Last week we explained disruptive innovation, the theory that describes how industries transform to provide increasingly affordable and effective products and services to consumers. What we didn’t say is that for fifteen years, the guy who came up with the theory has been calling for disruption in health care – and just recently someone started to listen.

In 2011, Athenahealth launched “More Disruption Please,” a progressive business move to break down barriers to health care innovation. MDP involves three programs: an accelerator to incubate promising health care entrepreneurs; marketplace partnerships for health care IT companies ready to scale; and a disruption network to grow connections.

According to CEO Jonathan Bush, MDP grew out of a desire to improve the company’s services by leveraging the efforts of outside players. Since AthenaNet enlists over 55,000 medical providers, health care IT companies can sell through to Athenahealth’s client base in a sort of app ecosystem format. The idea is to harness market forces to make care more efficient – and of course Athenahealth charges a commission for products coming through MDP.

If any of this sounds familiar, it’s because Athenahealth is accelerating disruptive innovation in health care technology. In many ways MDP manifests Christensen’s disruption theory (and it obviously borrowed from his term), but it’s also just a part of how experts say disruption innovation could transform health care. They point to two ways in particular:

  1. Decentralizing care. Disruption usually involves new market entrants creating products that bring in new consumers, but in health care everyone is already a consumer. In this case disruption will shift care from hospitals to clinics and office settings, and even into patients’ homes. This is where health care technology is playing a critical role.
  2. Creating a medical system where the clinician’s skill level matches the difficulty of the medical problem. This means transferring skills from highly trained, expensive personnel, to more affordable providers, including technology-based care. This will help address expensive care due to overshoot of patient needs by health care institutions.

It’s important to remember that disruptive innovation doesn’t always refer to a new technology that changes a market; just as often it happens because an industry adopts a new business model (Christensen actually claims that hospitals operate three different business models, and that each would operate more efficiently alone). Through MDP and other services, Athenahealth is also trying out a new business model in the market for cloud-based medical services. With any luck, their efforts to promote disruption will accelerate innovation in an industry that desperately needs it.

Comments are closed.