Healthcare Innovation is a Rubik’s Cube

2019 is here and will be a year of innovation for SMI. But to get us in the mood, let’s look back at a craze that swept across the globe in the early 1980’s and which still draws its fair share of adherents and disciples: the 3D puzzle Rubik’s Cube. Each face of this six-sided puzzle is colored either red, white, blue, green, yellow, or orange and has 9 squares. The goal is to align the squares in such a way that each face is uniform by color.

Rubik's Cube

Like any good puzzle, the Cube baffled me. I could complete 2 of the sides but failed the rest of the way. While difficult to admit, I was one of the kid’s who peeled the stickers off each square and placed them in the correct sequence. Of course this work around was eventually eliminated when the developers moved to painted squares instead of stickers, which I have to say is a pretty solid example of an incremental innovation.

Disruption in Healthcare? 

The Rubik’s Cube is a decent analogy for innovation in healthcare.  If each side represents a major segment in the overall system, a completed puzzle would represent perfect alignment across all facets of healthcare.  Safe to say we ain’t there yet.   We all know that sense of awe when we learn about some cutting-edge innovation in say gene therapy or ultrasonic holography, and we all know the frustration when we learn about something incredibly non-innovative like the way we capture and display pricing data.  

The image below is a snapshot of one system’s charge master which it made available to comply with the recent CMS order requiring hospitals to post list prices for services.

Sutter Health Data

 Source: Sutter Health

Certain advances in medical science seem as if they are 40 years ahead of their time, while others, like the display of data above, seem like relics from the dawn of the personal computing revolution. Clearly, innovation cycles across the healthcare value chain are not in sync. 

However, is it even realistic to think of aligning the innovation cycles of the provider, supplier, payer, and regulatory community? And, more provocatively, is it even in the interest of the different segments to want this?

Maybe not, since the incentives dictating behaviors are also not in sync. This may be why the idea of disruption is so appealing to many. Let’s not spend our time innovating so we can more effectively solve yesterday’s problems, in yesterday’s system. We need something to disrupt it and to do away with any part of the system that feeds off of the complexity, confusion, and failings of the current system.

In all the other markets, the force that plays this role is innovation, particularly disruptive innovation.

The Spring Forum is Coming

SMI’s Spring Forum in Charlotte, NC May 7th-9th is going to look at the puzzle of innovation up close. In particular, we will look at three core capabilities the supply chain leader will need to support the innovations essential to the sustainability of our health system.

Fostering Alignment: What role can the supply chain leader play in incentivizing alignment across the diverse set of clinical, operational, regulatory and commercial stakeholders in healthcare? As in other industries, perhaps the answer lies in improving visibility to demand. Promises are easier to keep when accurate demand information is shared.

Increasing agility: How can supply chain help create a more agile healthcare infrastructure that can take advantage of innovations in process, product, technology and business models? Building monuments that we expect to last fifty years or more is probably not the way to go. Our infrastructure and our processes should match how patients want to receive care.

Developing agency: How can supply chain develop the leadership capacity necessary to support the adoption of innovation across an industry that currently lacks effective change agents? There are many reasons these agents are hard to find in healthcare, but none as predominant as the perverse incentives that govern the overall system.

Solving the puzzle of healthcare innovation is a monumental task that will require monumental effort. However, puzzles are meant to be solved, and who doesn’t love a good puzzle? 

As always, we welcome your comments and suggestions.

© Strategic Marketplace Initiative  |  PO Box 1318  |  Westborough, MA 01581  |  United States  |  508 - 732 - 0059  |  [email protected]
Follow SMI on Twitter Connect with SMI on LinkedIn View Webinars and other SMI Videos