09 Jul 2013

New Report from Harvard Business School/Harvard Medical School Focuses on Challenge of Healthcare Innovation

Accompanying survey shows experts’ concerns about cost and quality of US healthcare

BOSTON—The Forum on Healthcare Innovation, a collaborative effort sponsored by Harvard Medical School and Harvard Business School, has released a report highlighting the results of the first of a series of annual conferences and surveys.

Titled “5 Imperatives: Addressing Healthcare’s Innovation Challenge,” the conference report represents the views of more than 100 experts from a wide variety of areas, including academics, physicians, healthcare providers, executives, public policymakers, investors, and insurers. The report summarizes the participants’ collective insights regarding one overarching concern: How can healthcare and business leaders best encourage innovations that lead to value—that is, the most optimal outcomes relative to dollars spent?

The accompanying survey reported several startling conclusions: Twenty percent of the more than 200 senior leaders responding to the full survey strongly believed that healthcare quality in the United States was starting from only a fair or poor position and falling behind other countries.

In addition, only one percent of them held the strongly positive sentiment that this country could significantly increase value through the combination of quality pulling ahead of other industrialized nations and healthcare costs growing more slowly than general inflation.

The Forum report prescribes five key imperatives most likely to yield practical progress:

  • Making value the central objective: In isolation, efforts to either reduce costs or improve outcomes are insufficient; we need to do both through care coordination and shared information.
  • Promoting novel approaches to process improvement: In the race for new products and services, we are overlooking important opportunities for improving the ways in which we deliver care. In addition, failure, managed wisely, represents an important component of experimentation and learning.
  • Making consumerism really work: Consumerism remains a strong idea with weak execution. We will achieve greater success when providers organize efforts around patient needs, and when patients become more active and informed agents in managing their own health.
  • Decentralization: We should facilitate the movement of care delivery and healthcare innovation from centralized centers of expertise to the periphery, where more providers, innovators, and patients can engage in collaborative improvement efforts.
  • Integrating the Old and New: Existing healthcare institutions must be reinforced with efforts to integrate new knowledge into established organizations and the communities they serve.

According to Harvard Business School professor Robert S. Huckman, co-chair of the Forum on Healthcare Innovation, “The 5 Imperatives report is a provocative compilation of core issues that can help us focus our energy, regardless of discipline, on the most truly urgent areas of innovation.”

Added co-chair and Harvard Medical School professor Barbara J. McNeil, MD, “The report reflects in microcosm the larger possibilities of the Forum itself: the collaborative power of healthcare and business leadership to provide care in which we can have confidence, at costs we can manage.”

About the Forum on Healthcare Innovation

A collaboration between Harvard Business School (HBS) and Harvard Medical School (HMS), The Forum on Healthcare Innovation unites leading executives, policymakers, and academics in a cross-disciplinary exploration of innovative actions to improve quality, reduce costs, and, ultimately, increase value in the healthcare industry.


Cara Sterling
Director, Harvard Business School Healthcare Initiative

About Harvard Business School

Founded in 1908 as part of Harvard University, Harvard Business School is located on a 40-acre campus in Boston. Its faculty of more than 250 offers full-time programs leading to the MBA and PhD degrees, as well as more than 175 Executive Education programs, and Harvard Business School Online, the School’s digital learning platform. For more than a century, faculty have drawn on their research, their experience in working with organizations worldwide, and their passion for teaching, to educate leaders who make a difference in the world. The School and its curriculum attract the boldest thinkers and the most collaborative learners who will go on to shape the practice of business and entrepreneurship around the globe.