Monday, 14 June 2010

Healthcare Innovation

While researching and discussing a talk I gave earlier this year about healthcare innovation, I believe I touched upon an interesting point about how and when innovations become commercial successes. The important turning points seem to be:
Commercial products infeasible before research and validation
Commercial success not viable until after standardisation or agreement in the community the products serve
I should probably attempt to trace this life-cycle in other fields and other products, but there are some important mechanisms at play here that I think would be hard to violate (specifically in healthcare and any other life science/engineering discipline).

Elaborating a little, my opinion on the life-cycle (of the successful product) is as follows:
  1. Innovative ideas and methods
  2. Research & Validation
  3. Bespoke implementations
  4. Highly specialist products and methods
  5. Agreement/Standardisation of how the new methods should be used
  6. Commercial products
  7. Backing from within the community
  8. Success
It seems to me that the factors that make the healthcare industry peculiar (and other life science/engineering pursuits), are embedded in the seemingly conservative and lengthy process of product adoption, and many are pretty immovable:
  • Un-validated research is practically untenable in the world of healthcare, life sciences and engineering
  • Some early commercial attempts are often needed to improve quality and efficiency of methods to make them accessible to a wider audience (the move from bespoke to specialist implementations)
  • Standards and commercial solutions could well be switched in order, but a commercial success isn't on the cards without agreement between many users on the way to do things (and hence an empirical agreement to all buy the same product to do it!)
  • A new product may well not catch on without some serious evangelical backing from a respected figure within the user community
Most of what we have going on here happens way before the "Crossing the Chasm" idea taught to us by Geoffrey Moore, and it could be described as "the leap from highly bespoke to specialist". Beyond this, businesses may wish to try to move from specialist to prosumer, from prosumer to consumer, but these are strategic business decisions that may or may not be feasible.

Of course, the savvy business provides products to suit their users for every step of the way and sells them many different products and services to suit their changing needs as time goes by.

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