Idea Exposure: Health Care Innovation’s Secret Ingredient
Supposing you discover a new way of performing a task or solving a problem.
What do you do with that idea? Immediately share it with a group of friends; do a Google search to check if someone else has tried it; or lock it up tightly in your head in case someone steals it?
Many people tend to do the latter because they place too much value in the idea itself, rather than how it can be executed to help others. In fact innovation and knowledge silos are diametrically opposed to one another.
Digital health futurist Fard Johnmar, who is also the founder of Enspektos, and co-author of ePatient 2015: 15 Surprising Trends Changing Health Care, understands this and would like to eliminate knowledge silos altogether. He believes idea sharing is the secret ingredient in health care innovation.
For much of the past decade, Fard has dedicated himself to exploring and explaining how patients, caregivers, medical professionals and others will be influenced — for good or bad — by digital health technologies.
He’s also taken a special interest in collecting and sharing health technology-related data and insights focusing specifically on underserved populations.
Recently, we asked Fard to share his thoughts on ehealth equity, idea exposure in health care innovation, and his hopes for a new, all-Web digital health conference he’s launched that will take place in mid-May 2014.
Q: We’re curious. What is a digital health futurist?
A: Since I launched my innovation consultancy Enspektos, in 2005, I’ve always been firmly focused on understanding the future.
I’ve worked to improve my knowledge about how health will evolve tomorrow by doing everything from conducting research on emerging health technology trends to talking to people about the potential impact of powerful tools such as personal genomic testing on pregnancy, medication selection and more.
Recently, I’ve started to describe myself as a digital health futurist because I believe it accurately captures my ongoing efforts to think carefully about how technology will influence health and wellness and explain key future health trends to others.
I’m especially focused on looking for patterns and meaning that go beyond the events or news of the day to help health executives not only understand what’s coming in digital, but why it matters and how they should respond.
Q: What’s your take on the ehealth equity movement?
A: I believe it is vital, especially because we are still in the early days of the digital health revolution.
Acting early to ensure people with diverse perspectives, abilities, income levels and more are acknowledged, consulted and adequately served by technology is absolutely essential given what’s at stake in terms of reducing costs and improving well-being across the population.
This is true for everyone, but especially the most vulnerable among us.
Yet, I’d also like to offer a warning: focusing all of our attention on what’s not possible in terms of delivering health innovations to the underserved is a losing strategy. Here’s what I mean.
Many conversations about the underserved and health technology focus on barriers to success, such as low levels of health and technical literacy, lack of access to technology, language barriers and more. While acknowledging these issues is important, focusing on them exclusively may turn people off and even stifle innovation.
It’s hard to get people enthusiastic about innovating in an area where conversations routinely begin with can’t, won’t or other negative language.
Rather than looking at literacy, economics, language, and other traditional barriers to technology adoption and uptake as barriers, I believe it’s vital to view them as opportunities. Here are a couple of examples:
- Oh, the people we’re seeking to work with can’t afford the latest smartphones? Okay, what technologies are they routinely using and can we integrate our solution into these devices?
- Gosh, we can’t rely on seniors living in rural or high-crime areas to come to the hospital for routine follow-ups. What can we do to bring simple, easy-to-deploy, and affordable technologies into their homes so we can collect medical data remotely?
I’m a glass-half-full type of person, so I much prefer conversations about e-health equity to be solution rather than problem-focused.
Q: Why do you believe idea exposure is innovation’s secret ingredient?
A: Personally, I love being exposed to new ideas and different ways of thinking and perspectives. This wasn’t always the case.
When I was younger, I used to believe I knew, or could quickly learn, everything I needed to know on my own. Experience has taught that the more I learn, the less I really know and the importance of reaching out to others for information, inspiration and ideas.
I’ve also witnessed first-hand, at large and small organizations, how exposure to new ideas can drive innovation. Taking time to listen to, question and learn from others can reveal new ways of solving persistent problems, launch a new business or product or even change the world.
Unfortunately, due to time, financial, geographic and other constraints, it’s hard to seek out these learning opportunities. Yet, doing so is not an option because we’re living in a very interconnected world where the most successful people, partnerships and organizations understand that it’s hard to innovate consistently and successfully without being exposed to new ideas and perspectives.
Silos are evil. Connections are good — and essential.
Q: What’s your upcoming conference about? How do you feel it will help accelerate innovation in digital health?
As I mentioned before, I believe silos are evil and idea exposure is essential to innovation. Because of this, I’m constantly looking to bring people together in ways that transcend geography, time zones, organizations and more.
One of the ways I’m working to achieve this goal is by producing a unique all-Web digital health conference called Digihealth pulse Virtual 2014. During the event, attendees will have the opportunity to learn from more than 25 globally recognized thought leaders, including Esther Dyson, Jane Sarasohn-Kahn, and your own Silas Buchanan.
Folks will not only have the opportunity to learn from and be inspired by experts with diverse perspectives, but also engage in discussions with people from around the world that may spark new thinking, partnerships and even initiatives.
Ultimately, I’m hoping that bringing people together within a virtual environment where they can learn on their own schedule, meet new people and more, will provide the level of idea exposure necessary to spark digital health innovation today and in the months and years to come.
What do you think? Do you think knowledge silos have a place in digital innovation, or should health technology organizations embrace new ideas in order to innovate?
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