Wharton@Work

January 2019 | 

Health Care Leaders Learn to Jump-Start Innovation


Health Care Leaders Learn to Jump-Start Innovation

Innovations in health care are transforming the practice of medicine. With the advent of precision medicine, doctors are using patients’ genetic information to better diagnose and treat cancer, cardiovascular disease, and even premature birth conditions. New discoveries in immunotherapy mean that a patient’s own immune system can be stimulated to fight life-threatening conditions. Even the adoption of electronic health records — which many take for granted — gives both doctors and patients a new level of access to critical data, enabling innovations in care.

On the medical device side, connected devices ranging from scales and glucometers to blood pressure cuffs, pillboxes to inhalers, are radically improving patient outcomes. Tech giants like Apple, Google, and Microsoft have been jumping on the health care bandwagon too, with medical-related apps and sensors. Last year, 10 of the largest tech companies in the U.S. were involved in health care equity deals worth $2.7 billion, up from just $277 million in 2012, according to the New York Times.

At the same time, health care systems are taking on more risk and accountability for outcomes. Given public concern about the rapidly rising cost of health care, already over $3 trillion annually in the U.S. and almost 18 percent of the GDP, the pressure to deliver high-value care will only continue.  In this context, it’s clear that health care organizations need to up their game when it comes to innovation. To help leaders seize potential opportunities, Wharton and Penn Medicine have joined forces to offer a new program, Health Care Innovation, happening April 25–28, 2019.

Roy Rosin and Christian Terwiesch, the program’s academic directors, say that the four-day program will guide participants to become true catalysts for innovation in their organizations. Rosin is Penn Medicine’s chief innovation officer and Terwiesch is the Andrew M. Heller Professor and professor of Operations, Information and Decisions at Wharton and professor of Health Policy, Perelman School of Medicine. He is also co-director of Wharton’s Mack Institute of Innovation Management. One of the program’s goals, Rosin explains, is to help participants hone their grasp of innovation not as a “bolt of lightning insight,” but a deliberate process.

“Innovation is not having a new idea, but translating ideas into action and into outcomes,” he says. “It requires a different way of managing a business, different from running an existing concern and just eking out incremental value.”

Health Care Innovation delivers a unique blend of lectures, experiential exercises, small group conversations, and class discussions with Wharton and Penn Medicine faculty and distinguished industry thought leaders. Rosin and Terwiesch say that participants will acquire three crucial outcomes: insights into how design thinking can stimulate health care innovation, proven tools and techniques for managing the innovation process, and a process for successfully managing a portfolio of innovations in alignment with strategic priorities.

Participants will also discover how to transform their organization’s mindset, which is often not a simple task. Rosin explains, “Even when you have deep and interesting insights on the front line, changing the way people work…is actually very hard to do.” The program’s systematic, results-oriented approach to innovation helps overcome this obstacle.

An exciting feature of the program is the Health Care Innovation Tournament. Attendees will generate new ideas based on a specific clinical challenge. After numerous rounds of vetting, only the most promising concepts will make it to the final round. This type of tournament has been shown to generate unparalleled opportunities. Moreover, it’s a “stepping stone to thinking of innovation as a process as opposed to just kind of ‘magic,’” says Terwiesch.

Terwiesch notes that the program will also help participants evaluate ways to “re-imagine health care” in terms of business model innovation, novel payment systems, and new revenue models. He adds that they will consider “very different ways of organizing care,” including automated devices that “hover” over patients between doctor’s appointments. “It’s a way of thinking of patients as always touched by care,” he says.

The program builds on ideas from a New England Journal of Medicine article authored by Terwiesch and Rosin along with Wharton Professor of Health Care Management David Asch and University of Pennsylvania Health System EVP Kevin Mahoney, titled “Insourcing Health Care Innovation.” “Rather than seek solutions to health care’s problems in facile recommendations from management gurus with experience in unrelated industries,” they write, “we’d do better to find a solution process to use from within. And the process for high-impact innovation can in fact be learned.”

Health Care Innovation should be invaluable to health care leaders in an era when — as Terwiesch puts it — “the clock is ticking at the industry level….The need to innovate is knocking at your door.” The program equips them with the strategies and tools to take control of the innovation process, and to optimize it for their organization’s success.