The Next Wave Of Healthcare Innovation

In 2010, Internet scholar Clay Shirky wrote an interesting book called “Cognitive Surplus: How Technology Makes Consumers Into Collaborators.” His premise was simple yet powerful: The ongoing migration of people from passive pursuits (Shirky particularly calls out watching TV) to more engaging pursuits enabled by the Internet and other digital technologies is igniting an era of “collective creativity” where people are able to connect and aggregate their efforts toward positive ends. Examples of the output from this collective creativity include Wikipedia, the open source software movement, and the myriad companies that have used the Web for crowdsourcing (i.e., online group collaboration) consumer inputs to co-create new products and services.

“Abundance” — Activating the Crowd for Good Works

Now, a new book called “Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think,” by Peter Diamandis (the founder of the nonprofit X PRIZE Foundation whose mission is to stimulate investment in R&D through incentive prize competitions) builds on Shirky’s premise by proposing that this cognitive surplus is starting to be harnessed in ways that will significantly raise global living standards.

Diamandis’ theory is that this collective creativity will soon reach a tipping point (to wit, a point of “abundance”) in a way that activates the intellectual capital and resources on a scale needed to solve intractable problems like hunger and disease. Diamandis sees the confluence of three macro-trends behind this transformation:

  • The exponential growth and accessibility of computer processing power
  • The do-it-yourself ethos of the Internet culture
  • And, the “rising billions” represented by the world’s poor who are coming online en masse thanks to the dropping cost of digital hardware and the growing ubiquity of mobile networks

Abundance and Health Care Innovation

What does all this have to do with health care innovation? Imagine the types of innovation that can be achieved by combining the democratization of clinical data through the open sourcing (i.e., free distribution) of scientific data sets, with the awesome computer processing firepower scientists now have access to over the cloud at minimal cost.

Another example: some countries are leveraging the Internet and mobile networks to bring quality health care to their poorest rural communities. For instance, India uses a combination of digital technologies like SMS, mobile phone cameras and remote monitoring systems to treat kidney disease patients in isolated communities at a cost that is roughly 90% less than traditional treatments. The real kicker is that these rural patients frequently have better outcomes than their urban counterparts who receive in-person treatments on an outpatient basis.

Diamandis’ vision is a bit rosy but by no means unrealistic—considering that today we carry smartphone devices in our pockets the size of a deck of cards that have roughly the same processing power that a mainframe computer the size of a 12×12 room had 40 years ago!

Click on the below links to purchase the books mentioned in this blog post:

Cognitive Surplus: How Technology Makes Consumers Into Collaborators

Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think

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Ogilvy Healthworld Idea Shop: Bringing Limitless Creativity to Healthcare Communications

Last year, I participated in an Idea Shop hosted by Ogilvy & Mather UK. Idea Shop is a “pop-up agency” with volunteers from Ogilvy & Mather UK giving their own time to come and offer free marketing ideas to small local businesses, charities, entrepreneurs and community projects. I spent a day at the pop-up shop in East London, participating in simultaneous 90-minute brainstorming sessions with small businesses and charities of all varieties, and walked away feeling inspired, motivated and excited about the communications industry. However, the realization that I was the only healthcare representative at the event raised some questions: are we worried we are not as creative as our consumer colleagues? Do we presume our healthcare expertise is not needed at an event like this?

The healthcare communications industry is rapidly evolving – clients are now asking how digital and social media can be applied to health. It is a big conversation and a conversation we must actively engage in.  This made me think: What if we took the Idea Shop concept and applied it to health, opening the dialogue in an informal and creative environment and offering small health-related businesses and charities the chance to join the conversation with us?

Ogilvy Healthworld Idea Shop was a multi-fold opportunity: Building important connections with the local healthcare community; offering colleagues a new creative challenge; engaging in the health communications conversation in an innovative way; giving back to the community in the way we know best.

Ogilvy Healthworld Idea Shop was communicated to the public in January 2012. The news secured coverage in Communiqué, The Holmes Report and other healthcare industry publications. We also coordinated a first-of-kind “Ogilvy Twitter Take Over”: en-masse re-tweet of the launch press release. The effect? Dominoes. Idea Shop, Healthworld and Ogilvy were all top-trending topics on Twitter in London that day.

The shop itself opened March 14 and 15 in West London and welcomed 20 health-related charities and small businesses and over 40 Ogilvy Healthworld volunteers during the two days. We advised entrepreneurs on how to promote new food and exercise offerings. We brainstormed ideas for an awareness day with a small patient charity. We coordinated presentations on what’s hot in digital, social media and health, with talks from Ogilvy digital and social media experts…and the Idea Shop was bursting at the seams with attendees.

During the two-day opening, the office was buzzing with anecdotes from the sessions, and the motivation, inspiration and sense of good feeling that came from Ogilvy Healthworld Idea Shop far exceeded everyone’s expectations.

As the shutters came down on March 15, there were lots of tired brains, smiles on faces and burning questions: what’s next for Ogilvy Healthworld Idea Shop? Watch this space.

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