Breaking Down the Process of Innovation: The Value of Community

In just about a month, the third Annual Health Datapalooza will take place in Washington, DC – a celebration of data-driven healthcare innovation (tax-payer funded data, by the way).  The part of the program that I’m personally looking forward to is the Apps Expo of about a hundred or so health apps that will be showcased throughout the event.  While there will be center stage presentations by a cavalcade of inspiring leaders (including Thomas Geotz and Bob Kocher), what is noteworthy is that there will be the opportunity to participate in roundtable discussions and deep dive sessions on top-of-mind areas of development such as big data, ACOs, and consumer data liberation. (liberacion!)

But what is the value in attendance? Better question, why has the event attracted more and more new attendees recently?

I’ve spent the last few years supporting private-sector healthcare innovation – especially around health IT.  What I’ve come to appreciate from those dedicated to the space – whether a two person startup or a carve-out within a large technology prime – is that success at every stage of innovative development is predicated on how quickly one can create value based on the expectations of the relevant stakeholders at that stage.

Put another way, if you are innovating in healthcare, you’ll advance to the next stage of development ONLY if you’re able to find the stakeholders you are supposed to collaborate with (a search issue) AND create innovative value based on their expectations (an execution issue).

The reason why this event has been quite successful in the past (typically filled to capacity) is because it offers a solution to the fundamental search and collaboration challenge for healthcare innovators.  In addition to keynote presentations from Todd Park and Bill Frist, there will be dozens of meet-up events and networking opportunities through the agenda and DC Health Innovation week.

If success in healthcare requires and appreciation of multiple perspectives from external, how do you have meaningful interactions with folks outside your immediate tribe? For example, if you’ve developed a prototype for your nurse-oriented mobile app, where would you find an appropriate testbed? Who would you consult with on usability and data standards issues?

This year’s Health Data Initiative registrations show quite a balance mix of innovation stakeholders – startups, developers, policymakers, investors, patients, caregivers, and educators.  The conference will be filled with a wide variety of backgrounds and talent – I would guess you would have as much chance of running into an engineering grad with the next big idea for diabetes medication adherence as you would Bertolini, Chairman and CEO of Aetna.  And while the event is centered around the health data, it is the ecosystem that has been built around the event that will be vital to those innovate.

I’ve mentioned before that innovation communities and meaningful exchanges are essential to the success of those developing health IT.  Health 2.0 and other forward looking organizations have risen to the challenge to host and encourage community building efforts – the May Boston Spring Fling is another great, upcoming example.

If you’re leading or hosting healthcare innovation community building efforts, I’d love to know about them.  Of course, if you’re able to register while space is still available, I look forward to seeing you at the June Datapalooza in DC!

Wil Yu leads nationwide healthcare innovation efforts for the U.S. through the Dept. of Health and Human Services.  He directs several innovation grant programs and created the “Investing in Innovations” program, i2, which utilizes prizes and challenge to spur early stage innovations and community building. (@HlthInnovaton)

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