7 Years ago we created the REshape Center for innovation at Radboud University Medical Center in Nijmegen. Based on a plan to explore this ‘new world’ outside where the internet was starting to roar, smartphones had their tipping point and people still had to come to the hospital for a chat at a table.
Now i think it’s time to take a step back, and look at the world as it is right now and (re)think the needed next steps.The outside world has a different speed than the inside world and that’s Ok, sometimes. If the gap however is widening too much, and we not even use the new opportunities to solves “the sh#t of yesterday” as my friend Peter Hinssen said at Our Future Health conference we held (may 2016) nor focusing on the “day after tomorrow”, then a serious problem is coming up.

In a world where Apple increasingly takes its stake in health(care), Amazon clearly shows an uptick in its interest and action into healthcare, Samsung is working in Bio-similars and Alibaba starts offering free healthcare insurance, (the former is collection of the news of the last 9 days) you might want to think twice before saying there is no burning platform for healthcare yet.

Meanwhile healthcare like many other sectors acts as a human body, reacting profoundly quick when something from outside (think innovation) enters its immune-system by sending of killer-viruses. In this case program-boards, project initiation documents and privacy and security processes to kill even the slightest pilot; and let’s not forget the “there is no money” groups. So, don’t we need security or some kind of steering and a bit of money then? Of course we do! But while some think the system is there for them, they have forgotten it is the other way around because they are there to serve the system, in our case the most important part of it : the patient.

Sorry if all of this sounds a bit sarcastic, but i do hope to make that functional because this is where innovation gets nasty. While the gap widens between what is possible, what is valid and what can go mainstream we tend to project the latter to innovation. With that blocking, slowing, preventing even real innovation and solutions in what is badly needed for those who are in need of it and who actually pay our bills and salaries (the patient, for those who again have forgotten). Meanwhile the burning platform is already in the house but completely neglected, since we are too busy with the ‘sh#t of yesterday’. There is a big animal in the room and we don’t want to see it, because we’re too busy being busy with ourselves and the system.
The majority of what we wanted to achieve back in 2010 by setting stage for REshape Center is more or less in place through small(er) projects to test our ideas in our own eco system. As we speak there is the ongoing process to build an ‘innovation-lab” that takes the prototyped solutions made out of ducktape, paper and paperclips and transforms them into a product that also works on Saturday-nights, is secure, and has a model to pay for it. We also spreaded the word, not keeping things to ourselves (to create PhD’s) but by sharing through creating awareness with lecturesconferences and debates. One of our latest endeavours is spreading the innovation virus i.e. through the Health Innovation School we co-created with the Dutch Ministry of health.

So, are we ready then, am I ready then, is this ‘it’? Nope. But now time needs to do its mojo as ‘we can not make grass grow by pulling it’. Digital health is becoming a reality, more and more tangible and research slowly kicks in. It’s not about “an app” or a portal, that is digitalisation while digital transformation affects your whole model of your service, often by services started by others. Since meanwhile the world has changed and is changing at an ever growing speed in every corner of our society all things have become moving parts. So I really think we need to Re-think our REshape Center’s model again, we have to rethink the whole health are model actually since we will face our own copernican moment soon. The ongoing digital transformation in essence has less to do with technical solutions than with change of behaviour and leadership.

For 7 years i’ve been pushing the needle, creating awareness, scouting for opportunities, working formal and informal networks and having the pleasure of experiencing the joy and the impact that can be created, is very energising and very addictive as well. The dampening of energy by ‘structure’, ‘process’ and ‘doing things right’ instead of ‘doing the right things’ is on the other hand very real. It even can force your body and mind into a state of slowly but surely decomposition and become de-energized, without noticing it. Innovation is hard work, it is powerlifting, challenging both formal and informal networks in an organisation while sometimes discussing the christmas-menu with the turkey. All-though having an stellar team, it also (sometimes) can feel very lonely.
This happened to me! When a next episode of kidneystones combined with Shingles, after-pain cumulating -including additional stressfactors- quickly making me feel like 20 years older in a matter of weeks. Starting to become grumpy, sleepy and not able to focus. Being honest; now listening to my peers, family and friends many have seen this coming, not me. It took a while till the inevitable occurred and i had to choose without a choice.

So here i am: fixing my health first, RE-thinking the model thereafter will be my agenda for the coming months. Creating ‘space’ by a ‘functional medical sabbatical’, thus pulling back from every day operations, should do the trick , i hope. My aim is to re-energized again, then setting the stage for the next level digital transformation strategy as the current pace, focus and paradigm isn’t enough anymore. We have to rethink and adapt to the current state of the ‘outside world’ by making sure we can make yourselves obsolete, with that taking on a whole different mindset. If not; someone else will! Healthcare-demand will double and budgets probably will not rise if not the opposite. Being aware of the current tornado of developments all around us i’m convinced the current health(care) model is under ‘siege’ and that might even be the best thing that can happen to actually save healthcare. Once becoming aware of this one cannot make this unseen. So we have to retract, retreat, refuel and then ‘step on it’, exponentially!

One of my next steps? Maybe i should send a ‘please, help us!’ letter to Tim Cook, Marc Benioff, Jeff Bezos and Jack Ma to urge them to stick to their effort approaching health(care) as one of their targets and even boost the effort. The need (and growth) for a burning platform is bigger than ever, and it will not change from inside-out keeping up with the pace of developments. I really worry about the deconstruction this can bring to health(care). Trying to get my head around a next level strategy, writing down my notions and thoughts in a new book is the plan.
But meanwhile we change-agents, we rebels also have to take care of ourselves, right? It honestly took me a while to come to that conclusion for myself. It even felt like ‘surrendering’, but came to conclusion it’s not! It is being vulnerable, and sharing all aspects of innovation with your community. Keep running, sticking to your (original) plan, not reflecting and changing your plan is not a smart thing to do IMHO, hence wisdom of the past months 😉
I am writing my new book on the impact of the digital transformation and why innovation in healthcare is though. The working title is “The end of the beginning” It will include my personal journey, what kind of leadership is needed for innovation in healthcare and some models to create an innovation center. What are the roadblock, the formal and informal barriers and who are the true heroes of innovation. I read too many success stories about innovation and why “scaling-up”, “money” and “privacy” is getting in the way. Spoiler alert : IT’S NOT, I actually think there are several other (real) reasons why innovation is slow in healthcare. Second to that the digital transformation from outside of healthcare will ignite the real change soon, very soon. I hope to finish it by the end of year.
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Stay healthy!