When Collaboration and Innovation Collide

Innovation is one of the biggest buzzwords in healthcare for 2012. Innovation differs from both invention and improvement in a fundamental way. Invention is original creation of an idea, process, product, technology, etc. Improvement is doing this same thing better. Innovation refers to the notion of doing this existing thing not only better, but differently. In fact, the Latin word innovare means “to change.”

Collaboration is yet another hot topic and can be used when discussing anything from bundled payments to patient-centered medical homes. Collaboration is not just working together, but it is a process where two or more organizations work with a deep, collective, determination to achieve an identical objective.

Although we find ourselves using these buzzwords often, it is the intersection of the two that really defines the healthcare landscape of today and in the future. It is the intersection of the two that can be truly disruptive.

Consider for a moment that we are no longer on a quest for best practices in healthcare—a common exercise of reproducing what someone else has already proven to work. Dee Edington at the University of Michigan’s Health Management Research Center, speaks about the need to be an industry of “next practices”—pushing the boundaries of current processes, not just improving them, but exploring a different way of approaching healthcare altogether. We can no longer afford to rely on or continue to replicate the past; we need to invest in the ingenuity and promise of what’s next.

True innovation has been a historical cornerstone for medicine, so we can take a page from our past in order to change our present. Take the case of biotech and pharmaceutical companies. They are always looking for different ways to engineer treatments, improve technologies, and cure chronic, life-threatening diseases. Home-grown Reata Pharmaceuticals in Irving for example, is revolutionizing an approach to chronic kidney disease with future plans to reduce the stress of other inflammation disorders. It is not new to treat end-stage renal failure, but the introduction of an oral anti-inflammatory drug was indeed.

Reata is just one example of how North Texas can and has spawned innovative success. The health industry here is unique and shows concrete signs that we can embody the what’s next attitude, we just have to channel our collective energies in support.

Stanford Social Innovation Review published an article by Fay HanleyBrown, et.al., entitled “Channeling Change: Making Collective Impact Work.” The crux of this publication is that organizations from diverse settings can approach large-scale problems collaboratively and show success. In North Texas, we can effectively say that collaborative innovation is here. There are multiple examples, but one of the most recent is the integration of BioDFW into the Health Industry Council.

In June, the traditional healthcare members of the Health Industry Council joined forces with BioDFW. Together these organizations form a working alliance of technology leaders, healthcare professionals, academics and entrepreneurs. BioDFW has become a task force of the Council, whose purpose is to grow North Texas’ life science and biotechnology industries. Now, two previously separate interest groups have a common agenda, can participate in mutually beneficial activities, and provide backbone support to a growing and vital segment of care. This means that members of THIC are actively supporting an entrepreneurial and upstart segment of the industry, actively looking for different ways to approach the business and patient sides of health, and actively pursuing inter-professional relationships that might not have been possible a year ago.

The Bio organizations in other parts of the country are vital engines for economic development and provide an essential bench to market platform for research to thrive. The Council has vision for accelerating North Texas’ profile, not only in clinical (drug and device) research, but in process innovations, mobile health, and education. With change as a constant, we are given the opportunity to collectively disrupt our present and impact the future in huge ways.

What are some other examples of collaborative innovation in North Texas? We want to hear from you.

Leslie Casey is vice president of membership for The Health Industry Council.