Disruptive Innovation vs Incremental Improvement – #HITsm Chat Topic

We’re excited to share the topic and questions for this week’s #HITsm chat happening Friday, 4/21 at Noon ET (9 AM PT). This week’s chat will be hosted by Colin Hung (@Colin_Hung) on the topic of “Disruptive Innovation vs Incremental Improvement”.

The term “disruptive innovation” has been driven into our minds by technology and business media. It is the goal of many #HealthIT startups as well as innovation teams at healthcare organizations. Everyone is hoping that their technology or service will be labeled as the next disruptive innovation. I dare say that we are in danger of becoming so obsessed with being disruptive that we are ignoring the here-and-now.

When Clayton Christensen coined the term “disruptive innovation” back in the 90s, he used a very strict definition:

A process by which a product or service takes root initially in simple applications at the bottom of a market and then relentlessly moves up market, eventually displacing established competitors.

In a more recent 2015 HBR article Christensen warns about labeling every improvement as disruptive:

Many researchers, writers, and consultants use “disruptive innovation” to describe any situation in which an industry is shaken up and previously successful incumbents stumble. But that’s much too broad a usage.

If we get sloppy with our labels or fail to integrate insights from subsequent research and experience into the original theory, then managers may end up using the wrong tools for their context, reducing their chances of success. Over time, the theory’s usefulness will be undermined.

Using Christensen’s definition, a disruptive innovation in healthcare would be something that starts off in the underserved part of the market (ex: people who don’t seek care or can’t afford it) and would be seen by incumbents (healthcare providers) as an inferior solution. Slowly that new product/service would go up-market until it replaces the incumbents. Using this lens, many of today’s supposed disruptive #HealthIT innovations fall short. There aren’t many that are aimed at the underserved healthcare markets.

When you use the more common definition, a disruptive innovation is anything that shakes up an incumbent’s market. In a perverse way, this common understanding leads to fear and self-preserving actions. By labeling something as disruptive, you immediately put incumbents on notice – and in response they raise barriers to protect themselves. In a risk-adverse environment like healthcare, convincing someone to adopt a new technology or process is difficult enough but when you label a technology as disruptive, additional barriers get raised: How will it affect privacy? How will clinicians react to it? Will it impact billing? Very few healthcare organizations want to be first to adopt an unproven technology/process.

So the question is, do we even need to proactively seek disruptive innovation in healthcare? Can we not just focus on rapid incremental improvements instead? Let’s fix EHRs so that they aren’t administrative burdens on physicians. Let’s redesign patient portals to be easier to use and let’s fill them with the content patients actually want. Let’s figure out ways to make healthcare payments more transparent. Are we so desperate for a label that we’ve lost sight of making an everyday difference?

Join me on Friday April 21st at 12:00pm ET as we discuss the following questions on #HITsm:

The Questions
T1: Is healthcare too biased against adopting disruptive innovations? Can this bias ever be overcome? #HITsm

T2: Are #HealthIT companies too focused on finding/funding TOMORROW’s disruptive innovation (aka moonshot) vs improvements TODAY? #HITsm

T3: Is the problem just one of labeling? Does it matter in #HealthIT that something is disruptive vs incremental? #HITsm

T4: What do you believe will be the next disruptive innovation in healthcare?  #HITsm

T5: What can be done in healthcare to create an environment where innovation AND improvements are welcomed & encouraged? #HITsm

Bonus: If you had unlimited resources and budget, how would you use them to disrupt healthcare? #HITsm

Be sure to also join tonight’s #hcldr chat where Colin is starting the conversation around disruptive innovation vs incremental improvement.

Upcoming #HITsm Chat Schedule
4/28 – Where Did You Start and How Did You Get Here? The Story of Your Healthcare Career Path
Hosted by Lizzie Barrett (@eliztbarrett)

5/5 – Precision Health 101: Understanding the Keys to Value
Hosted by Bob Rogers (@ScientistBob) from @IntelHealth

5/12 – TBD

5/19 – Patient Education Using Healthcare Social Media
Hosted by Anne Zieger (@annezieger)

5/26 – TBD
Hosted by Chad Johnson (@OchoTex)

We look forward to learning from the #HITsm community! As always let us know if you have ideas for how to make #HITsm better.

If you’re searching for the latest #HITsm chat, you can always find the latest #HITsm chat and schedule of chats here.

About the author

John Lynn

John Lynn

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com, a network of leading Healthcare IT resources. The flagship blog, Healthcare IT Today, contains over 13,000 articles with over half of the articles written by John. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 20 million times.

John manages Healthcare IT Central, the leading career Health IT job board. He also organizes the first of its kind conference and community focused on healthcare marketing, Healthcare and IT Marketing Conference, and a healthcare IT conference, EXPO.health, focused on practical healthcare IT innovation. John is an advisor to multiple healthcare IT companies. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can be found on Twitter: @techguy.