accessible and affordable for all patients. Health plans need to work together across communities to align their data and financial incentive structures. The goal should be to invest in population health interventions with long return horizons, such as chronic disease prevention and social determinants of health. 

4Data interoperability is on the rise. Support continues to increase for data interoperability, with the goal of creating a single longitudinal patient record across payers and providers. By using synchronized systems to access and exchange data, healthcare corporations can provide better care and patient experience at every touchpoint. 

If healthcare corporations do not transform themselves from the inside out, the entire industry will be reacting to external disruptions. To truly disrupt healthcare and drive meaningful change, it will take a collaborative effort among policymakers, payers, and providers. It’s time for these stakeholders to come together and put people at the center of healthcare innovation.

Brenda Schmidt is the CEO of Coplex, a venture builder that partners with entrepreneurs, industry experts, and corporate innovators to establish high-growth tech companies. She previously founded Solera Health and has spent her career educating, speaking, advising, and leading in the name of creating social impact.

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