Is health care in need of real innovation? This is like asking if the sun is hot. Of course the answer is yes and a creative approach to applying big data is making a difference.
The old way of thinking about disease and health care is on the edge of disruption, thanks to Joel Dudley, director of biomedical informatics at the Mount Sinai Medical Center. To Dudley, it’s simply a matter of applying creativity. Here’s how he does that.
Look at things in new ways
As Fast Company reports, one way Dudley defines creativity is “looking at things in new ways”—which has become a hallmark approach to innovation.
Where Dudley’s contribution breaks from tradition is in his turning to big data to reimagine what the very concept of disease is. He no longer sees disease as a category cast in stone. For him, the idea of a continuum is a better fit. The radical change, then, is a pivot from a standardized label to a tailor-made one along a continuum of possibilities.
That seemingly simple reframing leads to breakthrough thinking in the world of treatment options.
Leverage perspectives from other domains
Fast Company’s interview with Dudley elicited this eye-opening description of how he takes advantage of innovations occurring in a completely different industry and applies them to medicine:
One example of [bringing in outside perspectives] in my work is looking at the algorithms that Amazon might use to match products to shoppers, or that Google might use to match ads to people on a web browser—using that same approach of pattern matching—applying it in medicine to find new uses for existing drugs.
With that, he discards the old approach of one drug targeted to one disease or category of disease, and substitutes a new approach that takes a broader view of the efficacies of drug therapies. This reframed approach may just help to develop more cures and bring down health care costs in the long run.
Break down the barriers
Traditional medicine is about a series of separate specialties that deliver health care for site-specific diseases: heart, lung, brain, bones. Following Dudley’s new way to see medicine, these separations are simply artificial barriers to better health care delivery.
As Dudley says, it is all connected. He likens medicine’s ability to “measure way more than we now know” today to how astrophysics has relied on their technical tools to measure much more than was understood at the time.
It’s all about using the tools now available to learn to see anew:
It’s almost as if you had six pixels across the screen and you watched all of Harry Potter. You could only see it through six pixels. … But now we have the full screen HD view of biology, and that means you need to watch the movie again. You need to take a second look at it. And your interpretation is going to be very different that way.
Barriers to success
Dudley believes that traditional biomedical approaches are steeped in the types of thinking that tend to reduce information to the lowest common denominator, instead of seeing the whole picture drawn by big data. He also believes that our brains are drawn to patterns and pictures rather than data-driven probabilistic analysis needed to utilize big data. His solution? “Health care needs a lot of people engaging in design thinking.” I have written about design thinking in other posts.
Even in an industry steeped in traditional approaches, reframing problems and leveraging solutions from other domains are sources of innovation.
Who benefits? Whether you call them customers, clients, or patients, the people needing your products or services are the ultimate beneficiaries—and so are the companies that apply product innovation practices.