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Global Innovation

Rick Johnson, for HealthLeaders Media, May 6, 2008

Innovation is a word tossed around all too lightly in the healthcare industry. While healthcare organizations and vendors claim that they are innovators, industry analysts point out that healthcare is frequently one of the last sectors to adapt to global change.

Whenever I see the word “innovation” in the title of a conference presentation, I can’t help but to roll my eyes. I’ve seen too many of these monologues turn out to be about implementing the Toyota method, which was once an innovation—for Toyota.

Today I’m in Las Vegas, the city of neon lights and second-hand smoke. I’m here at The Venetian conference center for the Healthcare Globalization Summit. Even though I’m not much of a Vegas guy, I’ve been looking forward to this conference. There are some influential names on the agenda and some people I’ve interviewed for past articles that I’m hoping to reconnect with.

But then I scan the agenda for the day and notice the title of the keynote: “Driving Innovation in a Global Healthcare Marketplace.” After some initial skepticism, I push back my bias and see this roundtable discussion includes some folks who might actually know a thing or two about real innovation, including Bumrungrad Hospital’s CEO, Microsoft's worldwide health director, and Converge Partners’ managing director, health industry.

Here are some of the highlights of their conversation, moderated by Greg Lindsay, a contributing writer for Fast Company magazine who has written about medical travel.

  • Curtis Schroeder, CEO of Bumrungrad International Hospital, made the point that the barrier of distance for medical travelers might become more of a factor as more and more international hospitals emerge in the market. For instance, if low cost, world class hospitals are available in Mexico or Central America, Bumrungrad would face greater competition based on the proximity of the hospital to the patient.
  • Simmi Singh, managing director for Converge Partners, said international hospitals have a tremendous opportunity with the creation of global healthcare brands to reach cash rich consumers all over the world—not just in the United States. Schroeder noted that when healthcare was largely local, branding wasn’t important, but agreed that global hospitals on the forefront can develop worldwide brands. Singh said that this only increases the importance of the consumer experience. “People don’t understand quality as consumers … but they can understand the transformative experience,” she said. “While the discussion is about cost moving people around the world, I think the ante has been upped on the patient experience.”
  • The panelists also had an interesting discussion about the inequitable price of medical devices around the globe. They predicted that the global health movement could flatten the costs for devices in the next several years.

I will be here at the Healthcare Globalization Summit for the next two days and will post any observations I have online. I’m on the company tab, so what I do in Vegas doesn’t stay here. Check back in and shoot me any comments, questions, or suggestions you might have.


Rick Johnson is senior online editor of HealthLeaders Media. He may be reached at rjohnson@healthleadersmedia.com.
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