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Health Innovation: Creating Next Gen Leaders

Jun 10, 2015
Volume 35, Issue 6

ONE OF THE PLEASURES OF EDITING PHARM EXEC is to search out new and emerging stakeholders with an impact on how we “do” innovation in the biggest sector of the US economy—healthcare. That quest led me last month to a meeting of a new network of 19 US and European academic programs focused on building William Looneyan inventory of shared learning and best practices in health innovation to drive reforms in both the public and private sectors. The Global Educators Network for Health Care Innovation Education (GENiE, ) seeks to advance the idea that for healthcare to change, the education of its leaders must change first.   

GENiE’s basic mission—to make innovation a central element in the education of future leaders in healthcare—emerged from a research survey of 59 healthcare CEOs conducted by Professor Regina Herzlinger of the Harvard Business School that documented how graduate education programs were not giving CEOs the talent pool required to execute around a more innovative business model. Among other flaws, the survey revealed that current education tracks were too specialized, theoretical, and prescriptive, with little effort being made to induce the characteristics of spontaneity, adaptability, and cross-functional awareness needed to navigate successfully in a real world of unpredictable, disruptive change.   

 GENiE has met as a group three times, at Harvard Business School, the Duke Medical School, and the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). The network now comprises more than 200 experts drawn not only from academia, including major schools of business, public health, nursing, and medicine, but from professional practice groups, consultancies, and industry as well.  GENiE also draws on 16 CEO Champions from, among others, J&J, Amgen, Medtronic, Cardinal Health, Athenahealth, and the American Medical Association. McKinsey, Bain Capital and KPMG represent the consultancy world while a global perspective is offered by CEOs from Discovery Health (South Africa), Medwell Ventures (India) and Amil Participacoes SA (Brazil).

Five cores forward  

The objective of the May 7-8 meeting at UAB’s Collat School of Business was “building curriculum and community.”  Consensus was taken to go forward on the following:

(1) Avoid formal accreditation criteria for health innovation studies for more practical ways to highlight this area as a distinctive field and to benchmark best practices in teaching/training, particularly for mid-career professional education.

(2) Expand and disseminate case study teaching aids appropriate to a business climate marked by ambiguity at every turn, meaning a strong case study should never exhibit a bias toward one answer.

(3) Impart practical, real-world urgency to curriculum development, organized around a single basic assertion: no task in business is more difficult today than bringing a regulated health product successfully to market. 

(4) Solicit examples of innovative health practices outside the US and Europe, especially in Asia and Africa, where reforms are more scalable and can be introduced at lower cost. 

(5) Place more emphasis in the health innovation curriculum on computer science information technology (CSIT—not be confused with health informatics), marketing, and communications capabilities (you can’t sell innovation unless you can pitch it), and pricing/market access strategy, where innovation on the payer side is dramatically changing behaviors in all areas of healthcare. 

There was also endorsement of the inherent inter-disciplinary nature of innovation, which led to an interesting definition of a successful teaching curricula: while at the outset of a program it should be simple to identify which students come from a business or a medical or a public health background, at the end of the program it should be impossible to do so.  

The most objectionable single word identified by the group? Silos: of behavior, thought, and principle. All these characteristics remain endemic in healthcare, with anecdotes abounding, like the majority of new US medical school grads who believe Medicare and Medicaid are the same program. It’s another reason why professional education in health must cross and combine disciplines because, while there is no “magic bullet” to solve the sector’s problems, this one comes closest.   

With 400 potential breakthrough medicines coming on stream through the end of the decade, there is also the pregnant question of whether big Pharma itself has the innovative chops to make it all happen. As we highlight in this month’s cover feature on our annual Pharma 50 list of top companies, the outcome depends heavily on the quality and effective use of human capital—people and talent. Does industry have that talent, in sufficient numbers, with the right mix of skills, transferable across functions and geographies, and capable of being passed forward to the next generation? It’s a key strategic issue for the “c-suite:” In our knowledge industry, education matters.

William Looney is Editor-in-Chief of Pharm Exec. He can be reached at [email protected]. Follow Bill on Twitter: 

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