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Showing posts from March, 2011

If You Had To Compete, Could You?

ATTN: Hospital Marketers! You're in the somewhat fortunate position of being your organization's "captive agency." But what if your internal customers were empowered to buy marketing services from anybody, anywhere, including from outside agencies? Would they still buy from you? Are you and your team good enough to compete on that basis? Are you world-class builders of competitive advantage? Easy to work with? Results-oriented? Communicative?

Are you trend-aware early adopters or behind the curve, hoping nobody notices?  Do you produce "best possible" results with "lowest necessary" investments?

It's a wired, connected, free-agent world out there, with heightened standards and expectations.  Measure up or prepare to be moved out.

McKesson Foundation Awards Grants To GW Diabetes Researchers "George Washington University researchers have been awarded two grants from the McKesson Foundation as part of its Mobilizing for Health initiative, an initiative to improve the health of underserved populations with chronic diseases through the use of mobile-phone technology. The Mobilizing for Health grants, of up to $250,000 each, will support studies on diabetes care and management."

One grant supports a study examining SMS messaging's potential to reduce ER visits for people with diabetes. The other study is a randomized, controlled trial of a cell phone-based software application for patients with diabetes and hypertension.

A 'Digital Divide' In PHR Adoption

Medical News Today: The 'digital divide' among primary care patients adopting an online personal health record (PHR.)
"PHRs aim to increase patient access to personal health information, however wide use of PHRs will be difficult to achieve if patients cannot access this information because of a lack of Internet or computer access."


"In this study, we found the presence of a digital divide in a diverse population. Specifically, racial/ethnic minorities and patients with lower socioeconomic status were less likely to adopt a PHR. However, both of these groups used the PHR as much as other groups if they were able to adopt it. Whether the digital divide was caused by barriers in access to technology or reflects long-standing disparities in health-seeking behavior is less clear."

"For the Future Of Health Care Design, Look Beyond the Hospital."

Look WAY beyond the hospital.  Jean Mah and Robin Guenther, two health-care design experts at architecture firm Perkins + Will, look at what the future holds for our health care system;
"Today’s health care delivery system was developed in an era of infectious disease, trauma, technological breakthroughs, and the rise of medical education; it is not optimized for the day-to-day management of 21st century chronic diseases. It is huge, unwieldy, and it lacks agility. It is not about health promotion or disease prevention; it is optimized for disease treatment.


"...while there will always be the need for high-acuity, high-technology hospital buildings, the question is whether the majority of health care encounters can be facilitated in low-impact, low-energy community and home settings."Read more, here, from Fast Company's Co.Design.

Chicago's Startup Ecosystem Gets Another Boost

As an innovator and investor, I'm acutely interested in the local business climate for startups and venture capitalists. It looks like more Chicago-area tech startups are able to stick around thanks to local incubators and funding sources.   Still, many entrepreneurs hear "You need to move to Silicon Valley (or Austin, or...) before we'll consider funding you."

Is that siren song fading?  I hope so.

More about Chicago and start-ups, here.

Quote for the day:  "Perception is strong and sight weak. In strategy it is important to see distant things as if they were close and to take a distanced view of close things." (Miyamoto Musashi 1584-1645, legendary Japanese swordsman)

Rock Health Launches Incubator

Rock Health, San Francisco's newest incubator, is focused on health apps in the mHealth and Health 2.0 space. Fellows receive operational and strategic support, mentoring and access to capital.  (The graphic is from Rock Health's web site.)

Thanks to Brian Dolan at MobiHealthNews for the heads-up.

UMN Medical Innovation Fellows Program Seeks Collaboration Team

ATTN: Inventors, mentors and engineers! From MedCity News: "The University of Minnesota’s Medical Innovation Fellows Program is recruiting a four person cross-disciplinary team of postgraduate engineers, seasoned medical device professionals, bioscientists and physicians to collaborate in medical device product and development for one year. The program is sponsored by the UMN Medical Devices Center, part of the Institute for Engineering in Medicine.

"Applicants must be dedicated to the creation of new medical devices to improve human health and well being. Those with a special interest in medical technology development are encouraged to apply as are physicians in their residency or fellowship training.

"Applicants should apply for the Medical Devices Center Innovation Fellow Position (Requisition Number 170512) through the University of Minnesota’s Online Employment System. They will be asked to submit a cover letter, resume or curriculum vitae, statement of medical de…

Committees, Defined

Whenever I'm appointed to another committee, I'm tempted to ask what must I do to be impeached.

“ A committee is a cul-de-sac down which ideas are lured and then quietly strangled.” (Sir Barnett Cocks)

"If computers get too powerful, we can organize them into a committee -- that will do them in." (Bradley's Bromide)

"If Columbus had an advisory committee he would probably still be at the dock." (Arthur Goldberg)

"Football is a mistake. It combines the two worst elements of American life. Violence and committee meetings." (George F. Will)

"A committee is a group of the unprepared, appointed by the unwilling to do the unnecessary." (Fred Allen)

"What is a committee?  A group of the unwilling, picked from the unfit, to do the unnecessary."  (Richard Harkness)

"Meetings are a great trap. Soon you find yourself trying to get agreement and then the people who disagree come to think they have a right to be persuaded. However…

More R&D Funding Equals More Innovation, Right?

Wrong.  From Carl Schramm at Forbes: "In the past 15 years, despite a doubling of federal funds for biomedical R&D, the number of new drugs approved by the FDA and coming to market has decreased by nearly half — from around 40 per year in the late 1990s to a little over 20 per year since 2005. Pre-market testing to meet FDA requirements has become such a huge factor in drug development budgets that it’s hard for companies to even consider working on new products with limited market potential."

Biomedical innovations are likely to come first to market in faster-moving regions - Singapore, the more progressive Arab states, perhaps India and China.  Health providers may think this is Big Pharma's problem to solve.  They're wrong. 

Anything encouraging medical tourism - as earlier access to life-saving innovations certainly does - is one more hole in the bottom of providers' already-leaky lifeboat.  It's in everybody's interest to see that innovation curv…

Mobile Health Care: A Great Idea In Search Of A Revenue Stream

From MedCity News:  Cleveland, OH's Access Mobility has developed a mobile patient adherence system it calls CellepathicRx. The app sends medication reminders and wellness tips to patients, as well as coupons and advertisements.

From Bay News 9 in Tampa Bay, FL: Health care goes mobile, but who pays?
"...the market for telemedicine hardware has grown to an estimated $125 million, according to research firm InMedica. The sector encompasses everything from self-dispensing pill boxes - designed to prevent medication errors - to smart phone applications that help diabetics manage their blood sugar levels.

"The tricky part is finding a way to pay for telemedicine which doesn't fit into the traditional U.S. health care model centered around visits to the hospital and the doctor's office.

"But you need not wait until hospitals reinvent the health care business to benefit from telemedicine.  There are already roughly 17,000 health-related applications for the iPh…

Michael Porter Meets the "Strategy By Press Release" Crowd

Has Health Industry Group Purchasing Assn. president Curtis Rooney heard of Michael Porter or his "five forces" scheme for assessing an industry's competitive structure?  Doubtful.

Notice off to the left there, a force titled "Bargaining Power of Suppliers?" (Click on the graphic for a better view.)  Apparently in Rooney's health care, that force only works in one direction.

Instead of seeing Medtronic's canceling of several GPO contracts as a predictable attempt to shift some bargaining power back to device manufacturers, Rooney calls it “nothing short of an attack on America’s hospitals.”

Yeah, that'll help.

Funny, I can't find 'the power of the pulpit" anywhere on Porter's chart.  Those who can compete, do.  Those who can't, issue whiny, self-serving proclamations.

Be Kind!

Put "Random Acts of Kindness" on your brand strategy's radar screen for the next little while. Why?

From the the folks at,
"R.A.K. appeal to the vast (and ever-growing) number of consumers who make up GENERATION G (that’s G for Generosity not Greed). Disgusted with big, arrogant, sloppy and out of touch institutions, fed-up consumers around the world increasingly expect businesses to be socially, ethically and environmentally responsible:
71% of people “make it a point to buy brands from companies whose values are similar to my own.” (Source: Young & Rubicam, August 2010.)In 2006, ‘strong financial performance’ was the third most important factor for US consumers in determining corporate reputation. By 2010, financial returns had fallen to the bottom of Edelman’s rankings, while ‘transparent and honest practices’ and ‘company I can trust’ were the two most important. (Source: Edelman Trust Barometer, 2010.) 87% of UK consumers expect companies …

Don't Base Your Competitive Position On What Your Rivals Can Buy

I see many hospitals building their competitive position around 'things' - bricks and mortar, shiny procedural technologies, robotics.  Why might this be a really bad idea?

Because as competitive positions go, those based on so-called gadgets and gizmos go 'poof' the minute a deep-pocketed competitor writes a big check.  Hospital 'A' may have had it first, but, worst case, they've now spent their time and money educating the marketplace on their new competitor's behalf.  "You have a robot?  Hey, so do we!"  Back to the status quo ante, thank you very much. 

'Things' are just means to an end, inputs to desired outputs.  Achieve those ends, produce those outputs better and cheaper than anybody else and you've really got something on which to build.

Enduring competitive advantages are based on unique capabilities that cannot be purchased but must be developed through intense processes of learning and listening, innovating and expe…

Never Ask A Lawyer To Design Transcendence

An old joke: Q: What's the difference between lawyers and laboratory rats?  A: Lawyers are more numerous, they don't engender as much emotional attachment and there's some things lab rats just won't do. 

Why the legal-beagle rag?  Maybe it's time for a modern re-write of the joke, comparing lawyers to  software engineers and car designers.

Or just blame it on an interesting juxtaposition of articles in the NY Times.  First, armies of expensive lawyers are being replaced by cheaper software.  Software that doesn't get tired, suffer from headaches or demand to be made partner.  Software that slogs through millions of documents, looking for key words, patterns, inferences...the raw materials of legal leverage.

No longer called simply document review (which isn't billable) it's now "inferential analysis" (which might be.)  
"“The economic impact will be huge,” said Tom Mitchell, chairman of the machine learning department at Carnegie Mello…

The Week In Ideas

“Hospitals must be the leaders and incubators of health care innovation in this era of fundamental change,” Three of the nation’s leading hospital companies and two major hospital systems – together representing more than 400 hospitals throughout the United States – have invested in the Heritage Healthcare Innovation Fund L.P., a strategic venture fund focused on investments in businesses that improve the delivery of health care services.  Affiliates of Community Health Systems, Iowa Health System, LifePoint Hospitals, Trinity Health, Novi, MI, and Vanguard Health Systems are each limited partners in the fund.

Dr. John D. Halamka:  Emerging Health IT Trends to Watch.

mHealth: McKesson Foundation awards $1.3 million in 6 "Mobilizing for Health Research" grants.

Looking for growth in orthopedic procedures?  Try Brazil.

Federal spending: cuts put health care stocks at risk.  Research from Barclays Capital highlights 127 companies each getting more than 25% of annual revenues…

The Days Are Over When We Could Thrive By Bankrupting Our Customers

Writing in MedCity News, Dr. Westby G. Fisher (a.k.a. the blogosphere's Dr. Wes) offers one of the best forecasts I've seen of health care's future. 

Whether under Obamacare, AnyCare or WeDon'tCare, health care simply costs too much and delivers too little value in return.  And to most observers, the delta (the required magnitude of improvement) is way beyond a few percentage points, more like 20-50% - a challenge few providers can even fathom, let alone deliver.

Predictably and frantically, providers are responding by trying to get bigger, faster.   Buying everything in sight, merging with what can't be bought.  Yet the notion that, in health care, 'big' produces better, more economical results than 'small' is  (putting a charitable face on it here) decidedly unproven.   The next big health system merger that actually delivers on its efficiency-seeking promises will be the first.  (Oops, that's not charitable at all, is it?)

I'm told that …

I Suck, Therefore I Advertise.

Hospital marketers (and the CEOs who demand so little of them) try to advertise services they believe are distinctive.  They have no trouble finding an agency to spend their money, though they're frequently wrong about the 'distinctive' part.

Here's an article making the reverse case: bloated advertising budgets are a symptom of undistinguished, undifferentiated services.  Call it a tax on mediocrity. 

Says the article, "You will, in effect, be taxed in media dollars for what you failed to spend in research and development." 

And "Advertising is the tax you pay for a bad idea." (a quote attributed to Robert Stephens, founder, Geek Squad)
"Here's a startling fact: For what equals a rounding error in most big-brand ad budgets, companies could create meaningful new product(s) that would eliminate much of the required ad budget, thus saving themselves—while also earning—millions and millions of dollars."Great products and services don'…

Cleveland Clinic's New Membership Program for Traveling Patients

Pay $400 per year, get sick anywhere in the world, and Cleveland Clinic's new membership program, called Global Care Air Rescue and Evacuation (CARE), will transport you via ambulance, helicopter and/or jet to the Clinic or the hospital of your choice.

The plan covers two transports per year and does not include deductibles or copays related to the transportation.

Health Care's Role In America's Vanishing Innovation Edge

From the Atlantic: Evidence from analyst Mary Meeker that so-called "productive spending" - infrastructure, R&D and education - has been displaced by "less-productive spending" - health care and entitlements. 

Says the article, "Like an aging couple shifting its spending away from the kids' clothes and tuition toward pills and doctor visits, the U.S. government has transformed itself from a defense-technology-infrastructure investor to a national insurance conglomerate for its aging population."

The result is slower growth and declining competitiveness.  Meeker's prescription: Taming the Monster, i.e. more spending on innovation, less on health care.

More from Forbes on "How ObamaCare is Putting Medical Innovation In the Hospital."
"If hospitals are at the heart of ObamaCare, as they appear to be, that’s a huge problem. Hospitals today are some of the last places medical innovation takes place. The reasons have to do with thei…