How About an X Prize for Healthcare?

Philip Betbeze, February 11, 2011

We all recognize that healthcare has lots of problems. To name a few, it's too expensive, it often harms patients rather than heals them, and it's highly inefficient.

So what? Lots of people think they have solutions and lots of others feel like many of healthcare's problems are unsolvable. But I disagree. People once thought that circumnavigating the globe was impossible. They also thought that about transatlantic solo flight and putting a man on the moon. Yet all of these things happened.

In some cases, the process of achieving these high-profile goals was helped along by either massive government spending or prize competitions. We've got the massive government spending in healthcare, and so far, it hasn't achieved the goal of a safe, quick, efficient healthcare system. So why not go the prize route?

Perhaps you've heard of the X Prize. That's a brand name, but such prizes for being the first to achieve big, audacious goals such as Charles Lindbergh's transatlantic jaunt have been commonplace for more than a century. More recently, the Ansari X Prize was awarded for Burt Rutan's development of a vehicle that can carry three individuals to 100 kilometers above the earth's surface, twice within two weeks. He won $10 million for the effort. 

What about funding innovation in healthcare this way? It's not a big leap to consider a healthcare X Prize. First off, the X Prize Foundation has multiple prizes in play at any given time. Secondly, there already are X Prizes for healthcare—sort of. But they're really all about technological improvements in clinical products or healthcare research.

Philip Betbeze

Philip Betbeze is the senior leadership editor at HealthLeaders Media.

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