Innovation is Key to the Future of Austin’s Healthcare Industry

By LAURA LOREK
Reporter with Silicon Hills News

Panelists Nancy Harvey, entrepreneur in residence at the University of Chicago School of Medicine, Lanham Napier, former CEO at Rackspace and now a partner at BuildGroup, a growth stage VC firm, Mike Millard, executive director of innovation and commercialization at Seton Healthcare Family and Bob Metcalfe, inventor of Ethernet, co-founder at 3Com, partner emeritus at Polaris Partners and now professor of innovation at the University of Texas at Austin.

Panelists Nancy Harvey, entrepreneur in residence at the University of Chicago School of Medicine, Lanham Napier, former CEO at Rackspace and now a partner at BuildGroup, a growth stage VC firm, Mike Millard, executive director of innovation and commercialization at Seton Healthcare Family and Bob Metcalfe, inventor of Ethernet, co-founder at 3Com, partner emeritus at Polaris Partners and now professor of innovation at the University of Texas at Austin.

Austin’s healthcare landscape is poised to change dramatically with the new Dell Seton Medical Center at the University of Texas, said Josh Jones-Dilworth.

Dilworth is a member of The Fifty, a group of Austin residents who have committed to raise $50 million to help finance the new hospital. It is scheduled to open in 2017 and will be across Red River Street from the new Dell Medical School at UT.

The Fifty hosted a panel on “The Future of Care” focused on the venture capital industry, innovation and startups Tuesday afternoon at Athenahealth offices at the Seaholm Power Plant.

“This new ecosystem, if we do it right, is going to throw off a lot of new, interesting, world changing companies,” Dilworth said. “It will create a lot of jobs. It will make Austin a better place to live and do business.”

The new Dell Seton Medical Center at UT, courtesy photo

The new Dell Seton Medical Center at UT, courtesy photo

Seton, part of Ascension, the nation’s largest Catholic and nonprofit hospital system, is investing $245 million to build the Dell Seton Medical Center. The Fifty has pledged to raise another $25 million from the community to match a $25 million donation by the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation.

The goal is to keep healthcare accessible to everyone in Austin no matter what his or her walk of life, Dilworth said.

At the event, Nancy Harvey, entrepreneur in residence at the University of Chicago School of Medicine, served as moderator. The panelists included Mike Millard, executive director of innovation and commercialization at Seton Healthcare Family, Lanham Napier, former CEO at Rackspace and now a partner at BuildGroup, a growth-stage VC fund and Bob Metcalfe, inventor of Ethernet, co-founder at 3Com, partner emeritus at Polaris Partners and now professor of innovation at the University of Texas at Austin.

To start off, Harvey asked the panelists to mention one thing they would like to have in Austin healthcare today.

“I think I would just want one bill,” Millard said. “That’s where my bar is now, just one bill, not 30 pieces of paper every time when you go to the doctor.”

Napier said he wanted to see the doctor within one day of calling for an appointment.

“I would like to find a doctor who thinks his time is less valuable than mine,” Metcalfe said.

The panelists also want the healthcare industry to focus on big problems like prevention and to find cures for cancer, obesity, and diabetes and to focus treatments on personalized medicine tailored to a person’s genome.

“I would like to challenge the Dell Medical School to lower the BMI of the population of Travis County by 10 points to 20 points and that would do a world of good,” Metcalfe said.

The healthcare industry should also make sure it is building innovation into the new system, Metcalfe said.

To encourage innovation, Napier recommended that the artificial intelligence group at UT link to the medical school to use cognitive technologies around diagnostics.

“So much of medicine is diagnostic,” Napier said.

The healthcare industry is slow to change, decision-making is difficult and the major players have a lack of competitive understanding, Millard said.

“So even when you bring in innovation, they are incentivized to do exactly what they have been doing,” he said. “They are not incentivized to compete.”

The progress of science is slow in healthcare and it’s often entangled in bureaucracy, Metcalfe said. But he is optimistic.

“It appears to me that healthcare is about to go through the same transition that information technology went through in the early ’80s,” Metcalfe said.

Medical devices and drugs take a long time to develop because they go through an arduous trial and error process. But that is becoming easier through engineering, Metcalfe said.

“Science is becoming less trial and error and more engineering and I think that is going to compress the development times considerably,” he said.

Another solution to better healthcare is to have more corporations partner with the healthcare system to understand the customer better and how to get things done, Millard said.

“A lot of healthcare systems don’t know their customer,” he said.

The panelists talked about the need for cultural change within the healthcare system. For example, instead of spending millions of dollars to create a really nice waiting room, the hospital should be tackling the problem of why it has waiting rooms at all, Millard said.

“You cannot change culture,” Metcalfe said.

“You have to create a separate thing. Leave the old thing over there and eventually they will all die,” Metcalfe said. “And over here is the new thing. This is what happened in the Internet.”

In the ’80s, IBM and AT&T dominated the world with their monopolies. Metcalfe said he had to wait for IBM customers to die because they would not switch over and buy his products as CEO of 3Com.

“I tend to agree,” Millard said. “I often ask people should we just start over. I don’t think you can take these behemoth institutions and make them nimble.”

The other thing that needs to change to encourage innovation in the healthcare industry is to eliminate government regulation, Metcalfe said.

“The Internet developed in a space with a lack of regulations and fierce competition,” he said.

Comments

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  2. You don’t need to increase doctors workload if you want better health for people. You can just educate about them closely and employ non-doctoral graduate instead and with this, you could employ more with same budget and spread more area into effect.

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