Will disruptive innovations cure health care?

Harv Bus Rev. 2000 Sep-Oct;78(5):102-12, 199.


It's no secret that health care delivery is convoluted, expensive, and often deeply dissatisfying to consumers. But what is less obvious is that a way out of this crisis exists. Simpler alternatives to expensive care are already here--everything from $5 eyeglasses that people can use to correct their own vision to angioplasty instead of open-heart surgery. Just as the PC replaced the mainframe and the telephone replaced the telegraph operator, disruptive innovations are changing the landscape of health care. Nurse practitioners, general practitioners, and even patients can do things in less-expensive, decentralized settings that could once be performed only by expensive specialists in centralized, inconvenient locations. But established institutions--teaching hospitals, medical schools, insurance companies, and managed care facilities--are fighting these innovations tooth and nail. Instead of embracing change, they're turning the thumbscrews on their old processes--laying off workers, delaying payments, merging, and adding layers of overhead workers. Not only is this at the root of consumer dissatisfaction with the present system, it sows the seeds of its own destruction. The history of disruptive innovations tells us that incumbent institutions will be replaced with ones whose business models are appropriate to the new technologies and markets. Instead of working to preserve the existing systems, regulators, physicians, and pharmaceutical companies need to ask how they can enable more disruptive innovations to emerge. If the natural process of disruption is allowed to proceed, the result will be higher quality, lower cost, more convenient health care for everyone.

MeSH terms

  • Diffusion of Innovation
  • Efficiency, Organizational*
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Health Care Sector / organization & administration*
  • Hospital Administration
  • Humans
  • Leadership
  • Managed Care Programs
  • Organizational Innovation*
  • United States