Doctors Need to Ratchet Up Their "Clock Speed"

Anyone with a pulse knows that the pace of change in U.S. healthcare has rapidly accelerated. As a result, the level of competition has increased the industry's "clock speed." As reported in a recent edition of Strategy+Business, the term clock speed refers to the pace of business evolution within industries. Charles Fine at MIT noted that industries with faster clock speeds, such as computers, electronics and entertainment, had higher levels of market experimentation, more competition and increasingly frequent waves of innovation. As a result, new product life cycles become shorter, time to market accelerates and product portfolios expand to replace products and services that need to be killed or have lived their useful lives.

Physicians are traditionally not entrepreneurial. The structure and content of their education and training have remained virtually unchanged for the past 100 years, leaving them unprepared to deal with the topsy-turvy world they have inherited. To thrive, doctors need to adopt an entrepreneurial mindset regardless of their employment situation or clinical specialty. What's more, they have to increase their clock speed.

Here are some ways to do it:

  • Use healthcare IT and communications systems to streamline business processes and mine data. Innovation and new product development is an interactive process. It requires monitoring the response to a new product offering and making rapid improvements that address customer/patient needs and that can be incorporated into the next version of the product. Like monitoring the vital signs of a patient in the ICU in response to treatment, you need to decide what to measure, how often and then decide how to alter your intervention.
  • Embrace patients as the source of innovation and service improvement iteration. Open-source innovation, open innovation and collaborative innovation networks using the Internet and social media are excellent ways to engage patients and capture their ideas. Industries including pharmaceuticals, consumer goods and financial services have embraced the philosophy to the point where the majority of their new product ideas come from customers, users, suppliers or collaborators.
  • Look outside of healthcare for innovative ideas. Most disruptive innovation comes from outside of your industry. Want to learn about data mining? Go to Amazon. Need help with a search? Check out Google. Want to see what's new in communications and telemedicine? You probably won't hear about it at your next specialty society meeting. How would Facebook run healthcare?
  • Build robust internal and external networks to accelerate innovation.
  • Understand and remove the barriers to adoption and penetration of technologies by end users.
  • Move beyond information, education and money. Creating behavior change goes much beyond those short term motivators. You need to understand and address the ABCDEs of technology adoption.

The physician entrepreneurial mindset is about creating customer/patient defined value by deploying new ideas, inventions, discoveries, processes and care-delivery models that are sustainable. If you want to keep up with the pace of change, increase your clock speed.

Arlen Meyers, MD, MBA is the President and CEO of the Society of Physician Entrepreneurs at