Where's health care's Google? Why the industry can't catch an innovative break

Why the industry can't catch an innovative break

Topics: Information Technology

June 22, 2011

Forbes' David Shaywitz last week examined Silicon Valley's contribution to health care, noting that a fundamental failure to understand the nature of health care's problems has choked technological innovation.

The health care system is infamous for its opacity, complexity, and inefficiency, which Shaywitz writes makes it "seem utterly amenable to a technology-driven solution." However, while entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley and elsewhere have successfully created innovative new drugs and devices, they have failed to achieve fundamental innovation in health care delivery.

One of the primary reasons for this gap, according to Shaywitz, is a "failure to understand the nature of the problem to be solved." He notes that many technology entrepreneurs believe medicine to be rational and evidence-based; however, medicine is "far more ambiguous" and relies more on "relationships, connectedness, trusted advice, [and] reassurance." As a result, health care is "much more than simply a diagnosis and treatment" and novel technology platforms need to find a way to "account for the complexity and messiness of illness as it actually occurs and is experienced by patients." Shaywitz also attributes the problem to a lack of appreciation for how entrenched stakeholders have become and notes that many entrepreneurs have few incentives to create cost-effective solutions.

Shaywitz suggests that entrepreneurs consider innovation that will deliver a "positive good" to consumers, noting that consumers currently view health care as a "negative good" that they must purchase and therefore resent. "The opportunity here for technology companies is to develop an attractive and engaging platform that will warmly incentivize positive behaviors, and help patients nudge themselves in healthier directions," he writes (Shaywitz, "Health. Care." Forbes, 6/17).