Thursday, December 14, 2017
Business

Paris Air Show for health care? Tampa Bay medical industry aims high

Does Tampa Bay have the brains and brass to transform its regional medical industry into a national hot spot of health care innovation?

It's a long shot at this point. But nearly 500 regional economic development industry leaders gathered Monday to consider reaching that goal by 2023. A follow-up meeting on June 26 in Tampa may trigger a thumbs-up on this medical quest.

"Tampa is staking its claim to be the place where health care gets reinvented," Dave Chase wrote online last week in Forbes. "As a byproduct, they will be one of the winners in creating jobs."

Let's hope Chase is right. The founder of Microsoft's $2 billion health platform business traveled from Seattle to address Monday's conference, dubbed MediFuture 2023.

"Stay ahead of the curve," he advised his Tampa audience, warning that regional competition as diverse as New York City, Seattle and even Dubuque, Iowa, will be stiff.

The bold MediFuture idea is the brainchild of Rick Homans, CEO of the Tampa/Hillsborough Economic Development Corp., along with USF Health CEO and medical school dean Stephen Klasko, among others.

There's more driving this project. Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn's relentless economic cheerleading, the Hillsborough County Commission's committing millions to back Moffitt Cancer Center spinoff M2Gen and other entrepreneurs, and the fading recession have all reignited a regional can-do mood.

Still, it's an Olympic leap to go from a region respected for its health care to a true center for medical innovation.

To get there, experts said Monday, requires the health care industry to embrace "disruptive innovation."

It's such a key concept behind this 10-year goal that the MediFuture conference invited the Harvard Business School professor who coined the term to speak.

Harvard's Clayton Christensen describes "disruptive innovation" as a process by which a product or service at first takes root in simple applications at the bottom of a market but then relentlessly moves up market, displacing established competitors.

Citing the computer industry, Christensen described how the mainframe got replaced by the minicomputer, which in turn was deposed by the desktop, the laptop and now the smartphone. In each case, the next product was more affordable and accessible to more people.

Disruptive innovation can do the same thing for health care, he said, pushing mobile and cheaper medical technology further into the hands of retail clinics, nurses, pharmacists and even into the home.

The result? Cheaper and better medicine, Christensen said, but also more jobs.

Don't confuse disruptive innovation with lesser imitators, he warned. Simply making good products better is a fine form of innovation but won't generate new jobs. Making goods and services more efficiently will actually result in job cuts.

In Monday's wrap-up, Homans repeated a dream of this area becoming the "Paris Air Show" of health care.

In Forbes, Chase pushed Homans' idea a step further.

"It could go beyond that to create an Aspen Institute-like model that brings people in year-round to see how health care is being reinvented. It's clear the opportunity exists. The only question is who will seize the opportunity."

On Monday, Tampa Bay was handed its own invitation to try its hand. Will it RSVP?

Robert Trigaux can be reached at [email protected]

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