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Why open innovation is good for healthcare innovation

on June 14, 2012

People in healthcare have great ideas, but the problem is that a lot of the time they just don’t have the skills to translate those ideas into reality.

That’s what Halle Tecco, the founder and managing director of digital health seed accelerator Rock Health, noticed when she was working for Apple covering health and medical apps. And, as she discovered, research supports that observation, too.

Karim Lakhani, an assistant professor at Harvard Business School, looked at 166 challenges broadcast on Innocentive, an open innovation and crowdsourcing network. What he found was that the odds of a problem solver’s success increased in fields in which the solver had no formal expertise.

So, sometimes, complex problems in healthcare that massively funded R&D departments can’t tackle end up being solved by unlikely people. That’s why having a set of diverse minds working within a startup is so important in feeding creativity and innovation, Tecco says in her address to the Mayo Clinic Center for Innovation’s Transform 2011 Symposium.

Take Pipette, for example, which was originally a customer feedback app for the hotel industry. But the creators, who are IT developers, observed an unmet need in the healthcare industry and decided to pivot to create a feedback and check-in platform for patients to communicate with doctors after they’ve been released from the hospital. The startup was acquired by in March.

Problem solvers are needed especially in one area of healthcare: ensuring that therapies are delivered effectively, Tecco says. We’ve had tremendous progress in understanding disease biology and finding effective therapies, but we haven’t been so innovative in finding ways to deliver those therapies.

“Technology is necessary, but not sufficient,” she says.

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