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3 Key Factors to Success in Health Tech: Embrace, Evolve, and Execute
The co-founder of Penumbra Inc., a global healthcare company focused on innovative therapies, shares his top tips, gleaned from decades spent redefining healthcare.
When your company is focused on helping as many people as possible, innovation must be at the core of everything you do. Being able to embrace new ideas or approaches, particularly in the case of the health tech industry, may mean the difference between industry disruption or stagnation. More importantly, it may mean the difference between bringing meaningful therapies to patients or letting a need remain unmet.
Penumbra, Inc. was founded in 2004 to develop a better way to address strokes caused by blood clots. It created a first-to-market "vacuum" like technology to quickly and efficiently remove blood clots in the brain. It later adapted its technology to remove blood clots throughout the body. These clots have traditionally been treated with anti-coagulation medication, which carries a high risk of serious complications. Studies have shown that Penumbra's interventional technologies have significantly improved patient outcomes by restoring crucial blood flow much quicker than traditional treatments. Now a global market leader, Penumbra's technology is being used as a frontline therapy around the world.
Penumbra sees immersive healthcare as a natural extension of its mission to help as many people as it can with pioneering technology. Immersive healthcare, which includes virtual reality-based activities and experiences, has the potential to help millions of patients, supporting their physical rehabilitation, cognition and mental well-being. Virtual reality has been studied in healthcare for more than 25 years to address conditions such as pain management or support medical education such as surgical training.
Here, Penumbra co-founder and CEO, Adam Elsesser, shares three things companies should consider to embrace and pursue innovation.
1.Embrace the discovery process.
As part of its product development process, Penumbra's culture embraces the flexibility people need to try new things, learn and then improve upon their idea. "When projects are limited to a strict scope and deadline, the potential for employees to pursue innovation or think out of the box can be significantly diminished," Elsesser explains.
Elsesser believes that allowing R&D teams the freedom to work through ideas unencumbered by stringent project schedules builds trust between management and employees.
"You must show by your deeds that you believe in your employees and their work. The way that you treat your employees throughout a project will ultimately reflect back on their approach to current and future projects," he says.
2. Be ready to evolve.
Most organizations work within an established hierarchy. In and of itself, such a structure, built on experience, might make sense, but when the opportunity to brainstorm or pitch ideas is relegated only to a select group of people chosen by way of seniority, companies may lose out on revolutionary ideas that could drive further innovations.
"About a decade ago, we had a real breakthrough product based on an idea that came from an engineer who was early in her career," Elsesser recalls. "And her idea pushed us and our technology in a way we didn't know was possible. If we had been closed off to her ideas simply because of her youth, we might not have that product line helping people today."
"It's important for leaders to nurture a culture where everyone knows they can contribute to initiatives across the company," Elsesser says. "We don't all think the same, look the same, act the same, and when the goal is to constantly innovate, diversity is key. We look for ideas everywhere so people can feel empowered to share without worrying about overstepping. It starts with hiring the best people you can find, and accessing the resultant diversity of thought that will push innovation to help more people."
3. Transformative execution happens incrementally.
Sometimes you land on an idea that is truly transformative, but Elsesser stresses that often, innovation occurs gradually. "Innovation, especially in healthcare, requires process and patience," Elsesser explains. "Without the smaller steps toward something greater, we never could have imagined achieving what we have in the past 20 years."
"Just because you have a product or service that is successful and has gained market share doesn't mean you can simply stop thinking about it. Innovation requires constant, incremental iteration to bring its benefit to a broader patient population," Elsesser says. "This, of course, isn't quite as glamorous as one giant idea, but you cannot discount the hundreds or thousands of little thoughts that will optimize your product and expand its impact."
Valuing incremental improvements is obvious across all of Penumbra's product lines. The company has expanded from its initial scope to address acute stroke intervention to redefining care across a range of neurological and vascular conditions that affect millions of people around the world. Penumbra aims to continue extending its reach more broadly along the care spectrum, from acute vascular procedures to rehabilitation and beyond, particularly as the company advances its immersive healthcare offering to reach more than 50 milllion potential patients.
With these helpful tips and an understanding that success comes with the willingness to accept uncertainty in the development process, companies can be better prepared to embrace innovation and spur their mission and vision of creating positive change for patients going forward.
Click here to learn more about Penumbra and its commitment to healthcare innovation.