Jeff Rowe, Editor, Future Care

Jeff Rowe is the editor of Future Care and a veteran healthcare journalist and blogger who has reported extensively on initiatives to improve the healthcare system at the local, regional and national level.

Healthcare innovation: it’s not just for the experts

May 3, 2017 AT 10:00 PM

It’s often tempting to assume that innovation is a matter of developing some new technology then plugging it into an existing system, with the assumption of technical expertise factored in along the way.

But Adam O. Kadlec, M.D., a board-certified urologist at Western Michigan Urological Associates, argues that in healthcare, providers – in particular, community physicians – constitute a still-untapped resource for innovation.

In a blog post for NEJM Catalyst, Kadlec distinguishes between “clinical medicine” and “innovation medicine.” The former, he says, “emphasizes development of new devices or new drugs, whereas medical innovators seek to establish an entirely new paradigm for care.”

As Kadlec sees things, because community physicians work with patient populations with more “bread and butter” conditions than their colleagues at big-name academic medical centers, and because they likely chose their practice location in order to have a better work-life balance, community physicians likely have more time and motivation to commit to making healthcare processes more efficient.

Among Kadlec's tips to help inspire community physicians to get more involved are:

• Develop an entrepreneurial mindset that can help to understand the true roots of innovation. Kadlec suggests physicians seek out books and online courses that examine the intersection between entrepreneurship and healthcare innovation.

• Don’t underestimate your capability. While partnering with a major center may help to achieve overarching goals, Kadlec says community doctors need to understand upfront that they can and should play a part in the process.

• Finally, network with like-minded providers, as there are a number of organizations of all sizes that have begun to launch innovation hubs, both in their physical locations and online.

“The ingredients for success in innovation medicine are already present,” Kadlec argues. “Self-employment among physicians has decreased, leaving many hungry for a chance to expand their professional opportunities, to recapture the creative, business-minded activities once afforded by traditional private practice.”