Home Health Care Dr. Toby Cosgrove: I really dislike the term disruptor

Dr. Toby Cosgrove: I really dislike the term disruptor

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While the term disruption has been codified into the healthcare innovation lexicon as something that is not only desirable, but needs to be a key part of any startup’s DNA, to any English major the word has very specific negative connotations.

Disruption is necessarily something that causes chaos.

Thus it was heartening to hear Dr. Toby Cosgrove, the widely respected former CEO of the Cleveland Clinic and now part of Google, take on the term at the digital health panel at the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference late Monday when asked whether large tech companies are a competitive threat to healthcare incumbents or whether they were partners.

“I really dislike the term disruptors when you are talking about a huge, the biggest industry in the United States and I don’t think a startup company or any of the major tech company is going to radically change [the industry] so I think we have to think of them as partners who can help us deal with issues that are going on currently in the healthcare delivery system.

He went on to add that one of the real concerns we have is the inertia that we talk about in change. Right now we talk about in that from improvements in therapy to standard of care is 13 years and it hasn’t changed at all in the last 5-to-10 years. The reasons are because a) healthcare providers are trained not to be risk takers. Those 13 years is essentially the half-life of a physician.”

Change, he noted that change is a very hard thing to do, noting wryly that he hasn’t had people coming up to him clamoring “I can’t wait to make a change. People are not generally embracing of change …. and particularly in healthcare this is frustrating.”

The moderator of the panel — Mo Makhzoumi, general partner at venture capital firm NEA — summarized Cosgrove noting that healthcare is “too enormous and too entrenched” so there’s no one silver bullet that can just turn it on its head.”

This is an important lesson for both investors — given that many tech VCs are betting on health tech startups and — and healthcare startups seeking to enter the world of healthcare. Sooner rather than later you are going to have to deal with incumbents and the consumer can’t save you.

Cosgrove was speaking on a panel that was seeking answers on how data can

Meanwhile there were three other comments that are worth pointing out especially as players across the healthare spectrum want to make better use of data to improve outcomes, lower costs and provide a better experience. Ali Diab, CEO of Collective Health, a digital health company that works with self-insured employers to transform employee health benefits, stressed that just having data may not be enough.

“It’s not just that we are sitting in a sea of data. Data also is perishable … particularly healthcare data. It’s not just about Big Data, it’s about timely data,” Diab said.

When it comes to data and the challenges ahead, the other interesting comment came from the chief executive of telehealth company InTouch Health that makes telepresence robots. The company has successfully treated stroke patients up until recently receiving a CPT reimbursement code from the American Medical Association.

“The big obstacle is clinical interoperability,” said Joseph DiVivo. “For me, the big challenge is that there isn’t a single dataset.”

Carolyn Magill, CEO of Aetion, which develops software providing real-world evidence and outcomes-based analytics products for the biopharma industry, succinctly put it when it came to be her turn to describe the biggest obstacle in the way of healthcare: the comfort we have in the status quo.

Photo: undefined undefined, Getty Images

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