The overall cost of healthcare in the U.S. has reached a whopping $2.6 trillion, up from $256 billion in 1980, and $724 billion in 1990. In many ways, it seems that the rate of innovation in healthcare is moving in inverse proportion, with fewer truly significant interventions being created to tackle our collective health issues. While the quantified self movement has people talking (and measuring) all things health, and cool new products like the Jawbone UP are mainstreaming consumer wellness products, health innovation has remained somewhat niche. However, there has been a recent shift in the players in this space that bodes well for all of our health, despite the fact that these entities have sometimes been seen as our least likely allies.
In the health industry, we've always been inspired by the inquiring minds of designers. For years, big food has been singing a continuous refrain about healthier snacks (is less bad good enough?), and even Walmart is trying to help you make better decisions about health. But now most interesting (and perhaps most promising), government is placing bets on entrepreneurship and data (a great techy complement to Michele Obama's Let's Move campaign). The Department of Health and Human Services has issued a call to harness new thinking to deliver better care and better health at lower cost. At the recent Care Innovations Summit in Washington DC, the federal government appeared side-by-side with huge pharma companies and healthcare organizations to drive a new kind of innovation challenge.
These challenges are focused on tackling some of the most pressing health concerns in the US, but they are simultaneously supporting radical entrepreneurship. Each of the innovation challenges below are slightly different in their process (some have demo days and mentorships in addition to prize monies), but they are all unique in that they reward great ideas with cash while not taking any equity stake from the entrepreneur (quite a contrast to the VC and incubator model). It's free money and support, and may just get really great concepts in the hands of people who need them. Keep an eye on the following challenges, or better yet, submit your ideas:
Pfizer and Janssen Alzheimer's Challenge: Create concepts for early diagnosis and monitoring for people with Alzheimer's
Deadline: March 16
Sanofi Data Design Diabetes Innovation Challenge: Improve health and experience for people with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes
Deadline: March 23
Janssen (part of Johnson & Johnson) Connected Care Challenge: Ease patient transition from hospital to home
Deadline: March 25
Allscripts Million Hearts Initiative CDS Challenge: Improve the clinical decision support functionality for people with cardiovascular disease
Deadline: July 6
It's never been a better time to be a designer because healthcare innovation is going to depend on real human-centered design and non-traditional problem-solving. $100K of unrestricted cash ain't so bad either....