- Time to head to Washington, DC – for #AMIA2014! November 12, 2014
- Time for a “biomedical informatics singularity” – Part I? August 29, 2014
- Help us improve healthcare … by joining the Regenstrief Team! January 6, 2014
on biomedical informatics and health information technology
The other day, the Indiana Business Journal ran a column entitled BioCrossroads drops dreams for hospital innovation. In it, the columnist commented fairly negatively on a report by BioCrossroads entitled Healthcare Driven Innovation: An assessment of opportunities in Central Indiana. As a new arrival to Indianapolis, I thought the commentary was a little bit disingenuous and somewhat of a needless putdown of what is really possible. So, I took the initiative and wrote a few comments, many of which are applicable to healthcare innovation in general.
Instead of bidding adieu to “dreams for hospital innovation,” the report simply confirmed what many health systems already know: It is hard to emulate the Cleveland Clinic, whether that is with regard to clinical processes, outcomes, and quality of care, or its innovation model. What the report said loud and clear between the lines, however, is worthwhile repeating: Healthcare in the US needs innovation to chart its way out of the mess it is in. And that is why I moved to the Indiana University School of Medicine/the Regenstrief Institute from the University of Pittsburgh and its juggernaut medical center.
I am a biomedical informatician, since my earliest uses of a computer always focused on solving practical problems. Whether it was writing software to calculate the value of standing timber for my father (a forest superintendent) or programming algorithms for materials testing in a manufacturing company, improving real-world outcomes was always front and center for me. Now, I work for an Institute that has the same priority.
The report astutely examines current local healthcare innovation efforts and outlines a path forward. Many aspects of this path are unknown, but its general shape is clear: Innovating successfully in healthcare requires a balanced amalgam of healthcare institutions (specifically hospitals), clinicians (not just physicians), and entrepreneurship embodied by companies large and small. In this triad, it is often the institutions who are their own worst enemies. While most want to be like Stanford, MIT, or, in this case, the Cleveland Clinic, academic and clinical institutions often create a dizzying array of disincentives and barriers to the innovations they intend to produce. At Temple University in 1989, my first job in the US, the research office was so dysfunctional that any thought of commercializing an innovation was ludicrous. When I started at the University of Pittsburgh in 2002, one of my senior colleagues in biomedical informatics said to me: “If you want to innovate and commercialize, go elsewhere.” Six or so unsuccessful innovation disclosures with Pitt’s Office of Technology Management later, I took his advice.
So, I decided to go to one of the historically most innovative places in healthcare informatics, the Regenstrief Institute Center for Biomedical Informatics (CBMI), as its third director. It helped that even as dental student in Germany I was familiar with the work of its founder, Clem McDonald. (I now have the honor of holding a professorship endowed in Clem’s name.)
In the aggregate, the BioCrossroads makes a few simple points. Healthcare innovation requires the involvement of physicians and other clinicians. Hospitals and other healthcare institutions need sensible strategies to support and nurture this innovation. We need the help of entrepreneurs and the business community to make these initiatives fly in the marketplace. We need to take advantage of local assets and resources. And, we need to collaborate.
I am personally not upset at all that the report concluded we can’t recreate the Cleveland Clinic Innovations model here. Maybe we shouldn’t. According to the report, the Cleveland Clinic started building its vertically integrated innovation and commercialization model in 1921. So, I’d say they have a pretty good head start. The commentary derides IU Health for its poor track record of commercialization through CHV Capital Inc. Well, if it’s any consolation, UMPC didn’t do a whole lot better, despite huge investments. So, the dream of the high-flying, royalty-gushing conveyor belt of startups might not be for many, anyway.
Taking a bright idea from its conception to successful commercialization is an extremely long and arduous road. Most startups in business in general fail. Thus it is in healthcare. As the report suggests, we may want to look at particular facets of the innovation value chain. Here are a few relevant comments:
So, what are the opportunities in Central Indiana? Stellar. Forget what the Cleveland Clinic does. Let’s do it the Hoosier way!
Titus Schleyer, DMD, PhD, MBA
Clem McDonald Professor of Biomedical Informatics
Director, Center for Biomedical Informatics
Regenstrief Institute, Inc., 410 West 10th Street, Suite 2000, Indianapolis, IN 46202-3012
Skype: titus.schleyer, Ph: (317) 423-5522 (direct), cell: (412) 638-3581, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Web: http://www.regenstrief.org/cbmi/, Blog: https://titusschleyer.wordpress.com, General: http://about.me/titusschleyer