Disruptive innovation

I was recently invited to speak as part of the London Disruptive Innovation Festival, a 3 week event curated by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.

Much of the discussion was around the goal of a ‘circular economy’, which the Ellen MacArthur Foundation was created to promote; the ultimate disruptive innovation being the change from a linear ‘take, make and dispose’ economic model to one that is restorative and regenerative.

I don’t think we see enough of that thinking within the medical device industry and yet the volumes of devices, let’s just take the injection market, 3.6 billion pre-filled syringes in 2015, surely suggest we should.

I took along a few ideas that I think have the potential to be disruptive in healthcare. The one that’s closest to my heart is www.patientslikeme.com.

I think there is tremendous power in the notion of an organisation that sits somewhere on the periphery of the healthcare industry, offers guardianship of personal health data and uses it to hold us to account.

In a sense, that might be what we’d expect of our governments, were it not for the political and economic leverage offered by the healthcare industry as a whole: the UK’s NHS is the world’s fifth largest employer.

But what PatientsLikeMe is doing is really interesting; their focus on “healthspan”, for example, a way of thinking about the quality & quantity of life that can be expected, which acknowledges the effects of all symptoms as well as the root illness, and the side – and adverse effects of the therapy itself (that can be every bit as bad as the illness). I think this mirrors, and will augment, the increasing focus of payers the world over on disease outcomes.

They have more than 300,000 people who will readily share complex and intimate data about their condition and medication. This resource, properly harnessed, was able to suggest the inefficacy of lithium carbonate for motor neurone disease in a fraction of the time, with next to no cost, and with the full knowledge of participants during the study.

An innovation that has the potential to disrupt the orthodoxy of ‘formal’ clinical trials and perhaps rebalance the relationship between pharmaceutical companies, clinicians and the ill people they serve.


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