Transformative Solutions in Healthcare: Blazing Trails, Building Bridges, Dropping Breadcrumbs

I am proud to be leading an organization recognized* for its leadership in creating patient-centered, value-based, data-driven healthcare solutions. And while such recognition is both humbling and gratifying, it must be admitted that it is only one aspect of true, sustainable, breakthrough success. On the heels of our company being awarded recognition as Digital Trailblazer in Digital Healthcare by Xconomy, I thought I would take a minute to reflect on the role of a trailblazer as well as the other complementary attributes required to turn exploration and innovation into successful transformation.

Trailblazing. A trailblazer is literally one who makes a new trail through wild country, an explorer, a pioneer, a bushwhacker, a groundbreaker, a trendsetter, an innovator. The imagery conjured up by such synonyms suggests arduous, difficult, at times solitary work, free from glamour, with uncertain rewards. It doesn't come with an air of guaranteed success, and it even hints at the concept of first-mover disadvantage, the flip side of the benefit of being a fast-follower. Such is the life of a trailblazer. One might remember the mixed fates of Lewis and Clark after their famed expedition — Clark fared much better than Lewis, but even his rewards were modest compared to the value created in trailblazing the Great Western Frontier.

Trailblazing novel solutions in healthcare, while not quite on par with the daily existential threats faced by the Corps of Discovery, can be similarly exhilarating and arduous, and it's important to realize that making the first trail (read as minimum viable product, positive clinical trial result, regulatory approval, etc.) is much more like the end of the beginning than the actual end.

For the team here at Reflexion, we have built a sophisticated virtual-reality, artificially intelligent remote physical therapy solution employing both an interactive avatar and a 3D imaging system with pose detection and motion analysis to help patients perform their physical therapy at home. We have done the trials, obtained FDA approvals, delighted early patients, and proven the value ... we have completed the beginning, but as the poem goes, still have miles to go before we are home.

Building Bridges. Just as in physical trailblazing, it is not enough to simply show the way. Demonstrating that something is possible doesn't guarantee that others will follow. Consider the Apollo missions to the moon — the U.S. had six successful manned moon missions, but the last time someone went there was December 11, 1972. Showing that a new way of getting somewhere or doing something is just the beginning. To turn a trail into a well-traveled highway, the road has to be easy, reliable, and predictable, and that takes time and effort and resources. It was 120 years between Lewis and Clark's successful trailblazing to the completion of the famed Route 66.

For the team here at Reflexion, progress in transformation is (gratefully) much faster, but far from immediate, as we have learned that providing a tech-enabled service as opposed to leasing the technology is an easier, more reliable and predictable way to drive adoption of our very cool technology solution.

Dropping Breadcrumbs. And if you want the world of healthcare to start using your new highway, in addition to being smooth and easy and reliable and predictable, it helps dramatically to include reverse toll-booths. The new travelers on this potential highway must not only get where they need to go (read: as more/better information, better clinical outcomes, greater efficiency), but it must also create objective value (preferentially as profit) for the decision-makers. To make this work for our virtual physical therapy offering, we are working to accelerate the proliferation and adoption of value-based payment models for clinicians and hospitals. Such payment models reward (in dollars) those organizations that adopt our solution.

In healthcare, it’s only when you blaze the trail to a place where people need or want to go, and make it easy and reliable to do so, and then incentivize them to make the trip, that you can actually transform the landscape. In the absence of getting all of these things done, people may mistake your trailblazing for wanderlust, and healthcare doesn't need any more people lost in the woods.

Dr. Joseph (Joe) Smith is President & CEO of Digital Health Corp and Reflexion Health.

* Our list of accolades includes: