By Lynne Morioka - Contributor

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Health care innovation– from ideas (big and small) to results

July 13, 2017

Innovation can often be just a business buzzword. It’s when innovation is put into action to achieve measurable results that we truly see its power.

Tom Vanderheyden, president of diversified business at Blue Cross, is on a mission to find innovative ways to care for Blue Cross members. And he’s using his background in professional services and his passion for entrepreneurship to get there.

“I’ve met with probably 700 to 800 health care startups over the years and the benefit of that was the realization that there aren’t that many bad ideas,” Vanderheyden says.

“The challenge, even with really good ideas, is the execution, access to timely and appropriately structured capital and getting distribution for those good ideas.”

“I’ve met with probably 700 to 800 health care startups over the years and the benefit of that was the realization that there aren’t that many bad ideas.”

Innovation part of daily work in health care

Not only does Vanderheyden believe there’s a benefit in better distribution of smaller ideas that already exist, but that innovation needs to fit into workflow or daily life flow.

“Much of health care is about behavior change,” he says. “You’ve got to make that easily facilitated.”

In everything he does, Vanderheyden strives to focus on two facets of innovation:

  • Continuous, incremental innovation so an organization is always seeking to do better, potentially in a new way.
  • And disruptive innovation, which is likely opposite of what an organization is doing today.

“I once worked with a CEO who said, ‘I want you to find what is going to kill us and go build that.’ That is disruptive innovation,” he says. “It Is 180 degrees opposing the energy and direction you’re going in. Because if it’s not you, someone else is thinking of it, someone is attempting it. The awareness of the fear factor is critical. Complacency is going to be death.”

The future: mission-led health care innovation

When it comes to health care specifically, Vanderheyden says that most innovation to date has been initiated due to the potential for financial return.

But he sees the opportunity in mission-led innovation – making a difference and having a healthy impact on people’s lives. Blue Cross solutions will focus on this and revenue generatedwill be reinvested to directly support the company’s mission.

“Let’s focus our innovation there and build sustainable, viable business models from that conclusion.”

Blue Cross investments in health care innovation

Two examples of innovative programs Blue Cross has investments in are Livio and Learn to Live. We showcased these two health care start ups in this blog post.

Vanderheyden says both are focused on the people who need help in the places they need to be helped.

“Both companies are backfilling with viable economic models.”

As for the future of innovation at Blue Cross?

“I think you’re going to see us expand the areas of research we’re interested in when it comes to impacting people’s lives. You’ll see us gain some breadth in our approach and go in-depth,” he says. “We’re excited from a mission standpoint, we’re excited to really get into the care of people in ways others haven’t.”

 Tom Vanderheyden is president of diversified business at Blue Cross. Read his bio. 

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