Finding Clues from other Industries.
We were last discussing with Dr. Arlen Meyers on the specific skill sets that great innovators have and some practical strategies for innovation. For successful entrepreneurship, an often overlooked component is the critical need of being a problem seeker rather than a solution seeker. One must fully understand the problem before jumping to the solution. By focusing on the problem with a deep insight, you can open up many opportunities.
In this final part of the interview, Dr. Meyers is going to discuss the role of technology in healthcare and how to bridge the gap between entrepreneurship and patient care.
In this interview learn:
- What the gaps are in getting innovations to market
- A Case Study example of bringing a problem to market
- Why your zipcode is a better indicator of health than your genetic code
- What healthcare can learn from other industries
- The future of healthcare technology
Can you walk us through an example of finding a problem and bringing the solution to market?
As previously mentioned, you need to follow a life science innovation roadmap to commercialize an idea or product. The first step is to fully understand the problem and then collaborate and find people that can help bring the solution to life.
Here is a brief example of a medical device company working on a revolutionary patent pending technology to treat bad breath.
Problem: Bad breath or Halitosis has multiple causes including gastroesophageal reflux disease, sinus infections, chronic infections of tonsils and adenoids. Other common problems that cause bad breath is gingivitis, periodontal infections, and bacterial impregnation at the base of the tongue. Common ways to treat bad breath is through use of oral hygiene, mouth rinses, and breath mints.
Market: The current market for halitosis is over $6 billion. Market growth rate is at 20% per year with growing awareness of the condition and increasing intolerance from members of the opposite sex. The compliance rate for treating halitosis is very low. There is no real technological solution for this yet.
Technology: A technological solution to this could be an implantable device inserted into the tongue by a single needle injection under local anesthesia. Once implanted, the device emits a plume of breath freshener into the mouth. The entire procedure takes 2-5 minutes and can be easily performed in the doctor’s office. The device can easily be adjusted or totally removed in 1 minute without need of anesthesia.
Intellectual Property: The initial patent application has been filed with the help of an IP & Patent Attorney. Two other patent applications are also pending.
FDA Pathway: Extensive preclinical and initial human studies show efficacy and excellent safety with patient comfort. Intraoral devices for treatment of halitosis are considered predicate devices with a 501(k) regulatory approval process.
Financials: Initial funds for pilot clinical studies are gathered. $3 million for early clinical trials and an additional $10 million budgeted for Pivotal study trials leading to FDA approval.
Team: The right partner and team is assembled. John Doe, has experience in product development in implantable medical devices and is hired to be CEO. He leads teams in areas of concept development, product design, clinical testing, and product commercialization. Lookingforanotherjob, MD, DDS is the founder for the idea of the device. He is the leading authority on the anatomy of the human upper airway and is a board certified Otolaryngologist and Dentist with 20 years experience in treating patients with really bad breath.
Investors: Big Idea Ventures, LLC is a New York based venture fund, has invested $4 million into the early product development and clinical trials.
After working out all the logistics of product design, funding, testing, and approval. You bring the product or idea out to market.
It takes a lot of collaboration with other industries to bring healthcare ideas to market. What can healthcare learn from these other industries and business models?
First I call it Sickcare because that’s what it is. It’s not healthcare. We spend $3 trillion on the so called US “Healthcare” system. But 88% of it is spent on taking care of sick people. It’s really not healthcare but sickcare.
The idea is to migrate it more and more to real healthcare, disease prevention and wellness. But we are a long ways from there.
The major problem is that healthcare has a hard time embracing innovation outside of its wall. It can’t be fixed from the inside. There are lots to learn from various industries. In many cases, the other industries have already solved the problems that plagues sickcare.
Just look at demand management in other industries. Look at airlines, restaurants, that sort of thing. Look at asset tracking and financial technologies. Look at cyber securities, innovation management or leadership. Look at how retail deals with consumer experiences using data.
For example, I’m a surgeon and try to start my operations at 7:30am. Most hospital surgeries start after 8am and about 30% don’t start on time. The turnover time also takes too long. The cost for an operating room is about $200 a minute. Multiply all the operations that are delayed, basically all the planes that don’t take off on time, and the cost being lost is great. Airlines being run this way would go bankrupt. But we keep doing things this way. If we monitored start times the way airlines did and published them, you’d see a change. I’d rather have a flight controller running the operating room than a nurse any day.
And this is just an example of how an outside industry can help change the healthcare industry. So there are lots and lots of industries that are dealing with problems that are similar to what we’re facing in sickcare.
Those helpful ideas take a very very long time to penetrate and get adopted. This is for a number of reasons, such as the culture of medicine, it being very risk averse, and being resistant to change.
Where do you see healthcare technology heading in the future?
Well I’m optimistic on how things are going to work out. It’s kind of a mess now, but that’s the best time to get into the game because there is so much opportunity.
When people ask me if their kids should go to medical school, I say yes, but you have to go into it with both eyes open. They have to understand that being a knowledge technician is probably an obsolete skill. Given the future of the internet, artificial intelligence, deep intelligence, robotics, holograms, etc.
So the workforce of the future is going to require different skillsets. If you go into medicine as the medical educators think, that the past and current way of teaching skillsets is going to make them successful in the 21st century, they are wrong.
However, the future of medicine is pretty bright. It’s an exciting time for medical technologies and everything is changing. And that’s the way it should go.
An example is telemedicine. There is a lot of hype about it. There was a recent article written today in the New England Journal of Medicine about Telemedicine and Telehealth in 2016. But we’ve been talking about this for 65 years. The issues are exactly the same. I’ve been a part of telemedicine for a very long time. Little by little, we’re chipping away at the edges, but there are still some persistent nagging barriers to adoption and penetration.
For example, I believe, and this was shown in a recent article, that your zipcode is a better indication of your health outcome than your genetic code. There are all these socioeconomic determinants that drive your healthcare outcome. The FCC is calling it broadband health.
If you have access to broadband internet, than your health outcomes are better than if you don’t. So my solution is for there to be universal broadband access for everybody in the united states.
Physicians can’t take care of other patients state to state because of restrictive licensing requirements in different states. My solution is a national telemedicine or national medical license. It’s like needing multiple state driver’s licenses just to drive through them.
There are solutions, but in my view, the solutions don’t happen due to economic reasons. If somebody said, “We’re going to build an information highway just like Eisenhower built an interstate highway system across the nation in the 50’s.”
And they said, “Tomorrow we are going to build free universal broadband access.”
Guess what would happen?
You have all these higher ups that don’t want this to happen. They are the ones who are getting paid by me and you to sign up for their internet services for life.
So it’s an economic problem and a human factor problem. There are all kinds of digital gaps in business as well. These things can be done. But the reason it’s a mess now is because people created it to be a certain way. We can uncreate it. But it’s the political, social, and economic issues getting in the way.
But I think, eventually, we will get there.
Finally how can others learn more about you?
They can reach me through my site at Society of Physician Entrepreneurs.
It’s for anybody interested in clinical or biomedical entrepreneurship.
You don’t have to be a doctor, we intentionally made this organization open to anybody that wants to get an idea or solution to a patient. This even includes patients trying to help other patients. We help people to get their ideas to a market around the world.
We charge $75 for an annual subscription. We participate in chapter meetings around the world. It’s a way to connect to other people and get the needed resources to advance your idea to a patient or somebody looking to solve problems. That’s the best way to get involved.
It’s like rotary club, an international nonprofit organization with chapters around the world. Our mission is to help members get their ideas to patients. We do that by providing educational resources and networks through digital and direct meetings, nationally and globally.
Bio Arlen Meyers, MD, MBA
Dr. Arlen Meyers currently the President and CEO of Society of Physician Entrepreneurs. He has founded several medical device companies and is also the cofounder of a medical tourism company. His primary research centers around biomedical, health innovation, entrepreneurship, and life science technology commercialization. He consults for and speaks nationally and internationally to companies, governments, colleges and universities around the world who need expertise and contacts in the areas of bioentrepreneurship, bioscience, healthcare, healthcare IT, medical tourism, new product development, product design, and financing new ventures.
He is a faculty member at the University of Colorado Denver Graduate School and Direct the Program in Biomedical Entrepreneurship at the Jabs Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of Colorado Denver Business School. He also used to teach otolaryngology, dentistry, and engineering at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical campus.
Dr. Meyers is a former Harvard-Macy Fellow. He is also a Fulbright Scholar of Kings Business, the commercialization office of technology transfer at Kings College in London. His Publications include “Building the Case for Biotechnology”, “Optical Detection of Cancer”, “The Life Science Innovation Roadmap”, and “Sell the Bullets: Advice to Physician Entrepreneurs”. He is also the associate editor of the Journal of Commercial Biotechnology, Technology Transfer and Entrepreneurship, and Editor-in-Chief of Medscape Reference: Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery.