'Ninja Innovation' author wants healthcare to break free of stifling environment


The man who oversees the world's largest innovation trade show wants healthcare to break free from a stifling industry environment. Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association, which produces the International CES, told attendees at the mHealth Summit in Washington, D.C., that the intersection of consumer healthcare and innovative technology is "absolutely critical."

In a keynote address on Dec. 4, Shapiro said innovation is being muted in healthcare by an overbearing legal system, a financial framework that rewards physicians for avoiding new technology and choosing more expensive procedures, and a testing and approval process that can't keep up with technology.

"Our healthcare system is based on a system that was [established] before the Internet," he lamented.

Shapiro, whose book on "Ninja Innovation" is due out next year, called on the healthcare community to "think outside the box" and "solve problems in a creative way with the tools at your disposal."

His suggestions? Change the legal system to what he called "loser-pays" litigation; revamp the outmoded patent system; stop incentivizing doctors for choosing more expensive drugs; amend Obamacare to eliminate new taxes on healthcare innovations; speed up the FDA's review process; and modify the nation's immigration policy from a lottery-based system to one that rewards creative minds.

"We have to change our culture," he said. "Are the best and the brightest going to be going into medicine in the future? That's a question we have to ask ourselves."

Shapiro pointed out that the International CES, which will take place in January in Las Vegas, will attract some 150,000 innovators and entrepreneurs (the public isn't invited to the show) and some 3,000 exhibitors, 10 percent of which are focused on healthcare. The show’s healthcare offerings, which include a Digital Health Summit, are growing each year, he said.

Among those exhibitors Shapiro singled out HealthSpot, a Dublin, Ohio-based company that has come out with the HealthSpot Station, a private, walk-in kiosk that can be placed anywhere (a business, a retail location, a mall) and allow a visitor to connect via video-conferencing capabilities to a doctor for a medical checkup. HealthSpot debuted its kiosk at a CES event in New York last month and will have it on display in Las Vegas next month.

Shapiro said healthcare has to understand that it's at a crossroads, and that a collision of cultures is inevitable. Healthcare represents the nation's biggest expense and is in dire need of economic growth.

"Economic growth comes from innovation," he emphasized.

Perhaps Ninja innovation.

Comments (1)

Emily Paisner: As Shapiro states, the healthcare industry is stifled by all of the legal red tape and multiple policy hoops that those looking to make a difference in the sphere must navigate and jump through. Healthbox is an accelerator program in Boston that provides resources to start-ups looking to change this broken structure. I work for Continuum, a global design and innovation consultancy, and my colleague Tony Driscoll and Healthbox’s managing director Nina Nashif recently spoke to WGBH about opportunities to innovate in the healthcare industry. Insights from their discussion can be found on our blog at continuuminnovation.com.

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