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Ask the Experts: Is Innovating Within an Academic Medical Center Really Possible?

Maulik Majmudar

maulikMaulik Majmudar, MD, is the Associate Director of the Healthcare Transformation Lab at Massachusetts General Hospital. He’s also an instructor at Harvard Medical School and the Chief Clinical Officer of Quanttus.

Is innovation even possible inside an academic medical center, or should innovators move into the private sector?

It is absolutely critical that academic medical centers play an important role not only in the implementation and adoption of technology-enabled healthcare solutions, but also in the actual innovation process. AMCs (academic medical centers) should actively collaborate with the private sector (both startups as well as established medical device and healthcare delivery companies) to prioritize and validate pain points. In general, it is true that in order to build sustainable ventures, one has to move outside of the traditional academic structure (universities and teaching hospitals). However, AMCs can play an invaluable role in both early stage development as well as late stage validation.

Why is innovating in academic medicine so difficult?

The major impediment to innovating within traditional academic medical centers is balancing risk! There are many different versions of risk that a large, successful AMC must balance, such as bottom-line financials, brand and reputation, as well as competitiveness and market share and growth. Furthermore, AMCs also have to balance efficiency (classic six sigma processes) with innovation and creativity (lean startup methodologies such as rapid iterative design and “fail fast and adapt”). Other challenges include needing to change very strong and established cultures and frequently misaligned incentives that tend to promote maintaining the status quo.

Why, then, do we still need to be pushing for innovation in academia?

Although risky, innovation in AMCs critical to long-term success. Institutions that are not willing and able to take a long-term view and tolerate that risk, run the risk of becoming obsolete. There are numerous stories throughout the history of innovation and entrepreneurship, where mission-driven startups have successfully disrupted the Goliath’s (i.e. Blockbuster and Kodak); there is good reason to believe this could also happen in healthcare! There are some really exciting new companies that are poised to disrupt, or at the very least, dramatically transform, the healthcare industry.

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Jenni Whalen

Jenni Whalen

    Jenni Whalen is the Executive Assistant of Editorial at Upworthy. She was previously MedTech Boston's Managing Editor and has an MS in Journalism from Boston University, as well as a BA in Psychology from Bucknell University. Whalen has written for Greatist, Boston magazine, AZ Central Healthy Living and the New England Journal of Medicine, among other places. She has also worked as a conference planner, ghost writer, researcher and content developer.

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