Collaboration, risk-taking drive healthcare innovation [Special Report]

By Leslie Small

In an industry as rapidly evolving as healthcare, it seems it would be easy to create, propel and sustain innovative solutions to some of the most pressing problems. Yet a field with such deep roots--and such high stakes--also can be slow to change.

One reason innovation is slow is that healthcare is extremely fragmented, Cara Sterling, director of Harvard Business School's Health Care Initiative, told FierceHealthcare in an exclusive interview. Sterling helped lead a collaborative effort between the university's business and medical schools called the Forum on Healthcare Innovation.

"Obviously healthcare is very local, but it's also very siloed, because there's so much specialization within the industry," Sterling says. "It takes much, much longer for innovations to be transmitted because of this fragmentation and localization."

To solve that conundrum, experts say the healthcare industry must learn from the tech industry's culture of experimentation to focus on collecting data, changing course quickly and accomplishing a lot on a small budget.

"Healthcare innovation is not about iPhone apps. It's about disciplined approaches to rapidly testing new ideas to promote better patient care," David A. Asch, M.D., executive director of Penn Medicine's Center for Health Care Innovation, said in statement. "We're moving into an era where 'getting away' with as little testing as possible is an essential feature of successful innovation--so long as that testing is done in a real context where the results are believable."

Indeed, not only are academic groups like Harvard's Forum on Healthcare Innovation bringing bright minds together to drive innovation, but the effort also gets a significant boost from collaboration within the industry.

In this exclusive FierceHealthcare special report, we explore some of the obstacles to innovation and how these unique ventures offer lasting lessons to healthcare leaders who want to drive change in the industry.