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Learn About Healthcare Entrepreneurship in a Free Online Course

Charlie Chung

Healthcare is one of the most important aspects of our society, and one of the largest industries (in the U.S. accounting for trillions of dollars). And, like other industries, it has the potential see tremendous innovation by virtue of modern technology. As such, we need entrepreneurship in healthcare more than ever.

If you are interested in learning more, HarvardX is offering an online course on the edX platform, Innovating in Health Care, which is free and open to the public, and starting May 5.

The course team answered questions for Class Central regarding the course, and the lightly edited discussion is below.

Class Central: Who is the target audience(s) for this course?

Course Team: Those with a passion for innovation in health care who want to learn the business skills which can make the innovation happen.

Class Central: What should they hope to get from the course?

Course Team: Innovating in Health Care (IHC) enables students to craft business models that attain alignment between an entrepreneurial healthcare venture and the Six Factors that shape this sector–Financing, Structure, Public Policy, Consumers, Technology, and Accountability–and to create a business model that responds appropriately. Innovating in Health Care covers these issues in every part of the sector, including insurance, services, IT, medical devices, biotechnology, diagnostics, and pharmaceuticals. Its focus is global, not just the U.S. or europe.

Class Central: What constitutes ‘innovation’ in healthcare?

Course Team: New  healthcare organizations which provide higher quality, more cost effectiveness, and  greater accessibility/equality. These include organizations  which  are consumer–focused, disseminate new technology and structure existing health care organizations in different ways.

Class Central: Who is doing the most innovating in healthcare today?

Course Team: The U.S. leads the world in innovations in biopharma. Israel leads in med tech. Many countries have made innovations in health IT. The rest of the world leads the U.S. and Europe in innovations in healthcare delivery and  insurance, including India, Brazil, and South Africa. All countries need health care innovations  to provide higher quality, equitable services to their populace at a reasonable cost.

The rest of the world leads the U.S. and Europe in innovations in healthcare delivery and  insurance, including India, Brazil, and South Africa. 

Class Central: What are some innovations that are impressive?

Course Team: We discuss  some impressive innovations in the course via Harvard Business Review (HBR) case studies. Here are a list of cases that we cover:

• Battle of the Bulge – Innovations in Obesity Treatment – HBS Case No. 304009
• Vitalia Franchise – HBS Case No. 311035
• Phreesia: The Patient Check-In Company – HBS Case No. 310-066
• Reinventing Brainlab (A) – HBS Case No. 313069
• Reinventing Brainlab (B) – HBS Case No. 314054
• The Vitality Group: Paying for Self-Care – HBS Case No. 310071
• Odontoprev – HBS Case No. 314038
• Hospital for Special Surgery – HBS Case No. 305076
• The Global Sight Initiative – HBS Case No. 311034
• Philips-Visicu – HBS Case No. 313015

Class Central: What are the biggest challenges in innovating in healthcare vs. other industries?

Course Team: In the U.S. and Europe: the powerful status quo providers and insurers create massive road blocks. In the rest of the world funding for health  care is much more constrained, so innovations must be highly cost-effective. However, funding is plentiful relative to many other sectors and developed capital private equity  sources are eager to invest.

In the U.S. and Europe: the powerful status quo providers and insurers create massive road blocks 

Class Central: How can innovators learn about and navigate regulatory constraints?

Course Team: This important issue is discussed in the case studies. Many regulatory  constraints are helpful for society–e.g. the U.S. FDA checks on the safety and efficacy of new medical technologies, but entrepreneurs  need to know the regulations and how best to interact with regulatory  officials.

Class Central: How do innovators deal with privacy concerns?

Course Team: Privacy is highly regulated  in the U.S. and Europe and culturally highly-valued in many other nations. Entrepreneurs must know and understand these  important regulations and cultures. Because health care privacy is  continually challenged by talented but destructive hackers, entrepreneurs need to  manage IT security as well.

Class Central: What is the receptivity of health systems and organizations to learn about new innovations and test pilots?

Course Team: The most receptive  laboratories for new ideas about the delivery of health care services and new models of insurance are  in SE Asia, Central and South America, China,  the Middle  East, and Africa. The U.S., Japan, and Europe are highly receptive for beta tests for new medical technologies.

Class Central: How is the emergence of consumer health apps affecting the healthcare system?

Course Team: The health care system is becoming increasingly consumer–driven, as a result of these new transparency and monitoring  apps and changes in the financing of health care which give consumers more funds which they can use to buy the health care they want. Consumers will create enormous pressure on the status quo in the U.S. and Europe to become more consumer-driven. In the rest of the world, much of the funding comes directly from  consumers, so they are already more responsive  to personal needs.

Class Central: People can sign up for the course either as individuals or in groups. What will the course experience be like for groups?

Course Team: The application for the limited enrollment course requires teams of 3-6. Further, it requires that a team have a diverse skill set (a person with clinical skills, someone with financial skills, someone with tech skills, etc). Teams are required to meet weekly (online, by email, over the phone, or in person) to discuss the cases and build a business plan. These teams will get in-depth, targeted feedback from the course team to improve their business skills and business plan. Participants from last year’s course praised the learning experience that came from team diversity, both geographically and in skill sets.

Class Central: Why should innovators be interested in tackling the field of healthcare?

Course Team: We believe that healthcare is  the innovation opportunity of  the 21st century  because of  its size, exciting technology innovations, and current inability to deliver services efficiently, equitably, and with consistent, high-quality standards. Healthcare needs innovations, and skilled innovators can do good and do well. But it is highly complex sector so innovators need considerable skills to move beyond wishful thinking to viable, large scale ventures