Disruptive Innovation In Healthcare


We’re starting 2017 energized by the rich opportunities presenting themselves in healthcare. With #JPM17 & #SUHFestival to the upcoming #HIMSS17 conferences, we see the energy and desire to disrupt, makes things better, create new avenues, solve the newest problems.

Many use the term disruption and disruptive innovation interchangeably with any type of new, hot innovation or innovative solution. Let’s understand the difference between innovation and disruptive innovation – the difference is key to how we look at new technology and systems plus how we approach our own desire to innovate.

Clayton M. Christensen coined the term disruptive innovation in 1995. Recently in HBR he noted:

Many researchers, writers, and consultants use “disruptive innovation” to describe any situation in which an industry is shaken up and previously successful incumbents stumble. But that’s much too broad a usage.

Ok, so we know we are using the term too broadly and perhaps limiting ourselves by not thinking about what real disruption is all about. Fortunately, Clayton clears this up for us and gives plenty of food for thought:

“Disruption” describes a process whereby a smaller company with fewer resources is able to successfully challenge established incumbent businesses. Disruptive innovations are made possible because they get started in two types of markets that incumbents overlook:

New-market footholds, disrupters create a market where none existed. Put simply, they find a way to turn nonconsumers into consumers. [Think Netflix – People who didn’t rent movies by visiting Blockbuster now jumped on the chance to have them show up at their door!]

– Low-end footholds exist because incumbents typically try to provide their most profitable and demanding customers with ever-improving products and services, and they pay less attention to less-demanding customers. [Think Airbnb – offering customers who traditionally couldn’t afford a hotel room a place to stay.]

Thinking about wearable health technology, Mark Benden, PhD (associate professor in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health and director of the Ergonomics Center at the Texas A&M School of Public Health) talks about the continuing growth of innovation that started with wearables. This includes the #DeepLearning and #AI technology that is picking up speed and momentum as we speak:

Of course, as technology itself becomes more human-like, it may be able to motivate people on its own. “When we learn to use these devices in a way that responds to someone as a person and caters to their individual needs, it will be very powerful.” “The technology will know you and be able to help you make healthy choices in whatever way works best for you personally.”

Just this week Wired shared a disruptionletting computer vision identify genetic problems: 

A word of caution sounded by Daniel Newman in Forbes reminds us to keep things in perspective and to focus on what we do best:

It’s not all about disruption. We still operate under the misguided notion we should all be disruptors. Know how to recognize a potential disruptor, but continue to do what your company does well.

Disruption may be buzzworthy, but it’s still a misused concept. Don’t fall into the “disrupt or be disrupted” trap, but be sure to recognize true potential disruptive innovators in your industry.

This week on #hcldr, let’s talk about Disruptive and Sustaining Innovation in Healthcare. Let’s compare notes, trajectories and ideas with the community.

Join the #hcldr community of professionals, patients, clinicians, administrators, lurkers, counselors, social workers, designers, and advocates! Please join us on Tuesday, Jan 10, 2017 at 8:30pm Eastern (for your local time click here) as we discuss the following topics:

  • T1: What are the top disruptive innovations in Healthcare right now? Will they “stick” or fade away?
  • T2: How are disruptive innovations making a difference to you/patients/organizations right now? Why or why not?
  • T3: What new markets do you see being created? What overlooked markets do you see being served and succeeding?
  • T4: What concerns do you have for what are certainly going to be several years of disruption?



“What Is Disruptive Innovation?” Clayton Christensen, HBR, December 2015. https://hbr.org/2015/12/what-is-disruptive-innovation

Accessed Jan 8, 2017


“Disruptive Innovators: Are We Ready?” Janice Dudley, Journal of Pediatic Surgical Nursing, December 2016. http://journals.lww.com/journalofpediatricsurgicalnursing/Fulltext/2016/10000/Disruptive_Innovators__Are_We_Ready_.2.aspx

Accessed Jan 9, 2017


“How disruptive technologies can help keep the health care team and the patient on track.” Innovation Toronto, December 2016.  http://www.innovationtoronto.com/2016/12/how-disruptive-technologies-can-help-keep-the-health-care-team-and-the-patient-on-track/

Accessed Jan 10, 2017


“Disruptive Innovation: Has It Reached Buzzword Status Yet?” Daniel Newman, Forbes, December 6, 2016. http://www.forbes.com/sites/danielnewman/2016/12/06/disruptive-innovation-has-it-reached-buzzword-status-yet/#4ab9b1b24f66

Accessed Jan 9, 2017


“What is disruptive innovation?” Rosamond Hutt, World Economic Forum, June 25, 2016. https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/06/what-is-disruptive-innovation/

Accessed Jan 9, 2017


“Fresh Insights From Clayton Christensen On Disruptive Innovation.” Steve Denning, Forbes, December 2, 2015. http://www.forbes.com/sites/stevedenning/2015/12/02/fresh-insights-from-clayton-christensen-on-disruptive-innovation/#55ddd947e281

Accessed Jan 10, 2017


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One comment

  1. […] an #hcldr post earlier this year, Joe Babaian pointed to a quote from Christensen. The quote comes from a 2015 HBR […]

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