January 23, 2017
By: Brian Kalis

How healthcare leaders can harness the promise of open innovation

As large-scale healthcare enterprises explore open innovation options, a critical question remains: How does one navigate the global expanse of potential partner-innovators without losing sight of cultural and regulatory concerns?

My answer: Collaborate with what we call a “bridgemaker.”

In open innovation, bridgemakers are intermediaries between legacy enterprises and innovation partners such as start-ups, research labs and venture capitalists. The bridgemaker maps out strategies that work for both sides of the table. The bridgemaker also serves as a guide and referee when it comes to negotiating differences in outlooks, objectives and business cultures.

In healthcare, a bridgemaker can take the form of an internal enterprise function or a third party like a venture capitalist, accelerator or a consultancy. A bridgemaker knows the emerging technology landscape and understands healthcare industry challenges and opportunities at a deep level. At the same time, a bridgemaker is savvy and entrepreneurial enough to identify the right innovation collaborators to fit with a healthcare enterprise’s key needs on the demand side.

Innovation hubs on the supply side of open innovation need bridgemakers, too, for help navigating complex healthcare regulatory environments and adjusting to dynamics of size and scale of the healthcare enterprise.

At Accenture, we have a term for effective bridgemaking: “guided disruption.” As digitalization and regulatory forces converge to create a myriad of new realities in the healthcare landscape, bridgemakers help navigate the marketplace and identify likely growth opportunities to match supply of innovation with healthcare enterprise demand to enable transformation.

Recently, bridgemakers have assisted a couple of leading consumer-electronics manufacturers take on separate open innovation partnerships with two key insurance carriers, designing wellness apps that monitor the wellbeing of plan participants. These apps help lower plan costs while providing manufacturers with critically needed channel access for products.

Where partnerships involve large entities with deep capabilities in widely divergent fields, a bridgemaker can make all the difference in ensuring positive outcomes for everyone. As open innovation plays a broader role in the healthcare landscape, the use of bridgemakers promises to be a core component in determining success.

In the next few years, I anticipate the role of bridgemaker will be more critical than ever in healthcare innovation, as incumbent healthcare enterprises transform to meet the changing nature of the health industry.

What are your thoughts on bridgemakers, and what are some innovations you would like to see them help navigate? I look forward to hearing from you.

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