Bridging the Gap Between Innovation and Implementation in Healthcare Today


The speed of adoption of new practices in medicine is extremely slow. We need systems to test new protocols, make sure they’re safe and effective, and get them out into the world more rapidly.

Pramila Srinivasan, Ph.D., CEO of CharmHealth

Pramila Srinivasan, Ph.D., CEO of CharmHealth

When you look at medical intervention, there is typically a level one standard of care, which says if you don’t do this, it’s malpractice. Despite this, it takes 17 years for the average doctor to adopt a new standard of care. Currently, the career lifespan of a doctor is about 35 years, so in essence, you aren’t changing behavior of individual doctors; you are just replacing half the doctors with new doctors. The speed of adoption of new practices in medicine is extremely slow. We need systems to test new protocols, make sure they’re safe and effective, and get them out into the world more rapidly. We need to change the practice of medicine and not be afraid to evolve.

Art Wallace, M.D., Ph.D., a healthtech entrepreneur, cardiac anesthesiologist, chief of anesthesia at the San Francisco VA, and a professor and vice chairman at the University of California, San Francisco, recently shared this sentiment, and it has stuck with me ever since

Change in healthcare is hard, it’s time-consuming, and it requires incredible tenacity, yet innovation is essential. Technology is surfacing to remedy some of the biggest problems we face — with the right guidance. It takes people who recognize the system’s imperfections and who can rise to address them.

Solutions exist to solve problems and yet …

Healthtech entrepreneurs are coming up with amazing solutions every day. At each conference I attend, I am in awe of the ways technology can improve care and save lives — the ways we can arm physicians with data so that they no longer have to make guesses about what’s wrong or how to treat it. They no longer have to watch seemingly healthy people die after routine procedures because they weren’t monitored in a way that enabled their care team to catch an adverse reaction in time.

As Wallace says, “People want to give really good care and try to give really good care. But if you don’t give somebody a way to see the data, they don’t get it. They don’t see the problem.”

To get the data to see the problem into hospitals and physicians’ practices, entrepreneurs have to first overcome two major hurdles.

There is a woeful lack of funding. Paying for the development and production of medical technology is extremely expensive. Even with a working product or service, successful clinical trials, and awards for how transformative the technology has proven to be, the big backers of medical devices wait until startups have absorbed all the risk and development work, all the go-to-market costs, and established product-market fit. Then, rather than make an investment in the company, they buy it and integrate it into their own collection of products and services. This is where the promise of transformation battles the practicalities of funding and industry norms. This is an inexcusably long process that causes many innovations to never fulfill their potential to positively impact lives.

There is also the problem of adoption. Getting practitioners to change their behavior is not easy. Wallace tells a story about how a surgeon authored an academic paper early in his career about why patients should receive an antibiotic after surgery (a practice that was not common at that time). The surgeon expected change following his research that did not come. Forty years later, the practice is being adopted but only after four decades. Wallace and many entrepreneurs like him have persisted, nonetheless. The challenge is just too important.

Why we must do better

Healthcare is inherently a human business. As much as machines and technology can help, it’s all to save real people’s lives, and it is easy to forget when dealing with heavy caseloads or mountains of research. Humans get lost in the process.

We all at least know someone who has battled a serious illness or disease. Maybe they needed surgery. Entering the hospital or starting chemo is an anxiety-filled snapshot in time in a patient’s and their caregivers’ lives. They have questions that are often met with vague, unsatisfactory answers. The truth is doctors don’t always know the answers. They can’t admit that because it would not exactly instill faith in the care the patient receives, but human bodies each function slightly differently. It is next to impossible to predict exactly what will happen through the course of treatment.

If we take an honest look at where we are today, the complexities of medical decision-making and the gaps in knowledge become quite clear. And technology, whether its computer vision, AI/ML, or something else entirely, can make data available, accessible and meaningful to the care journey if we let it.

What we can do to make technology adoption easier

It’s important to not be satisfied with the status quo. We must persist in bringing new solutions to market and educating not only medical device manufacturers but also doctors, hospitals, VCs and even patients who demand something better.

We need to empower our entrepreneurs to press on while formulating protocols, products and systems that make their vision executable. Structures are necessary to guide a healthcare evolution, creating systems that include ongoing monitoring to ensure that desired changes happen or that can be adapted over time to embrace new developments in short order.

Technology is changing the world. We must embrace it to take care of the people around us. This means never tolerating mediocrity and relentlessly striving to persistently improve.

Pramila Srinivasan, Ph.D., is CEO of CharmHealth.

Related Videos
Related Content
© 2024 MJH Life Sciences

All rights reserved.