I’m always interested in exploring how we innovate and create, particularly in the healthcare industry. Fast Company recently posted “Tackle Any Problem With These 3 Questions,” a great reminder that sometimes great innovations come from asking “Why?”, “What if?” and “How?”
Earlier this month, our very own “Healthy Knights” (Sharad Jain, Josh Becker and Kevin Musiorski) had a chance to test their innovation chops when they participated in a Make-a-thon sponsored by Chicago Health Technology and Health 2.0. For their challenge topic of “Consumer Payment and Cost Transparency,” they tackled a persistent problem in the healthcare industry – “Why is it so hard to know whether I chose (or am choosing) the right health plan for me.” We’ve addressed this question at a higher level with our health plan recommendation engine, but the tool these guys built over the weekend drills into one particular piece a bit deeper – and they did it all in about 24 hours!
The tool they built is designed to help consumers better understand how their actual costs and utilization in a given year translated to total costs across several different health plan options: their actual plan and the other plans that had been available to them. The idea was to provide consumers with feedback to help them learn about their past decisions in light of their actual healthcare use, thus helping them make a better choice in future year plan selection decisions. It also has the potential to help consumers model detailed what-if scenarios for future decisions.
In speaking to the team about their experience, a few aha’s and observations bubbled to the surface:
- The power of collaboration to solve problems in our industry – The health industry is traditionally very siloed and proprietary. Starting with a blank slate and having access to many different open data sets and code sets, as well as other minds (our team was joined by Sonia Kim from Northwestern University, who found their idea interesting and compelling enough to want to join in) opens the doors to new and innovative thinking.
- The power of constraints to produce a working prototype – Having only about 24 hours and no existing product forced the team to focus on producing a minimum viable product. While ideas and features were left on the cutting room floor, at the end of the session, there was a real working product.
- The power of a working prototype to further the innovation process – As our team presented their idea at the end of the Make-a-thon, it became easy to see potential extensions and additional applications of the idea. Presenting the product to potential users (the audience) generated additional ideas and innovations.
So how did our team do? They won their Hack Code track, and came in a close 2nd place overall. Way to go, Healthy Knights – it seems those unhealthy nights working around the clock paid off well!