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Promote Innovators

You Need to Find and Promote Pioneers to Accelerate Innovation in Healthcare Processes


The Problem: The pace of innovation in healthcare is too slow for patients confronted with a death sentence. While improvements and innovation come to cancer treatment at an astounding pace, there are still too many people left without viable treatment options. Adoption of innovation in healthcare, e.g., sequencing and personalization, is slowed by…


… healthcare providers who favor tried-and-true approaches (an inherent bias to “do no harm”); – or who are trying to reduce healthcare costs by minimizing the extent of genetic testing ordered for patients;


… patients who aren’t aware of next-generation sequencing technology and personalized therapies and prefer to follow the dictates of their doctor;


… payers who aren’t reimbursing patients and providers for new diagnostics, e.g., next-generation sequencing, and new therapies.


The Solution: As in most industries, large, successful incumbents are better at fine-tuning an existing way of doing business than they are at disrupting it with radical innovations. Providers, payers, and pharmaceutical companies will improve and innovate, but at a very slow and measured pace, from the perspective of patients. The more radical disruption that the industry needs will depend on innovators, pioneers, contrarians, start-ups, and consumers willing to try new ways of doing things, as has been demonstrated across multiple industries. Therefore, as a patient or caregiver you can help by being an early adopter of new apps and services, especially from start-ups. By becoming more engaged, you will be able to ensure that you receive the best possible cancer treatment for you or your loved one.


Getting more engaged in your treatment decisions can seem daunting. But there is help. For example, you and your caregiver should use online services that provide online information about your disease and treatment options, like Cancer Commons. And you should join some of the many grassroots online cancer communities to learn about your specific disease and treatment options, such as Colontown, which serves people with colorectal cancer. These online communities can provide useful, specific, and timely information in ways that are easy to digest. Another helpful online resource is SequenceMe, which explains the power of genomics and makes the case for getting your tumor DNA analyzed. You should also consider joining groups that specialize in organizing activities to accelerate development of innovative treatments for your cancer and can help you get access to them. These include the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation, the Global ROS1 Initiative, the Pacific Pediatric Neuro-Oncology Consortium, and the Count Me In initiative (currently organizing research for metastatic breast cancer, metastatic prostate cancer, and angiosarcoma).


Industry incumbents can help accelerate innovation by investing in startups and supporting innovation in incubators and accelerators.


Call to Action: If you are a patient or caregiver, you should look for new approaches and discuss them with your trusted medical advisers.


Here’s what I’m doing as a patient,


  • I’m getting my blood and microbiome analyzed by startups (Natera and Viome).

  • I signed up years ago for genetic analysis (23andme) and take their surveys.

  • I’m going to put my health data into a personal data repository offered by a startup (MyCancerDB)

  • I joined a health research project and donated my health data and specimens (All of Us).

  • I’m seeing how I can help publicize companies that offer online services, such as Cancer Commons.


If you are at a hospital, insurance company, pharmaceutical company, or other large incumbent organization providing healthcare services, you should look for ways to help outsiders that are offering disruptive services directly to consumers. For example, I’m a founding member of a startup that is offering cancer services directly to consumers (MyCancerDB).

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