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Summit focuses on health-care innovation

Health-care leaders and innovators gathered this week at the Louisville Innovation Summit to talk about finding new ways to address some of our greatest challenges, particularly in the area of aging care.

“We have some great opportunities to innovate,” said Humana President and CEO Bruce Broussard in a speech welcoming participants from around the country to the summit in Louisville. He likened the challenge facing the American health-care system to the task of putting an astronaut on the moon in the 1960s. That achievement required tremendous innovation in a partnership between industry and government, and “I think our health-care system is much the same,” Broussard said. “And we are on the cusp of making a tremendous impact on aging.”

The two-day summit featured an innovation contest, speeches, presentations and panel discussions on a variety of healthcare-related topics. Humana served as a sponsor and founding partner of the event. Here are some highlights:

Inspiration for innovation
Focus on what’s possible, Paul Bennet, Chief Creative Officer of consulting firm IDEO, said during a panel discussion on how organizations can cultivate a culture of innovation. Too often, he said, health-care companies use regulations or institutional barriers as excuses for not innovating. “Focus less on what can’t you do – what can you do?” Given the highly personal nature of health care, Bennet said any solution will inevitably involve a partnership with consumers. “You have to make them the co-creators of their solution, not just get them to accept yours.”

Innovation consultant Steve Meller advised companies to cast a wide net for role models and inspiration. “Look outside the U.S. What can you learn from other systems, other ways, other cultures and apply here?”

Rewards of a changing marketplace
Mary Furlong is a consultant with a long career in venture capital and aging care. She founded SeniorNet, a nonprofit aimed at helping seniors develop technology skills. Furlong told the audience that the roughly 77 million people in the baby-boom generation represent a market that’s both sizable and diverse. Rather than trying to create products for every single baby boomer, she said, “The riches are in the niches.” Helping baby boomers transition to a post-retirement lifestyle in greater health is a win for everyone, she said. In a reference to her book, “Turning Silver into Gold: How to Profit in the Boomer Marketplace,” she said “The silver is the money we can make. The gold is the good we can do.”

The need for speed
Several speakers at the summit discussed the need for everyone with a stake in health care to understand and incorporate the speed at which society, technology and business are changing. Cisco Systems Senior Vice President Carlos Dominguez emphasized this in his keynote speech in which he, like Broussard, referenced the moon landing, though in a different context. If you combined all the computing power NASA used to put Neil Armstrong on the moon in 1969, it would be roughly the equivalent of the hand-held Gameboy video game system, circa 2000.

“Technology is disrupting everything and you can’t avoid it,” he said. “In a complex world, simplification is an incredible strategy. How do you make things simple for your employees? How do you make them simple for your customers?”

Dominguez estimated that if the U.S. health-care system could increase overall efficiency by 1 percent over 15 years, it would save $63 billion.

To make that and other necessary changes, he encouraged a culture of “relentless innovation.” Still, he said, “As you reinvent your company, you’ve got to retain those things that remain relevant,” like facilities, relationships, corporate culture and values.

Even with all the changes and challenges facing health care and the overall business community, Dominguez said, “I absolutely think this is the most incredible time to be alive.”

For more information about the Louisville Innovation Summit, click here.

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